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StrandzPhotography Alpha Bravo Studios

You need to hear Strandz, the Croydon rapper shaking up UK hip-hop

Ahead of the release of a brand new remix for ‘Us Against The World’ featuring Digga D, the rapper tells us more about his influences, and why he believes aliens would love Fela Kuti

Speak to anyone tapped into the UK rap scene, and there is one newcomer everyone knows is destined for greatness: Strandz. “Anything I do, I’m always 100 per cent about it and I do everything that I can for it,” says the rapper, who hails from Croydon, south London. The artist’s recent success hasn’t come through luck or happenstance, either – it’s a result of years spent honing his craft and making music on his own terms, with a sporadic string of singles that have put him firmly on the map.

There’s a lot to be said about doing your own thing and making the music you want to as long as you’re feeling it. For some time now, the UK rap scene has been dominated by the sounds of drill in its various iterations, but Strandz is set on doing him, unaffected by any other influences. Swapping booming 808s and ominous synth melodies for the expansive, sample-driven US rap sound of the 2000s, Strandz is strolling assuredly into territory uncharted by the majority of UK rap artists.

“Us Against The World”, the track that thrust the rapper into the spotlight, has recently been remixed with a brand new feature from fellow scene pioneer Digga D – listeners can expect hip-hop at its purest, in all its head-bopping, speaker-rattling glory. “From young, I loved New York hip-hop, that was always my thing,” Strandz tells Dazed. Sampling “Who’s Gonna Take The Blame” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the influence of the city’s giants like G-Unit, The Lox and Dipset runs deep but Strandz doesn’t want his influences to define him. “It's not like I want to replicate what hip hop was, I want to add something to it so I’ve actually had an effect on the sound.”

Down below, the rapper tells us more about his influences, and why he believes aliens would love Fela Kuti.

How did the collaboration with Digga D come about? How was the process of recording? 

Strandz: It was quite organic. Quite early on, before I actually dropped the original song, he was showing love on TikTok and then he followed me on Instagram. I respect his stuff as well, because I’m a big fan of 50 Cent and so is he, which you can tell through the music. I related to him on that, and then when I started thinking about the remix, it was just the first thing that came to my mind. Chemistry is important when it comes to those things: it was important to me that it was someone who actually likes the song, rather than someone who’s just trying to jump on a wave.

You’ve decided to veer away from the current popular sound of UK rap – why?

Strandz: I [always] loved New York hip-hop. When you’re young, you don’t really understand the industry that much, and it seems like the only way you can really become successful is to do what everyone else is being successful at. That’s the mindset I had at first when I started making music. But then, eventually, I thought, ‘I’m going to stop making music because I think people will like it, and I’m just going to start making music that I personally like.’

At the time, there wasn’t really much UK hip-hop coming out apart from Nines, Potter Payper and Mover. It was something that I wanted to listen to personally, so I thought let me just make it myself.

How would you describe the state of UK rap right now? 

Strandz: It’s interesting, because it’s so small. I think we always compare the UK scene to the American scene, and because the UK scene is so small it’s like one state. I understand why it is how it is, but I’m not a big fan of it because everything gets recycled so much and then people are making music based on someone else. It’s just everyone trying to jump on a blueprint and make the most money they can. There are definitely some hard people, but I don’t think that the hard people are as recognised as the people that are just doing what they think will make them popular.

“I’m not a big fan of [UK rap]... it’s just everyone trying to jump on a blueprint and make the most money they can” – Strandz

How would you like your style and sound to evolve?

Strandz: What I’m focused on this year is breaking boundaries and trying crazy stuff. I’m planning on working with a lot more live instrumentalists and singers. I co-produce all my stuff and the way I like to work is almost like an executive producer – the old definition of a producer, where they get a pianist and a horn section and tell them what to play. Like arranging and composing almost.

That’s what I want to start bringing into my sound, working with a lot of specialists in different fields and genres and then just mixing it in. For example, I’ve been playing around with sampling Fela Kuti, which is obviously Afrobeats, but because it’s so early, at that time it was so heavily influenced by jazz and blues. I found out that you can kind of treat it the same way as you treat soul, but it’s got a bit more of a groove. It’s just experimenting like that, trying crazy things and seeing what you can come up with.

If you could only listen to one musician for the rest of your life who would it be?

Strandz: I like relaxing music – there’s a singer called Feist that just gets me in the zone so it would probably be her.

What’s your love language?

Strandz: Someone being supportive – figuring out what someone wants to do and genuinely helping, I think that’s the most important thing to me.

What’s the last text you sent?

Strandz: It was me locking in a studio session.

What’s your weirdest internet obsession?

Strandz: Sometimes when I’m on YouTube I get a bit lost in those videos that tell you mad facts or some science stuff. I get lost in the loophole a bit there because I’m just trying to learn something. 

You encounter a hostile alien race and sound is their only mechanism for communication. What song would you play to them to inspire them to spare you and the rest of the human race?

Strandz: Black Man’s Cry’ by Fela Kuti. It’s got some rhythm to it so it would probably make them feel good.

The worst advice you’ve ever been given?

Strandz: Probably to go to uni. Once I heard about my friend’s experiences after the first year I was so glad I didn’t go.

Your favourite cornershop snack?

Strandz: Thai Sweet Chilli Sensations.

Would you record the soundtrack for Rishi Sunak’s next campaign for £10,000?

Strandz: Nah.

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