In the past year, JME (Jamie Adenuga) has given just two interviews: one to the official Pokémon YouTube channel, the other with Link Up TV. It’s a feat to pin the MC down – let alone announce him as the final act in our 48 Hours To… gig series with Lynx Anti-Perspirant. The co-founder of Boy Better Know record label, he’s an articulate guy, as you’d expect from lyrics such as: “Don’t make me get vexed/Or you’ll find out about my Tourette’s.” His 2015 album Integrity reached No12 in the UK Album Chart after being self-released and promoted. We asked the most independent man in music about his self-rule.
Your Twitter bio reads: ‘No label, No PR, No publisher, No manager, No pa, No stylist, No Instagram, No meat..’ Is there anything you don’t control?
I’m thinking… [pauses for a while]. I don’t have control over how people perceive the things I do.
You’ve never signed to a major label. Were you ever tempted?
Yeah, definitely. At the beginning I wasn’t anti anything. I went to meet radio pluggers, but I saw friends who had signed deals and nothing happened. And then I thought, do I actually need a label?
Jamal Edwards told us about your Pokémon hype in Holland Park where people came up to you asking for pictures and you refused. Is that an image thing?
The park was rammed, you couldn’t even walk, and I was getting stopped left right and centre. But I’m not a celebrity. People want to get a picture and I think, “Why?” If there’s a reason, sure. If you say, “Bro you changed my life, look at this tattoo,” or you start reciting my lyrics to me – just something significant that makes me think, “Wait a minute. It’s like they want a picture to validate themselves when they are already enough.” If you are you, you are the best. You don’t need me.
Is that why you’re not on Instagram?
I just don’t like the feeling of it. If I’m at a show, I’ll take a picture with every single person because they’ve come out there for me. Other than that, it’s just dummy pictures. Some people don’t even know who you are, they comment like: “Look at Skepta.” It makes me feel weird. I’m just a human. I’m not a jpeg. I’m not an image. I’m not the Eiffel Tower. I’m Jamie.
When was the last time you felt out of control?
I’ve felt out of control my whole life. Being a youngster, going to university, flying abroad, performing in different countries, growing up in Ayia Napa. Up until about the age of 25 or 26, I never felt like I was fully in control. I never felt like I was meant to be there, wherever that was.
You recently tweeted about the Investigatory Powers Bill. As you said, your ISP will keep your internet history for a year. Is that something you worry about?
Say you’re having a cussing match in a group chat, so you type in something vulgar on Google to find an image, and think: “Wait, if anyone saw me Googling this...” Now I’ll be thinking way ahead, ’cos they’re collecting your data. I don’t want to be controlled, but I can’t do anything about it. But I find ways around everything. Including Theresa May.
When are we going to see the Drake, JME, Skepta track?
I don’t know, man. I’m yet to actually sit down with them. I haven’t even been to Canada. But everyone’s busy now, which is good. When we finally get time to sit down and do something together properly, rather than just emailing verses back and forth, it’s gonna be massive.
Do you have any idea what it’ll sound like?
I wrote the lyrics for That’s Not Me and performed them the same hour. I was rehearsing it behind the camera while Skepta was shooting his part of the video, and then walked on screen. Luckily we got it right first time, and the song became a hit. So there’s no judging it. Drake, Skepta and JME might have a hit out, with no beat, that’s just a capella. You never know.
After events such as Brexit and Trump, what would you say to kids who maybe feel like they don’t have a voice any more?
If Trump’s as bad as he’s made out to be, he’s gonna do bad things, and we’ll learn from that. Same with Brexit. If we never got the chance to leave the EU, 400 years down the line, people will be like: “Come on man, let’s leave, we’ve been with them for 400 years.” It’s never going to go all right. And if it did go right, everyone would want it to go wrong to find out what happens. People growing up now? This is your time, your life, this is your story to tell. You’ve just got to make sure you’re the best person you can be.