The genre-hopping British-Congolese rapper talks heritage, being a naughty kid and his hopes for his much-anticipated debut mixtape
Backroad Gee’s energy is infectious. The 23-year old London rapper entered the scene just two years ago, and is already responsible for one of the most quoted rap lyrics of the decade. “Tell my babes, off her wig / we’re going to war!” he spits on “My Family,” his incendiary collaboration with Gambian-British rapper (and ex-Dazed cover star) Pa Salieu. “I literally went to the studio just to check him,” Gee says, using words like ‘big’ and ‘bazooka’ to describe their first meeting.
“It’s just me being me, that’s how I talk in general,” says the rapper, who has collaborated with the likes of Ghetts, JME, Lethal Bizzle and D Double E. Patching together lyrics, sounds and a collection of homemade catchphrases such as ‘mukta’ – which means “whatever you want it to be” – Gee’s bars are percussive, room-filling and futurist. “They will all be washings, straight washings,” Gee says of his various heavyweight collaborations. “When man’s working with someone else? Hella whoopings.”
According to Gee, being born to Congolese parents played an integral part to his approach to rhythm, which sits somewhere excitingly uncomfortable between UK drill and grime. “That’s where I really started to understand music, it helped me in how I structure and play with what I do now,” he says. “If it wasn’t for (my heritage), I don’t think I would have understood music the way I do. I have a very different intake of music, the way I work is very different to a lot of people, you know.”
“If it wasn’t for (my heritage), I don’t think I would have understood music the way I do” – Backroad Gee
Of the first piece of music he wrote as a 14-year-old, he explains: “I took the bars from one guy from my area, and I used to change one word every week until I had changed the whole rhyme but I had the same flow, and then… boom!” Dropping out of secondary school, he channelled his energy – “I was a proper naughty kid, every day I was in trouble,” he remembers – into music.
For the first five minutes of our interview, Gee’s phone camera darts around the room as he holds it. Right now, he’s working on the release of his much-anticipated debut mixtape, building on the momentum of a pivotal year in lockdown. He wants to make people feel the way he does when he is creating: “I just want to give people positive vibes, man,” he says. “This one’s a healing one, this one’s a spiritual one, this one’s a happy one. We’re here and we’re here to stay.”
Titled, Summer ina da Winter, the mixtape’s first single “Enough Is Enough” – featuring grime MVP Lethal Bizzle – is grinding and alien-sounding, like a 2000s UKG track slowed and churned through a cement mixer. “Just think of it like every barrier you think can’t be broken, has been broken,” Gee says of his desire to push his genre-hopping sound further than ever. “This tape is really like you getting to understand a little bit about how I think and where man’s come from, the trials and tribulations of my situation… I don’t feel like anyone will be disappointed. Be aware, be prepared and be fair.”