Features I by I 07.08.13

“People don’t get that my intentions are good”: Wiley on Dizzee, Disclosure, and why you’ll never catch him doing Mr. Blobby

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"People don't get that my intentions are good": Wiley on Dizzee, Disclosure, and why you'll never catch him doing Mr. Blobby

Wiley’s had one hell of a year.

Fresh from a 2012 that saw the Godfather of Grime take home a long-deserved first number one single with ‘Heatwave’, 2013 has so far seen him leak his new album The Ascent after an argument with his record label Warner, make headlines for his behaviour at Glastonbury and Cockrock, and return to indie label Big Dada for a split release of his techno-tinged new single ‘Flying’. And we’re still only in August.

Catching up with Britain’s most entertaining (and let’s not beat around the bush: also Britain’s best) rapper is always a treat, and FACT’s Tom Lea spent an afternoon on the phone with Wiley this week, talking through his relationships with Warner and Big Dada, why Dizzee Rascal and Tinie Tempah are lost, and why Bow E3 will always be his home.

You can read FACT’s past chats with Wiley here and here.

Your new single’s on Big Dada, are you officially done with Warner now?

Nah I’m not. I was gonna release ‘Flying’ on my own label, A-List. But because I haven’t got a team that works on me, like Warner or someone else, you know, a proper team … the release that I’m doing with Big Dada, it’s 50/50 A-List/Big Dada, and [Dada] will be the team. At a major, they will never do that with you, they just want the whole money. Whereas an independent will go halves and let you use their team.

I’ve stepped away from Warner because Warner wouldn’t release a grime song, but I’m still really with them, I’ve got a single [on Warner] called ‘Tap my Shoulder’ that will be another club record. I have to do the club records on a major, and I have to release these kind of songs [‘Flying’] on an independent.

I guess like the Step Freestyles, where you’re trying to keep both sides happy.

Yeah… well, no, no, ’cause that’s giving away. That’s the sad thing – if I’ve staggered the Step Freestyles over 20 years and made them all singles, then it would be a different story.

So A-List is just you at this point?

A-List is my record label. I’ve got artists around me that might work, might not work … it’s not easy to know what’s gonna work. I will get to them when I’ve finished doing what I’ve doing – not finished, but when I’m done with this run, like my new single and that. Basically it’s just that thing … if you’ve come from grime and you’ve had to make pop to survive, one day you need to get back to grime. Because you don’t sound better on pop. This is the bottom line – I’d rather hear Dizzee Rascal on ‘I Luv U’ than hear him doing a tune with Robbie Williams. Not because I don’t want him doing a tune with Robbie Williams, but because you don’t sound better than Robbie than … You know what I’m saying? I don’t wanna single out Dizzee, because people might single me out, but it’s like if Disclosure woke up one morning and started making rock?! No one’d be hearing that, would they?

That’s my thing. We all have to make pop music to be accepted, because we’re living in that environment – pop is older than us, it’s like hip-hop, cause it’s been doing for years and years. For us to come in here and be like ‘oh, cool’, we’d be lying to ourselves, but what makes me sad, is that we’ve come from something that’s really really good. And yet, we’re running around … like Kano has turned into a movie star. What the fuck is that, bro?! Kano! He’s the best MC out here, and he’s in a drama series.  


“What the fuck is that, bro?! Kano! He’s the best MC out here, and he’s in a drama series.”


You see that with musicians all the time though when their stock drops.

But he’s good! He’s better than Tinie Tempah, so why the fuck is he doing films?! This has always been our problem – you had Dizzee Rascal, he blew up and flew off in a different direction – he wants to run off and not be part of something. Kano wants to do the same thing. But if they’d stuck here – and I don’t mean music-wise, I mean scene-wise, we all have to do other music – we’d all be here, merry, having a great time. But they never. And that’s what bugs me every day, when I walk around, and I think ‘there’s at least seven or eight frontrunners in this game, who could have got together and made it so that we don’t need majors’. But then I stop and say ‘wait, in the actual world, not everyone are best mates’. Like I’ve got uncles that don’t speak. But I wish … you know what, it’s not even a wish anymore, but a lot of people just move away, because their manager or whoever is telling them ‘you’re the guy, you’re the special one, you’re the one and only and your poo smells of strawberries.’

Do you think there’s an opportunity for you to do something like that with A-List?

Well A-List is my opportunity, it’s not an opportunity for them. Like I am Wiley, I am A-List and Boy Better Know. Kano should be BMG and whatever. Dizzee Rascal can be Island and Dirtee Stank … but he ain’t done shit, not to bring anyone through. But that’s who he is, let’s not diss him. If he had half an inch of a brain, he could’ve come back and signed people who’re not [necessarily] the frontrunners, but who could be a thing around him. Like people wanna be Lil Wayne out here but they’re not signing Drake and Nicki [Minaj]. They just wanna be around Jae Millz forever. Like you have a crew, and you might not be the best in that crew forever, but that’s just how it is.

Well look at Birdman, he’s stayed on top by signing people better than him for years.

Exactly. He’s not even the best one, and that’s where we lack … even footballers. Imagine you play for Man United, and you’re in the team, and you’re going training every week only to hear people moaning about Rooney and excited about RVP. But there’s a whole team around them, and I am a team player. I wouldn’t wanna hear about all that shit, I just wanna know what’s good for the team. That’s my point – we’ve all gone in different directions. I’m not saying that I haven’t, but every time I’ve turned left I’ve turned right soon after.

If you ask me ‘what’s the problem between you and Dizzee?’, I’ll tell you the truth. There ain’t no problem bro. I never stabbed him, he never stabbed me, so what’s the problem? There is no problem. Time has just made him turn left, while his manager is gassing him up making him feel like King Kong. And when you gas your artists up, that’s when they become un-relevant [sic]. I’m not saying Dizzee’s un-relevant, because he is quite relevant, but his music ain’t! And that’s sad. I’d rather have no money and make a good song than have 50 million and make a shit song.

Managers aren’t [necessarily] the problem, the problem is that tunnel. And they see that tunnel, and at the end of the tunnel is a big bag of money. That is the problem. That gap in between no money, lots of money, hello everybody how are you. I’ve not always lived on a council estate but I’ve grown up on one, so I can always go back. I’ve always gone through the tunnel and come back, to stay on this concrete, to keep my head straight. I know this concrete, I’m happy here, I can go to the shop and … you know what I’m saying?

That’s where people get lost. Even Tinie Tempah, he’s lost. I’m not speaking on him, I’m not judging, I don’t want people to think that, but he’s come back after three or four years with … it’s an alright song, the song’s cool, I’m not gonna judge but he tried to have a worldwide record, where his accent is no longer straight English. It’s Englishy-American. Everyone’s not Slick Rick, most people can’t come into an interview and speak one accent, then go rap in another. All of a sudden you’re saying ‘eenie-meanie-minie’ [in an American accent], and that is not allowed. And I’ll tell you one person who definitely wouldn’t have got away with that – Wiley. Wiley would never get away with that. And now you’ve got Capital and Choice and whoever being like ‘Wiley, chill’. But they don’t see that I’m not hating, I’m just saying that you lot wouldn’t have accepted that for me – so why you letting him do it?

Do you think that people don’t realise that your intentions are good, in situations like that?

No they don’t, they don’t get that my intentions are good. It wouldn’t have been allowed! Imagine if Devlin had come through going ‘eenie-meanie-minie’? He wouldn’t do it. He just wouldn’t do it. And I don’t want Tinie to look at me and be like ‘Wiley, man’, because I respect everybody who achieves. I’m not hating man, I’m just saying. It would’ve been OK if he’d done it in an English accent, you know what I mean? But I think he’s gonna go off in Dizzee’s direction. It’s all about money for them, but when I made my first song I never had a penny, so what’s money got to do with it? I don’t care about money – you saw me giving away free music. Next question!

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How do you find your relationship with majors at the moment?

I think my relationship with them’s cool when we stick to what the scheme is. Like if we’ve got a single, and we think it’s a hit, and we stick to that as the single, then we succeed. With albums, I don’t know yet – come December, I’ll look at what my album’s sold, see if we can make it sell any more, and move on. What I do know though, is that I can sell more singles than albums. That’s not anyone’s fault; that’s not my fault. I couldn’t make an entire album of ‘Heatwave’… and in the same way, if I made an album of all stuff that’s not ‘Heatwave’, someone who liked ‘Heatwave’ might not buy that.

At the end of the day, humans are humans, and we all want to win, so you have to gamble. I think I’m good at gambling – not money in the bookies, but gambling on a a song. I can be wrong, too, we can all be wrong. I will stand up and say ‘you know what boss, I was wrong’. Like, have you heard this new song by Ray Foxx, featuring some girl – it’s called ‘Boom Boom’. Have you heard it?


Exactly! This shows you what I mean. If you heard this song, you’d think ‘this is gonna be a hit’, but it’s out in a week or something and you ain’t heard it … so it don’t look like it’s gonna do much. But when you hear it on the radio, you think ‘reh, this is gonna go number one’. So we’re all gamblers. Me, Dizzee, Kano, Tinie, Devlin, Ghetto, we’re all gamblers – we don’t always know what’s gonna happen. But one thing we do know, is that if we step on a sick grime beat, and we fuck it up, we have just done something good. But the media and the labels and the fans have got us out here doing what they want us to do.

