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Brother May’s ‘In for the Kill’ video
Brother May in the ‘In for the Kill’ videoPhotography Akinola Davies

Get to know Brother May, the UK artist making lopsided, leftfield rap

The London songwriter, producer, and MC – a frequent collaborator with Mica Levi – recently released his debut album, Aura Type Orange

If you’ve had your ear to the underground over the past few years, you might be familiar with Brother May’s name. The London songwriter, producer, and MC is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Mica Levi, the innovative experimental artist and composer behind Micachu & the Shapes and film scores for the likes of Under the SkinJackie, and the recent Monos. Back in 2010, May was part of the influential Chopped & Screwed Mixtape, a collaboration between Micachu & the Shapes and the London Sinfonietta, and in 2016 collaborated with the musician on the May and Meeks EP for CURL, a record label and collective made up of May, Levi, and Coby Sey.

Brother May’s debut album, Aura Type Orange, comes produced with Mica Levi and fuses May’s tendencies for commercial and experimental rap with electric results. Standout track “In for the Kill” comes with a video helmed by director Akinola Davies, a recent Dazed100 graduate who has previously helmed visuals for Blood OrangeKlein, and more. May describes “In for the Kill” as a song about “never being afraid to shine because ‘riches, they live in me’... and whatever you do in life, go in for the kill and do it from the heart”.

We caught up with Brother May shortly after the release of Aura Type Orange to get an insight into the musician’s world.

What was the first CD you ever bought?

Brother May: Dizzee Rascal’s Boy in da Corner. Observing Dizzee Rascal’s early success within the music industry at such a young age taught me a lot. I remember watching him win the Mercury Award. I listened to him talk about his certified gold album in his song “Dream”. His success inspired me. It motivated me to record music and source out my own producers and people to collaborate with. I bought the album because I just wanted to support his movement. I don’t revisit the album as much nowadays, especially as he drops so much music and albums. I try to keep up with it all, but I’m now constantly in the studio making own magic.

Were any members of your family creative? Is there any advice they passed down to you?

Brother May: I come from a very creative family. My grandfather played bass in a band. My mother was an African dancer in a Nigerian native dance group. My father and three of my uncles played in a band, and I have many creative cousins and extended family. In hindsight, my creative family helped me express myself, for sure. Observing members of my family engaging in music and arts in and out of London was really encouraging. It does help remind me that I was always destined to be a musician, entertainer, and creator.

How did London influence your relationship with music?

Brother May: London is the city I grew up in. It’s an influential place with so many cultures all living together. This has enabled me to grow an eclectic ear for music and sounds in general.

Who’s your biggest inspiration in life?

Brother May: My biggest inspiration in life are my two children. They motivate me day in and out to keep pushing forward. I have an unquestionable faith in what I’m doing, like a child. My love for music itself is the very reason quitting isn’t an option for me.

Are you the main character in your songs?

Brother May: I can be the main character, and I can use characters through a collective generalisation and understanding of current social events. I am also able to write stories with characters. I just love writing and creating and speaking from all perspectives of life.

What can you tell us about Aura Type Orange?

Brother May: Having a different flow and approach to music than the average UK artist, I wanted to capture my aura and personality on this record and really feel the journey, to get to this point. Aura Type Orange, for me, is a realisation of coming from without into within. It’s accepting the past blue areas of your life and moving forward into the orange glow of positivity. Also, being confident enough to use that energy for the enhancement of others, just as the sun gives energy to the world. I realise that Aura Type Orange wouldn’t have happened without this realisation of self.

How has your songwriting process evolved over the past few years?

Brother May: It’s come a long way from when I started writing years ago. I feel like I’m much more conscious of the music I make and the message I portray to the world. I’d say my songwriting has become much broader in context, and more general in subject.

“Being from a Jamaican culture and always going to dancehall raves growing up, I would hear Celine Dion come on in the rave and the place gets super duper shut down. Energy levels!” – Brother May 

Are your expectations for yourself realistic?

Brother May: Yes, all my goals are achievable, and realistically all I must do is keep working to realise them.

Who’s your dream collaboration?

Brother May: My dream collaboration is Celine Dion. Being from a Jamaican culture and always going to dancehall raves growing up, I would hear Celine Dion come on in the rave and the place gets super duper shut down. Energy levels! I remember watching her performance at Jamaica’s Jazz and Blues Festival, and it was the biggest crowd Jamaica had ever seen. She influences my culture greatly. I’d love to collaboration for that reason. I think I could bring that British swaggy drip, with my songwriting capabilities and ear for music. It could make a very interesting match, and would only compliment my already experimental approach to music. I think she would bring that clarity to the song, with her wonderfully executed vocal. We could easily make something nobody’s ever heard before. We’d complement each other being from different walks of life.

Are there any of your peers you consider underrated?

Brother May: No. All my peers are highly rated – especially by me!

What’s the last dream you remember having?

Brother May: The last dream I remember having is me, performing at a festival, rapping and playing drums. 

What do you have coming up in the near future?

Brother May: Ah, thanks for asking. There’s an EP coming very soon, released with a producer hailing out of Scotland called Lully. I’ve already recorded a second EP, set to be released on CURL, called Meeks and May, hopefully at the top of next year.  

I’m currently in the studio working on the next LP, so yeah, I’d say the near future is looking good. Not to mention the CURL live gigs abroad, and a possible CURL LP and CURL film coming! Keep your ears and eyes peeled.