Get To Know… Natty Wylah
“Writing became the most beneficial outlet for dealing with the $*&% that life was shoveling me.”
After last year’s release of his fiery debut single WHOAMI, a track that deals with notions of heritage, identity and lazy stereotyping (“I ain’t from England, I ain’t from China: so fuck off with your labels,”) we sent Natty Wylah over a few quick-fire questions to learn more about this no-nonsense multifaceted artist and what 2020 has to offer.
First of all happy new year! Your debut single WHOAMI made serious waves in 2019. What are you hoping 2020 brings, both musically and/or personally?
Many happy blessings, new year, new cells; same soul - more L's. More lessons. More control of my self by letting go… I hope to carry myself with happiness and be aware of the things that cause me distress, to look 'em in the eyes and send love. Oh, and I think with all that in progress the music will take care of itself!
How have you grown in the past year as an artist?
The past year, as an artist I've grown massively, I'm playing consistently with my band and exercising elements of expression such as singing and just channeling energy in a way that hadn't presented itself before. Also being introduced to the mysterious cogs of the music industry itself… Learning to avoid getting my fingers stuck!
Do you find it easy to navigate change and evolving without ‘losing yourself’?
The idea of losing yourself is an interesting one… There are Buddhist teachings that talk of our multiple bodies, and I've found in times of suffering and angst that zooming out of my physical body and slipping back into an awareness of a greater field laced with ancestral strings… you can't control the elements. So in whatever may arise it's best to try and find peace with it - If you're gonna go; your gonna go - so you might as well go out smiling. Change is the only thing constant - in 7 years your body will have regenerated all of its cells completely.
Talk to us about your new release, Feel U. You have sampled Jorja Smith’s club-ready banger On My Mind yet your track flips the sentiment on its head creating a much more melancholy feel. Was this a deliberate reversal of mood?
Feel U was written very earnestly from a gloomy room, contemplating love and life. dylantheinfamous was behind the sourcing and flipping: I just heard the vibe, and the melancholia caught me perfectly - combined with my pensive state, blue mood and sunny rays it was a smasher.
What is your creative process like?
Creative process - I'm very visual - the way I see things. Metaphors. I like to use the present moment as a microcosm for a feeling or the general state of the place I'm in.
WHOAMI feels unambiguously personal, and it is evident that you draw upon your own experiences. How do other songs you have written compare to this, Feel U, for example? Are you also an observer of the outside world when it comes to influence and finding inspiration?
The similarity in Feel U and WHOAMI is that they are both observations of a personal feeling, but however personal, in its honesty, I believe people to relate. As I said with my creative process observing the outside world can capture the feelings internally, visual cues. A little Robin flutters onto the window ledge to squeeze a grey, blue turd into a squiggly circle. Both mystically intimate and surprisingly funny.
When and why did you start rapping/making music as a means of creative output?
I started writing bars when I was about 13/14… on the back end of 50 Cent, Outkast and Eminem CD's from age 11 onwards a big inspiration when I started out was the whole UK scene with Grime as an introduction to ciphers in the playground and the lyrical imagery of rappers such as Jehst, Skinnyman, Youngun etc. These were really important for me back then, plus the whole 90's US Hip Hop stuff, Mad Skillz, Big L, Black Moon, Buckwild productions etc. Then lyrically, music became an integral part of my life - writing became the most beneficial outlet for dealing with the $*&% that life was shoveling me.
Musically, who did you grow up listening to?
In addition to the UK stuff and the US rap stuff from earlier… Thelonious Monk, Coltrane, Joni Mitchell & Steve Harley from my Mama… Lee Perry, early Reggae, Rocksteady, and The Clash from my Pops.
How does it feel to perform with a full live band on stage with you?
If people could take away one thing from your music, what would it be?
You have quite a prominent sense of style, are you interested in fashion as an alternative outlet for self-expression?
I love colour, texture and I guess form, so these are applicable when getting dressed, I definitely love nice shmutter and appreciate peoples' style, for sure. I've been getting into mending clothes and adapting, embroidering etc. with my boy Sonny Jake who is beginning to sell his one-off items too, so this is exciting… but yeah, I'm also aware that there is a more prominent sense of self in the eyes and beyond the realms of vision.
Natty Wylah’s latest single Feel U is out today on all streaming platforms, and he plays the Camden Assembly on January 28th as part of the Spotlight Series.