South London’s musical riches are beginning to be mined to their full potential, particularly as far as urban music is concerned. Joining Roots Manuva, Dizzee Rascal, So Solid Crew, Ms Dynamite and Ty, there is a new kid on the block.
Taz is a 23 year old rapper who has already made a bit of a name for himself on the production front, remixing Ashanti, being the studio brains behind Dizzee’s Mercury Music Prize winning album and signing to Def Jam on the back of a couple of tracks.
If the prophecies in his publicity material prove correct, his name will soon be up in lights with those mentioned above.
Not today though, at least not if Taz can help it, because it is a flu-stricken voice that greets me on the other end of the phone. It doesn’t stop him talking though, for Taz is a passionate man who takes his life experience as astarting point for his music. He grew up first in Jamaica, then in the Oval, South London, and still lives in the same place where he was raised. After what he subtly describes as “a couple of run-ins” during army training he spent a considerable period of time on the dole. The experience provided him withplenty of subject material:
“Going down the dole office you see some real characters. You rely on music a lot more to keep you going when things are like that, and I can say I’ve been from the lowest of the lowest to the highest of highest. I’ll never losesight of what that was like.”
“Going down the dole office you see some real characters. You rely on music a lot more to keep you going when things are like that.” – Taz on his lyrical inspirations.
The album Analyze This is the next stepping stone from Taz’s production work. Of course, he is most notable for hisinvolvement with Dizzee Rascal, whose already completed second album also featured Taz at the controls. The Ashanti remix came about as a result of Semtex/Def Jam A & R hearing Just A Rascal, and as Taz explains:
“They wanted me to make the mix more clubby and so I put my little trademark on the front and tookit from there.”
The results were successful, and another remix, Rain On Me, was followed by some original material including a track called Only God Can Judge Me, bearing no resemblance to tracks of the same name recorded by Tupac and, er, Mark Morrison.
When asked about his influences Taz shows a rare perception in observing that:
“My music’s all from my perspective – it makes it easier. If you be yourself, doing your original thing that comes to you and no-one else, then it sounds more believable than if you start with the first thing that comes to someone else.”
“We’ve stopped copying the Yankees and concentrated on what we’re good at!” – Taz on the healthy state of the UK hip hop scene.
Influences on Taz’s early years were pretty much as you might expect – Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson. Then, as he broadened, they included theragga of Beenie Man and the hip hop of The Notorious B.I.G and Tupac. Taz believes that British hip hop is in a healthy state at the moment, declaring:
“We’ve stopped copying the Yankees and concentrated on what we’re good at!”
When asked to give a name for the future he has no hesitation in putting forward Kano: “He’s gonna bebig.”
Unlike most of the British acts listed above, Taz is signed to a heavyweight major label. Does he therefore feel any extra pressure?
“I firmly believe Britain’s gonna have a plague like the Black Plague. I’ve been doing a lot of research into that.” – Taz shows that he needs to get out more.
“No, they’ve just let me be myself so far. Everything I’ve done they like so I’ve not had any problems.”
A second album is already in the pipeline, with Taz revealing its intriguing title as The Great British Plague:
“I firmly believe Britain’s gonna have a plague like the Black Plague. I’ve been doing a lot of research into that.”
For now though, as I point out, he has his own plague to deal with, so after much shaking of handkerchiefs it’s time to bid farewell and let one of Britain’s hottest hip hop prospects go in search of the smelling salts.