London is the centre of the UK’s urban scene right now. Thanks to grime’s heroic comeback, the capital has reclaimed the creativity its famed for from the jaws of gentrification, elevating the sound of its streets to a national and now global level. However one of the consequences of grime’s revival has been that any MC to emerge from the capital, particular its east end, is instantly pigeon-holed as a part of the genre, and much of the diversity in London’s urban scene is being overlooked.
Enter SNE, a self-styled ‘pioneer of Hackney’ who might just be East London’s answer to Drake. He fuses trap with RnB, and grime with dancehall, to woozy, boundary-defying effect, coining his own genre, ‘Trilful’. SNE’s had quite the year; from jumping on beats, he found on SoundCloud to working with his in-house production team, Penhouse, and to his new mixtape Essence; all that and he sings his own hooks.
Here we give you the first play of his video for ‘Tiana Major’.
NOTION caught up with the budding MC and singer as he drops the video for new single ‘Tiana Major’, a hazy, soulful cut from the forthcoming tape.
Who is SNE?
SNE is the sound of the ends, of Hackney, of East London, and just a new pioneer of Hackney really. Signed to a label called IDreamBigUK.
What’s your ethos as an artist?
I’m a ‘Trilful’ artist – my word. I’m very back and forth with the RnB and the Trappy feel, right in the middle of that, it’s just loads of influences into one I guess.
Can you tell us more about that ‘Trilful’ sound?
I would say it’s the influence of, as I said trap and RnB, and then you got that old school feel, the MJs the Ja Rules, and the 50 Cents and Fat Joes; that old school feel to the melody. Then I might switch it and go back to my real east London roots and go grime and give them a bit of that grittiness, as I show on one of my songs, ‘Trillest.’
SNE Wears JACKET – Firetrap
SNE Wears HAT – Umbro // T-SHIRT – Uniqlo // TRACKSUIT TOP – Publish
Your new track, it’s sort of, not a love letter, but maybe a ‘crush letter’ to Tiana Major 9. What draws you to her as an artist?
Haha, yeah, let’s call it a ‘crush letter’. I think it’s her style man. I’ve been performing a lot of places where she was booked as well, a lot of the same shows and events. She has a kind of Lauryn Hill thing about her with her Caribbean roots, and she’s a very, very, very good singer. You know what, I made this song and was like this could be named after someone I look at and think “Ahh she’s dope,” so I was like you know what, Tiana Major seems to fit the bill innit.
With the ‘Tiana Major’ video there’s a snippet of another song at the end, right?
Yeah, that’s the next one, it’s coming out at the end of December.
Can you tell us a little bit about that?
That one’s called ‘Ricco Rodrigo’, it’s basically the trap side of me, like an alter-ego, the really turned up one. It’s got a bit of a Mexican, kind of a Spanish feel as well. That’s me putting my foot down saying I am the new pioneer of Hackney and East London music. We’re going for a Grammy; we’re going for MOBO.
SNE Wears JACKET – Ecko United // HAT – Red Spades
Because you’re from East London a lot of people are going to assume you’re a straight up grime artist…
Yeah, I even went to a show the other day, and they were all “this is a grime artist”, and I was like ‘Ahhh.’ I wouldn’t even label myself as anything. I would just say I’m very versatile. I wouldn’t say I can do everything, but if there’s something I want to do, I can do it. I’d say I don’t have any limitations, put it that way.
Why did you choose to go in that trappy RnB direction rather than straight up grime?
I think it’s the Drake era. I love that kind of music. It’s what I love, and it’s what I can do with my voice, so how can I make it my own? Y’know what I’m saying? I’d say I get my melodies from way back in the day from like Ja Rule and Ashanti, and things like that, MJ. It’s like all in one; sometimes I’m trying to sing, sometimes I’m going absolutely hard on the bars, y’know what I’m saying? I’d say the current scene is more like 808 based and bumping beats, and I ain’t gonna lie, it just hits me in a new place and I love that sound.There are also elements of dub and dancehall and other Jamaican sound system vibes in there.
SNE: There you go! There you go. Like, Beanie Man influences, also Kapleton, and like Popcaan and people like that. I’m Jamaican, so that’s my proper roots, so growing up on the reggae and the dancehall, it’s only right I put that in there. It’s staying true to myself.
So you wanted to bring in all those different elements from London?
Exactly, I think that’s why I’m so versatile because there are so many elements I grew up around, there are so many influences. Growing up with the Jamaican stuff and then getting into grime at like 11, then trying to mix the melodies with grime and realising maybe grime wasn’t for me. Then I went into more rap, and slower beats and more intricate lyrics and people understood me more if you get me?
SNE Wears JACKET – K100 by Nigel Cabourn // HAT – Publish // T-SHIRT – Uniqlo
It’s interesting you mentioned Drake earlier because you have that kind of swagger in your lyrics, but it’s also self-aware.
I’d say I’m very honest with it as well.
Like on ‘Tell Me’ you have that line ‘I talk about these girls too much’, and that did strike me as a kind of Drake move.
There you go! Yeah because that’s all I think about really, girls and guitars, that’s all I know.
So you say you talk about girls too much and your new song, ‘Tiana Major’, is about a girl, why do you think you keep getting drawn back to the subject of women?
Women? (laughing) Because women are crazy, and women are, they are just very significant figures in my life. You know what it is? A lot of my fanbase is women as well, so I also do it almost to please them I guess. It’s not all for women when it’s all the grittiness, some women will understand it, but when I’m doing the RnB, singing kind of tracks, that’s all for the women, man.
So you’re trying to make it accessible? You don’t just want to make it tear out…
Yeah, it’s for everyone really.
Also, you sing your own hooks right?
SNE WEARS HAT – Umbro // T-SHIRT – Uniqlo // JACKET – Publish
SNE Wears JACKET – K100 by Nigel Cabourn // HAT – Publish // T-SHIRT – Uniqlo //
That’s rare for an MC…
(Laughing) I know, I know, but like I said, I come from that Ja Rule stuff, that’s where I learnt it. A few years back I couldn’t sing it properly, but now I’m working on it, I’m doing the vocal lessons, I’m working on, and it’s getting better every day.
Can you tell us any more about Essence?
Essence is gonna be two parts; one’s gonna be the ‘Ricco Rodrigo’ side, the trappy side, and one’s gonna be the SNE side, the RnB, Drake feel. It’s hopefully gonna be out January/ February; its gonna be an amazing one man, it’s gonna be sick, what we’ve got now is almost like album material, and it’s only a mixtape. Everyone I’ve been showing bits to has been like shocked because I also experiment and I push my vocals as well.
What are your ambitions for next year?
I want to be top of the game really. By the end of 2016, I want to be well established in the UK. I would love to go for a MOBO, but it might not be enough time, so I’d say two years; MOBO. In one year, just be top of the game. You know what it is? I want everyone that is at the top of the game to know who I am and understand me.
Find SNE on Twitter.