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Izambard is the east London artist making noise-rap for life’s grey areas

With the release of his single ‘Conqrète’, we speak to the rapper on his inspirations, his upcoming album, and his favourite films

There is an urgent energy to Izambard’s sound, but he makes it sound effortless. The 23-year-old rapper, who hails from Hackney, east London, is known for his intense energy and post-genre production, which slides between metallic samples, noise-rap, and hard-hitting vocals. His sound is distinctly London, drawing parallels to the likes of Flohio and Kojey Radical who also bring a hard-edged, industrial sound to their rap, with its spitting honesty and strictly no bullshit attitude. In his own words: “The most important thing is the work, the art. Fuck anything that ain’t serving that pursuit.”

“Conqrète”, the first single from Izambard’s upcoming album, is a punchy introduction to the iconoclastic rapper. Anti-establishment and persistently agitated, the track’s opener “all those bastards, facking cunts” cements the tone for the rest of the four minutes, with Izambard’s witty lyricism on full show, spitting quickfire one-liners like, “Stiffer upper lip than Michael Cain, Cain” and “Post-genre hot like cup of tea”.

It’s this intense energy, paired with disorientating drum patterns and honest lyricism, that makes Izambard so compelling to listen to. Below, we speak to the musician on “Conqrète”, his upcoming album, and the relationship between moving image and sound.

What's your earliest memory of music growing up?

Izambard: My grandma used to whistle a lot. She was phenomenal. She could talk to birds and shit. In fact, that side of my family have their own whistle, so that when we would go out if anyone ever got lost they could just whistle this tune and then someone would whistle back and you’d follow the sound to find them.

My fondest and most vivid memory of music is probably hearing my mum singing “Molly Malone”, or perhaps watching my dad perform Apache Indian’s “Boom Shack-A-Lack”.

You travelled a lot when growing up. How has this influenced your sound?

Izambard: My work is maybe more insular than it would have been otherwise. When what’s external changes so frequently you tend to focus on the things that are a constant, unwavering and most of those were internal. In my unbound imagination I could change everything about my reality. But in the pursuit of an escape eventually you come across an unexpected well of personal salvation, and you’d be a fool to keep running. So I keep that duality integrated with one boot in the mud and the other in the sky and move freely between both.

Can you tell me how you got into making music?

Izambard: It was the only place to put my words, it could do them justice. It is also the most integral part of film. It’s the ingredient a lot of cinema live and die on. I needed to know how sound worked.

What do you mean by that?

Izambard: I operate within multiple disciplines, in film all that messy shit gets bundled under auteur. My last project was an audio visual one… a film complete with an original album as the soundtrack. 

So what sort of films do you enjoy watching?

Izambard: When I was younger, I watched a screening of the old Nosferatu (Dracula) in a rank, scatty little northern cinema, and some bloke was playing the score live on an organ. It was quality. When it finished, they reset the film and played it from the beginning, but this time the music wasn't dark and murderous, it was comical, like Chaplin or something, and that changed everything.

Film is probably the most sensorily complete experience of an art form ever created. It’s important to everyone. People are more susceptible to what things look like than what they sound like. Visuals are integral in all communication of ideas. Artists get their knickers in a twist about all this bollocks but visuals and sound support enhance one another. It ain’t that deep.

At the risk of sounding like a proper tosser, I don’t know if enjoyment is always the fundamental purpose of great film. I appreciate them, but again I appreciate any art that dares to be brave and experiment and challenge itself and push forward with critical honesty and freedom.

What are your inspirations when making music?

Izambard: I have a process of elimination to get to what feels good. There are broad consistent themes, pallets and patterns that run through my work. Subjects and ideas I still don’t think I have fully explored or expressed, they keep me awake. They’re hard to pin down. They seem bottomless.

What subjects and ideas are you exploring on “Conqrète”?

Izambard: I experienced powerful moments of ideasthesia making that tune, parallels appeared between a number of disjointed ideas I was juggling at the time, which is rare, because it’s only when a piece of art simultaneously makes you intensely think as well as intensely feel that that shit comes… and it instantly inspires you.

It all developed around the word “grey”, and it gradually became apparent that almost every immediate facet of my existence was either covered in or rooted in that word – including what I make. I think it’s ownership of a limitation or something, maybe it’s an attitude? I guess I ain’t one to show off or wank over myself in my work so that bollocks happens a lot and it comes off elitist and tastes sour.

When it comes to the words though it’s all there, it’s performed and recorded, so it’s futile for me to explain it, especially the shit that’s explicit or straight forward. The same goes for when I dip into something abstract or esoteric.

What projects do you have lined up in the future?

Izambard: There will be more to follow “Conqrète” in the lead up to my debut album. One thing I'm itching to share soon is the collaborative work I’m doing with IDNTMTTR because I really can't believe how good it’s turned out, trust me.

I’ve been writing and producing for a few people and helping with the direction of their projects, and artistically I reckon this is some of the best work we’ve ever done. It feels good knowing all this is waiting in the wings. Most of it will be coming out on Kingdome Records too.