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R&B star Nippa on why Tottenham is a breeding ground for good music

As he plays London’s All Points East festival, we catch up with the breakout R&B star to talk self-criticism, DMing Craig David, and the importance of ‘finding your passion’

Blessed with a honeyed vocal and a truckload of charisma, British R&B prospect Nippa is making friends in all the right places. Despite only releasing music since late 2020, the 22-year-old has already captured the attention of celebrated super-producer Boi-1da (Drake, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar) thanks to his breakout trap-infused track “Situation”. 

When we speak backstage at All Points East on “This Is What We Mean Day’ – featuring a line-up curated by none other than British rap figurehead Stormzy – the singer’s set is not long over. By all reasonable measures, it was a triumph. Still, Nippa is fretting. “I’m so self-critical,” he concedes. “So, I think it went well. There are always going to be pointers with everything though. Not everything you do is going to be perfect. You can always go back home and improve. But you can’t be too hard on yourself either. You’ve got to give yourself credit when you can.”

Nippa pairs the smooth with a healthy lashing of grit, melding a soulful delivery to slinky hooks and lascivious lyrics that evoke late-night scrapes, romantic tumbles, and the rough and ready streets of his beloved Tottenham. 

“I still ride with my day ones in case they need assistance,” he declared on 2022 single “Not a Statistic”. As we talk, it becomes clear that Nippa’s connection to his roots are deep, pure, and true. There’s no doubting that. And yet, he is also looking at the road ahead, his eyes firmly on the prize. 

You’ve said that you’re extremely self-critical, what sort of thing bugs you the most? 

Nippa: Mainly, it’s my tone of voice that needs to be correct. I really don’t like a raspy voice. And sometimes I can get a raspy voice in my throat.

Is that after a heavy night?

Nippa: I don’t even party anymore! I gave up alcohol and smoking in May because I wanted to be able to sing really high. I’ve never really been a heavy drinker or heavy smoker anyway. I’ve never been addicted to anything.

Your music has been branded as ‘Hood R&B’ on social media. Where does the label come from and how do you feel about it?

Nippa: I have no idea [where the term comes from]. I don’t think I’ve branded it like that. But if people want to brand it like that, they can. It’s true that I live in the hood, and I make R&B. It’s R&B that’s quite musical too. You have to understand that I’m not signed, I’m not coming from a big label. When we shoot our videos, we’re shooting with what we have. We’re dealing with the cards that we’ve got. [My videographer] FACES comes to my block, he knocks on doors and asks all the mandem to come out to be in the video. He shoots the videos, and we just enjoy ourselves: have a little drink, have a little barbeque or whatever.

The likes of Headie One, Skepta and Wretch 32 all come from Tottenham too. Why do you think the area is such a good breeding ground for music?

Nippa: It’s community, man. Everyone shows up for each other in the ends. Everyone loves each other; everyone supports each other. It's about pushing one another. My mandem come out onstage with me. If one of us makes it, we all do.

It can get hard, but if you keep your head screwed on and – whether it be books, music or whatever – you find your passion and keep on that road then the world is yours” – Nippon

Can you tell us why you ditched rapping for singing? 

Nippa: You don’t want to hear me rap, trust me. I’m so crap [laughs]. I thought I was hard until the mandem showed me and said, ‘G, you're just crap’.  It is what it is, man. You’ve got to accept your flaws!

You worked with Craig David on his single ‘G Love’. What was that like? 

Nippa: It was good man. Craig David is the big bro.

How did you end up collaborating with him?

Nippa: Everyone thinks it’s a label ting, but I'm not with one. He'd seen me [open for] Blxst. He just shouted me. Sent me a DM. Boom. Then he got his team to email my manager. 

What was the plan?

Nippa: I was going to write for him, but then we got in the studio and there was a beat that was playing that wasn't really finished. The chorus was a bit dead, and they had no verses. I said, ‘let me write your verse’. And so, I wrote Craig David’s verse. Then he said, ‘can you jump on it?’. He already had the hook, so I just added some different harmonies around it to show what he could do with it. 

What is your writing process like?

Nippa: It changes every single session. There is no process to get to greatness, man. It just comes when it comes. But it definitely needs both talent and hard work.

What was it like growing up in Tottenham?

Nippa: It was hard. If you’re growing up in Tottenham and you’re a Black youth who’s ‘in the culture’, you’re already involved in gang violence.

Why so?

Nippa: Because anybody can stop you at any moment and mistake you for someone else or whatever. So, you’ve really got to keep your wits about you. You have to understand where you are, and what areas you can and can’t go to. It can get hard, but if you keep your head screwed on and, whether it be books, music or whatever, you find your passion and keep on that road then, hey, the world is yours.

Did you fall into the wrong crowd for a while?

Nippa: Obviously, man. Everyone falls into certain things that they don’t want to fall into. Hindsight‘s a beautiful thing. Everyone kind of gets involved in certain things, but when you find your footing, you find your way out. You use what needs to be used. Take the lessons you’ve learnt and put them into life skills.

Do you have your next steps marked out? 

Nippa: I definitely want to drop an album [soon]. I want to really work on it, man. I’m going to Toronto to work on it with Boi-1da and BenjiFlow. I’m just going to lock in. Just keep making and creating.

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