BXKS ON GROWING UP IN GRIME, HACK THE PLANET EP & TIKTOK
BXKS is an old-school grime wordsmith with a new-age flare, a world builder and a relatable storyteller. Drawing constant inspiration from the worlds of Anime and video games, she is carefully curating a catalogue of boastfully authentic albums that represent her origins as a fire breathing MC in the UK Grime scene.
Her latest project Hack The Planet sets sail for a new world, tempering and toying with a host of different sonics than the ones present on the surrealist voyage embarked upon during her previous tape Full-Time Daydreamer. Despite her career beginning in the creatively sluggish settings of lockdown life, her music has always encapsulated the energy and freedom of a packed-out grime rave. Tracks like ‘4DaKidz’ eloquently exhibit her comfortability amongst a complex riddim, finding a home amongst a shifting pocket and effortlessly gliding across a mellow beat with the dogmatic attention to detail needed to thrive at 140BP. Similarly, ‘Swish’ is a Timberland-esque bombastic anthem that pays homage to the alien and blaring production of classic grime albums like Home Sweet Home and Konichiwa.
Despite Hack The Planet only just launching and taking flight recently, BXKS is already planning to land another landmark project towards the start of 2022. With so much heat in the pipeline and a stellar tape already emanating out across the underground, we had to catch up with BXKS to decipher the finer details of our career thus far. From jamming out to her mums Anita Baker records to featuring alongside Manga Saint Hilare we are looking back on her road to releasing two timeless tapes in one year.
Taking things back to your very beginning with music, what music was playing around the house as a kid? How old were you when you started to listen to your own stuff?
A lot of Reggae! Then my mum has a huge vinyl collection with a load of Earth, Wind and Fire, Anita Baker (she loves Anita Baker!), and Whitney Houston records. Anything from the late ’70s to the early ’90s my mum had most of it on her shelf. She was also a big Micheal Jackson fan. Then my dad was the one mainly playing Reggae tracks.
I actually didn’t start discovering my own music until 2016. So when I was in high school between 2007-2013 music in the UK was weird. It was the era of N-Dubz, Chipmunk was making ‘Oopsy Daisy’, and of course, Skepta was still killing it so I did draw a lot of inspiration from that time in UK music. However, it wasn’t really until Grime had its second wave and then began to fade out again that I really started to make my own brand of music.
So was UK Hip-Hop and Grime your first window into rapping or did the US sound make its entrance into your life first?
I would say American artists like Missy Elliot and Ludacris actually arrived on the TV first for me and Chris Brown was like the biggest artist in the world at the time. T-Pain, Kanye West and all those guys definitely put me onto rapping first. I didn’t really know about UK rap until All-Stars and Channel U came on the TV, before that I didn’t even know that we had artists that were making that kind of music in the UK.
Was there one artist that motivated you to take that step from a fan of music to a creator?
Yer totally, I would have to say, AJ Tracey. He did this track called ‘Packages’ on Link Up TV MIC Check where he was spitting at 140BPM over a Drill beat and I remember thinking to myself “that is so easy I can do that!”. Then next thing you know I began spitting grime bars over drill beats so I would have to give the credit for me starting out to AJ. I just thought grime content sounded so much better over the tempo of a Drill beat and he really showed me that.
Then back in 2017 when my friend all got their own cars for the first time and hotbox freestyles became a regular thing, that’s when people closer to me began to shape my understanding of rap and what sounds cold. I never used to join in those sessions because I would always be too nervous so I would always just rap my bars in my head. It wasn’t until after those car sessions that I started to go home and record some of my stuff and began showing it to my friend Armani and he convinced me that I needed to start going for it and getting in the studio. I went and did a black box but still wasn’t convinced within myself that I was that good but my friends were adamant that I should continue so I did! I actually didn’t feel nervous at all that first time in the studio, I just felt mad powerful as soon as I put the headphones on so I knew it was right from there.
Before we get into Hack The Planet, I gotta ask about the crazy verse you dropped on JON.’s ‘Accolades Remix’ alongside Manga Saint Hilare. Was this a bit of a pinch yourself moment? How did this collaboration come about?
Yer it was so interesting because back in the day Manga used to bring Nathe Smallz with him to the radio station and Nathe is from Luton like me so he was always a big figure that was around a lot of the same settings as me. JON already had the normal ‘Accolades’ track done and very kindly asked for me to jump on the remix so I sent him my verse not even knowing there would be another MC on there. Then when he sent me back the finished master I heard that Manga was on it too and just thought that the finished track was so hard.
Turning toward the new release, how does Hack The Planet fit in relation to your previous release Full-Time Daydreamer? Do you see it as part two in the continuation of the same story or are you beginning construction on a new world with his one?
