Photo: Eva Pentel
“I’m still trying to find my way…I’m very much a student of the game.”
Yizzy is many things: a listener, a learner, a high-octane performer, a lover of grime, an incendiary MC and (as of now) a headliner. But when we speak over the phone, he at home and me cramped into the farthest corner of a coffee shop with next to no signal, he’s a determined young man from Lewisham, waiting patiently to tell his story.
“I’m still trying to find my way…I’m very much a student of the game,” he tells me very frankly. There are so many small niches of music, subgenres and cultures dotted across London, each one more enticing and exciting than the next, but Yizzy was drawn to lyrical ability, high-tempo rapping and raw passion. “When you mix all of that together it’s like everything you could want from a genre.”
The 20-year-old pulls from the speed of Griminal, the depth of Ghetts and the quick-wit of Dizzee, the soft revolution of reggae played at his mother’s home, the youthfulness of house and profundity of old school hip-hop to add something even fresher to a relatively new genre in UK music. Grime – or at least the re-imagining of it in the last five or so years – is the Gen-Z of genres. It’s one that has grown up with Snapchat and Instagram and feels more at home talking to strangers on Twitch than calling their own grandmothers. And while I’m 90% sure Yizzy calls his grandmother at least once a week, his sound is the newest of the new.
Bursting onto the scene during his final year of GCSEs, Yizzy’s sound was impossible to ignore. S.O.S was an EP with bars that burned like white-hot coals on a barbecue, igniting a 20-year old genre with something a bit special. Within the same year, we heard the Lady Leshurr-esque ‘Hype Ting’ and ‘Keep Chasing’. Almost overnight, the name ‘Yizzy’ spun webs across London. “When I was at school it was the same, when I was working 9-5 it was the same…A lot of late nights between 3 and 5am.” This is what he eats, sleeps and breathes.
“…One of my favourite ideas on there is one about how much we as people take life for granted – it’s the little things in life that make it worth living…”
Yizzy found his feet on pirate radio stations across London. “It gave me the chance to hear my voice on radio through actual speakers, when I didn’t have an opportunity to, when I didn’t have the funds or access to a microphone.” Meanwhile, his EP racked up over a million Spotify streams. A feat almost unheard of for a small, underground grime artist at only 19 years old. Like wildfire, the word spread quickly, gaining traction with every metre it made.
Now we’ve been served the icy offering ‘Freeze’ with Devilman – a first cut from forthcoming EP, Welcome to Grime Street and a signal of change for the young MC. While S.O.S may have appealed sonically to the grime community, 2019’s record delivers conceptually as well. “I want people to understand me a bit more as an artist; the songs are a lot more mature. The concepts on the EP are very deep and meaningful to me. One of my favourite ideas on there is one about how much we as people take life for granted – it’s the little things in life that make it worth living.”
Yizzy certainly hasn’t taken his opportunities for granted, grappling with the edge of the mainstream ahead of his headline show at the O2 Academy Islington. This is a kid who went from sitting in his bedroom, dreaming of being the next Wiley, to cutting a track with the man himself. “There’s a version [of ‘Freeze’] floating around in the cloud with me and Wiley, yeah. It might see the light of day…”
There are lots of little things that make up a great grime artist: dedication, drive, talent, a story to tell, and a sense of humility while still knowing full well you’re here to stay. As Yizzy closes out our chat, I’m pretty sure he has all of the above. “I sit in a place where I’m the new poster boy for grime. With the music I’ve got out, the live shows and the live energy…All of it screams a breath of fresh air for grime and for the UK music scene.”
Welcome To Grime Street is released June 7th via DMY.
FESTIVALS: Field Day, Dr. Martens, June 7th-8th.
See the video for ‘Yeah’ here: