Born and bred in east London’s Bow, Wiley has a lifelong ambition: to get a part in EastEnders. He is so committed to this goal that he gives the members of the cast first listen to his music. When not hatching a plan to bring electrical goods to Walford or not making good on his promise to retire – the 34 year-old’s ninth album is out on Monday – he’s trying to find paradise…
Why is the new album called The Ascent?
My friend, Meryl Fernandes, who played Afia on EastEnders, named my album because she could see the path and what it was all about. She could see I’d done all those years of work, going up to where I’m meant to be.
Didn’t you say you were going to retire?
I’m in control of myself. I don’t need the media to tell me when my career is over. I’m gonna tell you when that is. I said my last solo album will be the one after this. So I don’t have to make another album, just feature on my friends’ albums.
Which do you prefer: grime or dance?
It’s not even what I prefer; I know I’m better at grime. There’s no two ways about it. If you put a 140 beat on and I spit to you, and you put on a chart song, you’re going to feel my energy more from the grime. But in England, there’s a formula to go to No1 and no one has worked out how to make grime do it yet. So that’s what my main goal will be.
How did you celebrate Heatwave being No1?
I tried to block it out for a month and a bit, but obviously you can’t block it out forever. Growing up, it wasn’t about getting a No1. So you try to block it out so you can stay calm, so that you don’t get too excited.
Tulisa’s on your album, too. Are you good friends?
Yeah, we’re really cool. I first met her partying with N-Dubz in Manchester. I really respect what N-Dubz have done: they’ve come in, they’ve cleaned up, they’ve got out. Their bank accounts are solid.
Would you want to be a judge on The X Factor?
Not really. I respect people that do it, but I could only be a judge if it met the levels of music that I’d listen to.
Will your daughters go into the music industry, too?
Yeah, they’re on their way. They’re five and six. Both of them sing. My friends have got kids and when they come of age, and they connect, they’ll come together and be different things.
You talked in a recent interview about not smoking weed any more – are you still sticking to that?
What I needed was to slow down, not stop. I know you can’t smoke weed forever.
You’ve also talked about wanting to get a part in EastEnders. Have you made any progress?
I’m connected with people, so I know what to do. I’d really like to be a cool Cockney guy. Maybe I’d have an electrical shop. Or they’d open a Mac store in Walford, and I’d be one of the workers in there. Yeah!
Any desire to ‘do a Plan B’ and get into acting?
I actually would. I was scared, though, because if you go too far into music, and not enough into the other one at the right time, sometimes it doesn’t come off.
What do you think of the current dance-music explosion in the US?
They’re only doing it because they want money. Music is not the job and industry that it used to be. It’s all getting a bit boring now. I’m not going to moan about it, I’m just going to move on.
Who do you respect in music?
Timbaland. Dancehall people such as Ninjaman and Shabba Ranks. I respect the urban people who have had the chance to go mainstream and kick off the door.
What about Dizzee?
Yeah, he’s the man. Out of everyone, he’s the man. He started at the same time as me, he hasn’t put a foot wrong. He’s millions of pounds up. We don’t hang out. We used to, but we haven’t hung out in about eight years or some sh*t. We just don’t see each other.
Did you get a free Rolex out of Wearing My Rolex?
No, of course not. Rolex don’t care about people. When a son of a wealthy family becomes 16, the [parents] buy him one to show that he’s a man and so that he can tell the time for the whole of his life. Urban people who get Rolexes – they’re not looking at the time.
Which watch brand would you prefer to support?
I rate Casio over every watch, because it’s nothing. I can’t pay £70,000 for a watch that has a leather wrist. You may as well just throw your money in the river.
Have you made any extravagant purchases since you’ve become famous?
I’ve bought cars and stuff. But for somebody else who thinks ‘Yeah man, cars!’, I’m trying to help you: it’s a waste of money. If you buy a car for 60 grand, as soon as you drive it, it’s worth 53. Can’t keep doing that.
What do you make of Twitter these days?
I haven’t tweeted in ages. I hate Twitter because people are too accessible to you, and people who don’t know you – they say anything. Go home, get off there.
Would you ever track down a troll?
No, because I know it’s just messing about. But I am human.
You’re a huge Spurs fan. Any desire to get Clint Dempsey (who raps under the name Deuce) on a tune?
I dunno. That’s a mad one. We need a bit more magic than Clint, to be fair.
How big a fan of Spurs are you?
Would you fancy moving to Tottenham, then?
I’ve lived there already. It’s sick, but I want to live somewhere else now.
Would you ever move back to Bow?
I’m trying to look for paradise and it ain’t there.
Where do you think it is?
I’ll tell you as soon I find it. You can tell your mates and you can make your way.
The Ascent is released on 1 April
(Image: Rex Features)