It’s definitely the beginning of a new sound rather than trying to continue where we left off with Full Time Daydreamer. On FTD, a lot of the tracks come from the same scope of sounds and are all unified in many ways but on Hack The Planet all the tracks are so different from each other that you can’t really say that any is similar to another. I really wanted to just make a mix-tape that showed a full range of genres that shows that I’m capable of making any kind of music that I want to make. I typically do tend to group together tracks by instrumentation for a project in order to make it more coherent but for this one I wanted it to be a total mix of everything om working on.
I have another project that I’m working on that is hopefully going to drop next year which is another example of a tape that all feels unified and has a story-telling element to it but for this, I wanted to feel free to make whatever and be proud to put it out.
‘Bones 2 Pick’ is my personal favourite track on the project, it reminds me of this incredible Cadenza X Ms Banks tune that dropped last year, in the way it’s fueled by a more Dancehall influence. Who produced this track? Do you prefer working with a small group of producers or are you happy to jump in with anyone that’s around?
So that track was produced by a tandem of producers including a guy called I Don’t Matter & another dope producer called Samo Type Beats. Samo also produced Swish on this project. I would say that I used to enjoy hopping in the studio with a load of different producers because I was used to working with YouTube beats so I was keen to see what it was really like to work in a studio with an actual producer and make a beat from scratch. However, now I would say there is a handful that I go back to create a specific sound that I’m looking for because I have learnt then and they have learnt me. Once you get past the first session, good producers usually get the gist of what you like and don’t like so it makes everything a lot more streamlined.
‘4DAKIDZ’ showcases an impeccable flow with a beautiful composition as this heartbeat style bassline blends out into violins. I’m curious why you chose this track to open up the project? Was there a particular personal attachment to this track?
So I have had that song since I was putting together Full-Time Daydreamer as I made it with my producer Pablo the last time we were in album mode. We felt like it just didn’t fit in the scheme of that album as it was a tad similar to ‘Work Like’ as they both have a similar meaning behind them. So I decided to hold onto it for this project because there are people that are younger than me that listen to my music so I wanted to make a track that was directed a little more toward them, that’s why I added that audio of my little cousin at the end of the track. When he grows up he will hear that and remember that he can do and achieve whatever the hell he wants to do.
Do you think you purposefully choose beats that present a more unusual pocket for you to pick apart and glide in? ‘4DaKidz’ fuses this crazy double-time flow with a slower trippy progression, the arrangement kind of reminds me of ‘Teardrops’ by Kano in that way.
I just generally think that my beat selection now is down to the fact I learnt to rap by listening to Grime. It doesn’t really matter what style of beat you give me I think I’m just going to unintentionally spit at that speed. I think most other artists would approach it with a slower tone and change to fit the beat but when I hear it I thought that I could really go off on it. I just approach my songs as if I’m spitting on a hardcore Grime beat.
I read that you see ‘Mean Amount’ as that track that is most representative of you as an artist? Is that still the case?
No it isn’t actually haha, I think that ‘Mean Amount’ and ‘Dibbi Dibbi’ actually represent me the least now purely because they are the most commercial sounding tracks on the project. All the other tracks are a bit more underground and tracks like ‘3,2,1’ and ‘Swish’ would be the ones that I gravitate towards now as being most emblematic of me. I love ‘Swish’ because when I perform it I can literally see the look on peoples faces when they thinking “WTF this beat is mad!”.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of being an up-and-coming artist in today’s industry?
TikTok is our worst enemy. It’s funny because today I had my first ever viral TikTok video and it’s of me just doing next to nothing. I feel like TikTok is such an enemy of artistry because I don’t think they actually care about the music that gets used and shared on their platform. I think it feels like such an unnatural way for artists to have to promote themselves and their work. I’m looking to have longevity in my career and I think apps like that can ruin an artists chance of having that because you can go from being a nobody to having a million followers in an hour. If people start riding with your music that quickly then they will get bored and drop it just as quick.
Let’s talk anime! As someone who is keen to start exploring a darker style of anime, can I get your guide to essential anime movies?
Tokyo Ghoul was the first dark anime series I ever watched. Parasite isn’t the darkest but it’s just a really great one to watch. Akira is really really good and actually is a big inspiration point for my mixtape in general but that’s a movie rather than a series/ It’s funny, Kanye actually based his ‘Stronger’ music video on that film too.
If you could only listen to three albums the rest of your life, what would they be and why?
I would have to say The Black Album by Jay-Z, Home Sweet Home by Kano and Konichiwa by Skepta.
Lastly, what have you got coming up in the future?
There is always music coming so I’m currently working on my next tape! The songs are done it just needs to be mastered. Then I’m also hoping to make a short film that goes with the album instead of doing separate music videos in order to showcase that I can do different out-of-the-box things and venture into different creative outlets.