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KwolleM Gets Off At Our Stop To Discuss His Latest Project 'c2c', Before & After The Release.

Why so Mellow? The infamous phrase coined by the Newham raised musical chemist KwolleM. This short questions in a simple yet all-encompassing query that aims the spotlight at the smooth and suave nature and sound from an individual highly influenced by the streets of East London and its rich culture. KwolleM is known as a musical pioneer to his peers, based on the cultivation of his very own sub-genre 'Mellow Grime' which takes the high tempo and intricate rap style of grime layered over smooth and relaxing instrumentals in a merger of seemingly contrasting style, therefore creating the name of the sound which some may view as an oxymoron. This sound was first communicated via his debut release on Soundcloud of the same name in 2015. The project was a big hit in the underground scene which was a classy yet grimy ode to his hometown, made up of a collage of verses from both UK rap legends and artists on the rise that embodied the new sound.

Fast-forwarding to 2020, the social climate gave us all time to think, reflect and develop a new approach to our day to day, this was no different for KwolleM as he finally found the time to circle back to his passion for music as the years between his debut project and the latest release 'C2C' were filled with various accomplishments outside of music or production. His work at companies such as A Cold Wall and Places + Faces took precedence and fully exposed KwolleM to the fashion world, which is still a huge aspect of his artistry. Inspired by the likes of Alchemist, and mentors such as Samuel Ross, it is no surprise as to how KwolleM approaches genre-blending with such precision - However as KwolleM sews the musical pieces together with the finest linen, he would need a co-star on this project to build the framework for - Enter Joe James, a rising star back from his own musical hiatus with a vocal tone that paints the picture as KwolleM builds the canvas.

In our discussion with KwolleM we get an insight into his strategy and execution of the 'C2C' project and its rollout as well as touching on his very relatable beginnings. read the full discussion below.

Photography by Ciesay

Your journey thus far is an impressive story, tell us about who you were and what you are now from the year 2015.

I feel like I’ve always been who I am now, in essence. KwolleM is ‘Mellow K’ backwards, a small nod to Nujabes, being mellow is who I am. You can ask around, I’m anything but erratic. I’ve grown around so much passa and complications that I’ve learnt to dim the lights of life down a little and go at my own pace. It’s in the way I talk, the way I walk, the way I produce and to be honest, my friends get onto me for eating at my own pace. There’s no rush as long as you’re on time.

What would you say are the key ingredients to create the Mellow Grime style?

Newham, that’s first and foremost. That’s the substance of it all, that’s the dash of vim and sprinkle of mellowness you hear in my music. Next is Britain, Grime isn’t exclusive to my borough so I’ve always been a fan of music from up North as much as music from down South. I try and capture the essence of catching a night bus home after a decent night out in my music. I like to believe that what I make is night-time music, at least I intend to. There’s something very unique about the British night out; making your way home and watching the time so you make the last train, giving your friend a quick ‘inabit’ and rushing before the train leaves. Sitting down on whatever mode of transport it may be and pressing play on your music until you’re in somewhat of a trance, a comedown even. As if you’re living your movie, I like to believe we all are.

What are the most memorable moments of creating that first project 'Mellow Grime'?

Seems like a lifetime ago, but at the time it really felt like the workload couldn’t get any more than it was. Setting up everything, thinking of everything without the experience that I’ve gained since - I’m surprised it was done so well. But the most memorable moment was definitely the mandem & I getting a film photo taken of us outside Abbey Road Studios on the same zebra crossing that The Beatles used. You can probably find the photo if you scour the web hard enough. The traffic was piling up but it was all in the name of the art right?

How different or similar did you feel to those that were around you growing up?

Super similar, the synergy between the ends & I never left. I walked for A-COLD-WALL* during Fashion Week a few years back and went straight back to the ends after, probably linked the mandem and smoked a couple man at FIFA. I feel like there’s a frequency that’s recognisable between Newham residents, there’s a scent we have that we couldn’t lose if we tried. I have people that I grew up with who live very different lives from me but whenever we bump into each other it’s just as if nothing has changed, because really we’re the same people. Just a little older and a little wiser.

The visual director for your latest project ‘c2c’ was also a part of the A-COLD-WALL* Team, Jack Harper, why was he the best person for the job?

I know Jack from my time at A-COLD-WALL* and when it came to the cover and dealing with the vinyl, I knew he was the man for the job. I knew him well enough to know that he would get it, and he did. The majority of the time we spent on it was planning and the editing and going through different versions, the shoot itself was super smooth. Jack knew exactly what he was doing and so did the lovely model, Biba Williams. Having Joe incorporated with the (back) cover was essential and I feel like the grunge/sinister vibe his stance gave off was perfect.

You just put together a great merch collaboration with streetwear brand Corteiz, West Ham football team colours – why was this a no brainer for you?

I’ve known Clint, the owner of Corteiz, for over half a decade and West Ham is the local club. Can’t forget where I’m from. Shoutout to Mark Noble and them man.

The cover got a lot of recognition before people even heard the music, how important was that aspect of the release to you in comparison to the music itself?

I’ve always believed that the cover art is just as important as the music it’s for. It can give you a bias on the music before you’ve even listened to it.

Another important aspect of the ‘c2c’ vision was the artist Joe James, what are your opinions of him in association to the UK rap landscape?

To put it simply, he’s one of the coldest. Bar for bar I believe he can hold his own against anybody. But I don’t need to say too much, give the tape a listen if you are yet to and take in his flow, his cadences, his rhyme patterns - and on top of that, he makes it seem effortless.

Quick Scenario; there are long delays on the c2c and you need to get to Fenchurch St from Barking & Dagenham on a different train line, how are you getting there?

More time I’m about to wheel up the latest 3 Shots Of Tequila podcast and firm the delay to be honest, but a quick Uber to West Ham and then jump on the Underground from there.

You recently announced the project has over 500k listens in a few weeks, how do you feel about all the support you have received for the project thus far?

When I’m creating, I do my best to focus solely on the music and not think about numbers or statistics. It has to be a tunnel vision thing otherwise you’ll lead yourself astray trying to tend to what you think people want. Maybe that’s why my releases thus far have been well received, I just do my bit and let it out into the wild and let whoever wants to listen to it do just that.

In a perfect world without COVID, how would you like to continue the roll out for the project?

In a perfect world without COVID, if I keep it real, the project probably wouldn’t have happened. Music really took a back seat in my life whilst I was patterning other stuff, it wasn’t until I suddenly had a huge amount of free time on my hands that I thought to myself “why not?”.

Side note: a video would have been sweet, maybe one’s en route, maybe next time, who knows?

Last question, you can only listen to either ‘Hood Antics’ ft AJ Tracey or ‘Basildon’ ft Joe James on repeat for a year, what is it going to be?

I’m going with Youth by Daughter.

Listen to c2c below now:

Follow KwolleM here: Instagram | Twitter

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