Written by Dorica Santos
Banzel is a 23 year old rapper and, originally from South London, but now resides and exercises his craft in Glasgow. With the release of his debut project, Capricious Nights, we decided it would be great to connect with the musician and get to know more about his influences and creative processes. Check out what he had to say below.
How did you first get into music?
Banzel: “Initially, I never knew I could do it so like I didn’t start writing properly unti I was around 20. I’ve always loved music, and I grew up listening to a lot of rap and hip hop, especially tracks from Chicago drill music. I realised that this wasn’t enough, so I took myself out of what was hot right now and went to the foundations of rap in order to develop my own style. Listening to so much music and doing so much research has allowed me to do what I do today.”
What and who influences your music?
B: “Being from South London I’ve been influenced by a lot of grime so, Stormzy and Skepta obviously. I am also influenced by American artists such as Outkast, Jay Z, Big L and some of the newer school guys in the hip hop scene. In terms of what influences my music, I think being in Glasgow has allowed me to escape the theme of rapping and producing music a certain way. Basically, the city has allowed me to become more creative and I love it.”
Who are you listening to now?
B: “So many people. For now, I’m going to say Drake, AJ Tracey, Suicide Boys and Goldlink. Oh and Rejjie Snow, obviously. I feel like I can relate to him because his sound is so unique and different from the norms, which is what I’m aiming for. Also, Jorja Smith, she’s lit. My little sister got me onto Jorja, she is into neo soul and so she suggests lots of tracks for me to listen to.”
Are there any other genres that you are into?
B: “Yeah, I actually like Rock as well. I used to listen to a lot of Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, a bit of Nirvana of course. I really like the dark themes in Rock because it gives me another avenue in my music. I’m also fascinated by the live sets in Rock music, like the distorted sounds, I find it quite aesthetic. I hope I can work with Rock music producers in the future.”
How has the responses been to your album?
B: “It’s been great! Like everyone has been really supportive, including my mum and my sister, they even went to out to buy it. People found it weird, different and hard to digest. Like some people were saying they’ve never heard anything like it. But that’s what I wanted, so that would encourage people to listen to it more and slowly break it down in order to understand me.”
How would you summarise you album and what it means?
B: “Well, it’s my baby project and it took two years to make. I wanted to get my music out there; it’s like a CV in a way. Most of the lyrics were inspired by my everyday life and having nice surroundings, helped me to reflect and open up about topics mentioned on tracks. I wanted the album to introduce people to who I am and give them a taste of what is to come. It’s the first chapter.”
Explain the meaning behind the name of your new album, Capricious Nights
B: “So, Capricious means unpredictable, so that reflects the different styles and flows on throughout the album. All the tracks were recorded at night time, so like 2am or 4am in the morning. So every time you hear me on the tracks, that is me working at night when you’re asleep.”
What are your two favourite tracks right now?
B: “Pwrfl Dreams and Behold. Pwrfl Dreams was the only track with a feature and it’s just so organic, whereas Behold is concept track. It describes like a dream of me being a rap king.”
What was it like to work with André aka 77?
B: “I made my verses first and I knew I needed someone to feature on it. So when we were chilling out, I asked him about it then showed him the beat. He was like “Yooo, I love this shit!” and I was like “Yess!” It was crazy how we bounced off each other, and we have a good connection. It helps that we’re really good friends, I would definitely work with him again.”
What was it like working with the producers on the tracks?
B: “Well, one of them was actually an in-house producer, Xander, and he produced the bonus track at the end. I told him that I wanted a South-London vibe, because I heard a beat from way back in the day that my brother played. I remembered the beat, but not the name or anything of the producer. So I worked with Xander to create something similar and I was really happy about what he could do. The other beats were given to me for free even though they were worth way more. Funnily enough, I think one of the producers who did three to four beats, had a producing credit next to Jay Z and Lupe Fiasco, so that was cool.”
Do you have any dream collaborations? Pick someone dead and someone alive.
B: “Biggie…not wait, Big L! Alive? Well… Sketpa for sure. He is such a big influence for every upcoming UK artist and I feel like we’d get along well. The guy has an interlude on Drake’s album, that’s mad!”
If you didn’t do music, what would you have done?
B: “I did sports actually, especially boxing, so yeah… boxing. I was aiming for Commonwealth Games amateur boxing, but I got an injury and it did not go as plan. It was still fun, I had a great coach and sparing partner, Charlie Flynn aka The Postman. He has done well for himself, competing for Scotland and everything. Despite the downfalls, I’m happy I was able to turn my love for sports into my love for music.”
Are you hoping to influence other people?
B: “Yeah, for sure. Having a East African background, more specifically Somalia, I wanted to inspire others that it is possible to become whatever you want to be. It’d be nice to be a role model for those in places where rap and hip hop isn’t that popular.”
You’re part of the collective, Forij. Could you briefly explain how it came about and what you guys do?
B: “Yeah so, we’re all friends who do different stuff. For example, some of us are DJs, producers, rappers and singers. We also have members who are into the creative arts including photography. We all have different visions and stuff, but we still connect really well and are all going for the same type of goal. Forij formed in mid-late 2015, we all linked up and decided to do it.”
“From then on, Forij, grew and kept on building, so we hosts events like Incognito and put on other nights. We’d like to make it more frequent and add onto what we do, we want to do things for the people, making sure everyone has a good time, feels comfortable and making sure they are happy.”
Speaking of events, do you have any shows coming up?
B: “Yeah, over summer I am aiming to do some shows in Glasgow, Edinburgh and even London.”
Do you have any dream venues you’d like to perform at?
B: “Definitely! KOKO in London would be really cool. Also, King Tut’s in Glasgow, because it is an ionic place, many artists at the start of the career have performed there. So like, Radiohead, Oasis, White Stripes, Coldplay and recently Jorja Smith performed there.”
Last but not least, if you a cocktail what would you be?
B: “Ermm, I’m not sure! Vodka and lemonade? I’d say I’m a simple guy and it’s a simple drink.”
Check out Banzel’s Capricious Nights below and keep up to date with Banzel on Facebook.