The East Coast hip hop sound holds a lot of similarities with the modern UK Rap sound – the grittiness, the hustle-mentality, the dedicated focus on the bars over a hook or melody. Still, few UK rappers have fully adopted the sound down to the style of instrumentation and rhyme schemes like Birmingham rapper and producer, Sonnyjim. His latest effort, White Girl Wasted is a punchy, underground, avant-garde, lyrical street rap album – a solid addition to his large and heavily East Coast influenced discography that sit in its own lane in the UK scene. Sonnyjim has earnt his stripes with East Coast heavy hitters over the years, with previous features including Conway the Machine, Westside Gunn, Quelle Chris, Roc Marciano and White Girl Wasted boasting collaborations from the late MF DOOM, Jay Electronica, Madlib, and DJ Premier.
Though he wears his influences on his sleeve, Sonnyjim has a distinct style owing to his nasal cadence, jabbing flow and undeniable track presence. On White Girl Wasted, he delivers uncompromisingly punch line packed, image dense, triple stack burger type bars on tap. The production comes courtesy of The Purist, the UK's answer to The Alchemist who's crafted beats for the likes of Danny Brown, Westside Gunn, Freddie Gibbs and Action Bronson. His beats are equal parts woozy and classy, lazy drums paired with driving pianos, dancing flutes or operatic vocal samples.
I caught up with Sonnyjim for the Sounds and Sonic series, to chat about White Girl Wasted.
Track 01 – Paris Hilton
You end your verse on this track with the bars: “She wanna know where I got the flake from / She white girl wasted with my shades on”. Was the album name inspired by that bar? Or other way round?
Actually, the ending of that song was different originally when we wrote it. We didn’t have the title. But I went back last minute and changed it because of the title when we had it. I didn’t do that with any other bar, just that one.
Track 02 – Barz Simpson
This track features Jay Electronica and the late MF DOOM, two hip hop legends. How did those features come about?
We just hollered at them, easy as that. With DOOM, he returned the verse in two days. Even Jay it was like a week. Yeah, dead easy. Initially we wanted to get DOOM and Action Bronson. But Action Bronson was busy doing his book. When we couldn’t get him, The Purist was like, if you could get anyone on this song who would it be? I was like, Jay Electronica. Both of them came with long verses as well. They could’ve just phoned it in, but I think they liked the track. It sounded like a DOOM track init.
Track 03 – Doc Ellis
What was it like working with DJ Premier on this track?
The Purist was like, we need a banger. So, we hit up Premo. That was actually the first beat he sent. The thing with Premo is, he tailor makes shit for you. And you only get three goes. So, we gave him very specific instructions. We gave him three beats of his that we wanted him to use as inspiration: ‘None Of Y’all Betta’ by The Lox, ‘When I B On Tha Mic’ by Rakim and ‘Invincible’ by Capone-N-Noreaga. We told him what instrumentation and what bpm even. He didn’t listen though. He just did his own thing.
Track 04 – No Face No Case
You have a few bars on this track about joint rolling. What are some tips you have for rolling a perfect zoot?
Honestly, I think like at this stage, I don't roll a bad zoot ever. I tell you what I do do though – and sometimes like people who don’t know me see me do it and go “what, you can’t roll a zoot?” – I use those Raw pre-rolled cones. The spliff comes out the same every single time. Hench, nice and clean, no creases.
Track 05 – Does Shrooms Once
What’s the worst shrooms trip you’ve ever had?
I was in Dam once, it was me and my two bredrins. We’d been Dam bare times, done shrooms together in Dam bare times. Something was wrong with my trainers, so while we were walking, I just bought a new pair of trainers. Anyway, we go back to the flat, and this flat was really long. We’d had the shrooms at this point, and for some reason I was just thinking, I gotta wear these new trainers in to make them comfortable. So, I just started running from end to end through this flat. The next thing I know, I don’t know how much time had passed but I’m on the floor and my two bredrins are going Sonny wake up, slapping me on the face and pouring water on my head. I was like, what the fuck happened? But to this day they won’t tell me.
Track 06 – Lemon 714
You have a bar in this track – “Ye got me feeling like Pablo”. Where does The Life of Pablo rank for you in Ye’s discography?
You know what, I’ve never actually heard it from start to finish. My top album by him is My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, I really like that album. And Graduation, I really like ‘Drunk and Hot Girls’ and ‘Barry Bonds’. But I’m not big on all his stuff, I think he does bare duds. He does some great things, and then he does some odd shit.
Track 07 – 999
This track features two other underground midlands rappers who are in a similar lane to you in their sound – Lee Scott and Milkavelli. Are you all quite familiar with each other’s work?
Yeah, I know both of them quite well. Me and Lee just done an album actually, him producing and me rapping. I’ve actually known him for about 20 years. Just because we’ve done some battle shit together on and off.
Track 08 – Buy Cocaine Not Art
You end the album off with this story narrated by Joey Diaz. What made you choose this skit and where do you find the material for the skits throughout your music?
That was The Purist. Basically, we’re both big fans of Joey Diaz. We wanted to get him to an original piece for us actually, but we didn’t get round to setting something up, so we just used a pre-existing recording instead. But yeah, that was a Purist thing. The story is too disgusting for me. The skits for me just comes from not wanting to do hooks. With the skits and dialogue on White Girl Wasted, The Purist would watch certain things and bookmark them to use in the album and so would I. So, when it came to incorporating the skits at the end, we already had bare stuff stacked up.
Listen to Sonnyjim and The Puritsts’ new album, White Girl Wasted.