Cadet is an interesting character. Based in South London — the area he was born in and still resides — and now approaching his late twenties, he first burst onto the wider scene in 2015 as a hot-shot lyricist with a real and lived-in story to tell.
Operating in-between grime and UK rap spheres, although neither fully immersed in either, his lyricism immediately set him apart from those also on the come-up around him. Although delivered with rapid-fire flow, Cadet has always told stories; painted pictures. “See me I was the man in school // but it’s like // I was so up my own arse // my teacher could tell me ‘come to the front’ // I’d get a pen and try teach the whole class”, he spits on breakthrough freestyle, ‘Slut’, for example.
Freestyles have been an obvious entry point for those getting to grips with Cadet too (see his Warm Up Session for SBTV), just as they were for him becoming accustomed to rap as a teenager — he refers to his own as ‘paying tribute’ to that heritage. Racking up millions of hits from a loyal fan base of internet listeners, they served as the primer for 2016 EP, The Commitment, his first body of work proper, which featured collaborations with Konan and Donae’o — the latter of whom he credits as a “huge influence” on his career.
While The Commitment might have dropped without the fanfare it deserved, it still earmarked Cadet as a rising star on the UK underground and, after having also supported Bugzy Malone and Krept & Konan on tour, there can be little ignoring his pedigree as we move into the second quarter of 2017. With that in mind, we caught up with him to discuss his ambitions, the importance of telling stories and why freestyling is still crucial to rap.
What are your aims and ambitions for 2017?
To really give this music game everything I can, to be known for consistently putting out good music and to get my feet grounded completely in my career.
Why do you think communicating real life stories and experiences in your music is important?
Because I find it important to say something in my music and I feel that legendary music tends to be timeless because it’s constantly relatable. I try to make my music true to real life and hopefully that helps make it legendary.
How do you think grime and UK rap’s mainstream appeal will affect the music coming out of the underground?
Hopefully, more underground artists will start to take it seriously and see that a real career can be made from this. That’ll be dope and open up the music to many more types of people.
You’ve recorded numerous freestyles that have really blown up online. Why do you think free-styling is still an important part of the culture?
I grew up listening to freestyles; it was the first type of passionate rapping I ever saw, so I practised it non-stop. I feel like it’s me paying homage to the sport.
Which lyricists inspired you to start writing your own bars?
Roadside G’z, Ransom and my peoples from my area.
Are there any other UK emcees that you’re particularly into right now? If so, why?
Shakka & Donae’o. These two have had such a huge impact in my life and music career; I’m into basically everything they do.
Describe your own personal style…
I’ll be real, I like a lot of longline but I like to include some classic, some modern, sleek but also slick.
Where do you see yourself this time in 2018?
Honestly, I don’t know. I’m so focused on every day; I have no idea where I’ll be in 2018. Any expectation or target I think I’ll hit now, I hope to work so hard on that I’ll smash it. I have no idea! Hopefully something I can’t comprehend right now.
Interview Tomas Fraser
Photography Charlie Cummings
Fashion Kiera Liberati and Sian Saunders
Hair & makeup Lucy Thomas using Bumble & Bumble, Illamasqua, MAC Cosmetics
Hair & makeup Assistant Emma Temple, fashion assistants Shereena A-Grey