That’s what my new single’s about. I’ve done what you wanted me to do, and I’ve got all the money, and now I’m flying, so I can do what I want. I would not have a million in the bank, and still be chatting shit and doing Mr. Blobby. No way. No way.

If I still had Dizzee’s number, I’d ring him now and say ‘this ain’t about money, let’s go to the studio and make a song that’s not about money’. Let’s think – without money. I helped him to earn money, so it shouldn’t be about money – what the fuck’s money to me, Dizzee or Tinie? We should be thinking about the music.

Well you talk about it on the song – ‘take advice from stylists / I just cycle through like a cyclist’. 

Exactly – do what they say, sure, but once you’ve got through that door do you. I listen to the new Dizzee Rascal song and I don’t like it. Not because I’m hating – I liked ‘Dance Wiv Me’, with Calvin Harris – it’s just because I know that he’s trapped in the same realm as some others, where he thinks we have to give ’em that. If me and Dizzee did a song, it would chart – and it could be anything. It could be me and him over ‘Ice Rink’, going back to back, and it would probably chart, just because of the excitement. So when I say ‘Dizzee, we should do this’, he should be able to see the reasons why we should do it. He shouldn’t be questioning it, like ‘I haven’t known him for longer than I have known him’, and all this shit – all DJ Target helped me and this. Did you see Target with him at Sidewinder? Target’s my brother, and he did introduce me to Dizzee, but that other step of the way, Wiley had to do it. Target knows that, and Dizzee knows that.


“I’ve done what you wanted me to do, and I’ve got all the money, and now I’m flying, so I can do what I want. I would not have a million in the bank, and still be chatting shit and doing Mr. Blobby. No way. No way.”


When people talk about classic Dizzee, they talk about Dizzee and Wiley, or Slimzee.

Some people even think they’re cleverer, and they talk about Dizzee’s sets with N.A.S.T.Y. Crew. They don’t want to think about Wiley and Dizzee, so they go ‘yeah, well he would’ve been in N.A.S.T.Y. Crew if he wasn’t with you anyway’…

Well everyone was in N.A.S.T.Y. Crew for five minutes, right?

Exactly. And Dizzee would’t have even lasted five minutes – not because he weren’t good enough, but it wouldn’t have happened. It would not. It’s a mad thing – today’s one of those days where I stand on this Bow E3 concrete, and I go to the shop, and I say to myself ‘where the fuck is this kid?!’. And ‘why is Tinie Tempah bigger than Kano?’ There’s just loads of things.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

In 10 years time, I will be a father. I’m a father now, but then … I’ll be 44, my children will be 17 and 15, I’ll be getting an earache from my daughters.

‘Cause you talk about wanting to cash out on Twitter, and retire, but I don’t know if you can keep away. I reckon you’ll end up like Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, just doing mad music forever.

England made me do that. England. The people in England, the way they go ‘you’re old! You’re 50, ain’t ya?’. Lee Perry would not have done that in England – let’s not forget we’re in England bruv. Even footballers now, it’s happening to them earlier. I remember when Peter Shilton went to 40, was it? Something like that. I just think the British public don’t allow you to do that, they just don’t allow you. Jay-Z would not be Jay-Z if he was in England, he’d have people around him going ‘you’re old, you’re old’. They were saying that to me the minute I turned 30 – bruv, I’ve got 10 whole years on Jay-Z. Can you imagine? They say ‘shut up Wiley, you’re old’ – but no one says it to [Jay-Z], they’re listening to him! They’re buying his album and making him number one! I think it’s the public bro – and I am one of the British public, I’m not saying I’m not one of them because I am – but they don’t let you get away with what they will in America. But then they also accept Americans.

Do you think you’ll always live in England?

Yeah I think so. I’ll always own property in Britain, but I don’t wanna stay here every day of the year. I wanna do other things, but I see this as my home – my children have to go to school here.

Finally, what about Westwood leaving the BBC? You’ve been on his show a lot.

I’m not happy about that – I am not happy about that. Basically, Radio 1 without Westwood equals no hip-hop section – for me, anyway. I dunno about you, I don’t know about anyone else. Big up Charlie Sloth, but he’s not Westwood and he can never replace Westwood. Westwood should have died in Radio 1, like Alex Ferguson – he is Alex Ferguson, in hip-hop. Big up Radio 1, because they have a whole station to run, not just hip-hop, but I don’t know what they’re going to do without him. It’s like David Rodigan – who else in his area, and his street and his field, can teach him about reggae? No one can do that with Westwood.

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