“For people to have an understanding of who I am and where I come from, this album is the best way to showcase that”, says Tiggs Da Author as he delves into his debut album Blame It On The Youts. “If you really want to get an idea of the musician I’ve been for the past couple of years, the album is that. It’s me to the tee.”
His 12-track debut is a stunning collection detailing Tiggs’ upbringing in Tanzania and New Cross in south London; a unique and raw, autobiographical journey over a variety of sounds and genres – from Afrobeats and soul to Afrojazz and hip-hop.
From the epic gospel of Suitcase of Sins to the upbeat funk of Brand New and the smooth sound of Fly Em High featuring chart-topping collaborator Nines, Blame It On The Youts’ sonic diversity keeps you gripped with every turn.
For Tiggs, it was imperative the music of Africa was represented on the record.
He told Daily Star: “It’s who I am. That’s my identity”, before adding: “This whole album is pretty much about my journey to the place where I am right now. That’s why it has a lot of African influence in it.”
It’s been a fast rise for the London-based artist. Following a stint as a semi-professional footballer, he was taken under the wing of Sway after immersing himself in the grime music culture built up by the likes of Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and Kano in the early 2000s.
It led to a collaboration between himself, Sway and KSI, and the release of his 11-track mixtape MOREFIRE featuring NOT3S and NSG in 2019.
And last year, he descended on the prestigious RAK Studios in Regents Park to record Blame It On The Youts with engineer Jonathan Quarmby, who’s worked with he likes of Lewis Capaldi and Plan B.
Not only does Blame It On The Youts give us a stunning insight into Tiggs’ journey so far, it’s the continuation of one that is set to see him breakthrough in 2021 and beyond.
Daily Star’s Rory McKeown caught up with him to chat about Blame It On The Youts, working with Nines, his African influences, his evolution as an artist, and what’s next.
Hi Tiggs, how’s it going? How can you sum up the past 12 months?
“It’s been pretty much ups and downs for me. It hasn’t been too bad, to be honest. I spent a lot of the year in Tanzania. Of course I knew it was going to happen, so I was like ‘I just need to go to Tanzania and this is my time to hibernate, and when I come back I can release music’.
“I spent time with my family, I started writing more music. I didn’t feel it as much to be honest. It hasn’t been too bad on my side throughout the past year.”
You’re about to release your debut album Blame It On The Youts. What was its writing and recording process like? How long has this been in the making?
“It’s been mixture, really. Maybe one or two songs, which I wrote even six years ago. When I was touring with my band, I used to write songs and we used to perform them live to see how good the songs go down.
"We wanted to put an amazing live show together. A couple of those songs have made it onto the album. They’re the same songs but I worked with a producer called John Quarmby. He took those live songs and turned them into proper records.”
It’s a fantastic LP, full of different styles and sounds. From the gospel of Suitcase of Sins to the upbeat funk of Brand New. There’s afrobeats, soul and even pop on there. Are you the type of artist who delves into different genres for your output?
“For me, it’s more about the energy of the music. I feel like if I’m trying to put across a certain message or feeling, there are certain sonics that songs need. If I say to myself ‘I want to talk about something super intense’, maybe I’m talking about some of my upbringing in Tanzania. Straight away I’ll tell myself whatever song that is, it needs some sort of element of the music that influenced me in Tanzania in that song.
“Things like that decide the direction I take in the music. This whole album is pretty much about my journey to the place where I am right now. That’s why it has a lot of African influence in it.”
How important was it that African sounds were represented on the record? Was it what you wanted for your first album?
“It’s who I am. That’s my identity. For people to have an understanding of who I am and where I come from, this album is the best way to showcase that.
"If you really want to get an idea of the musician I’ve been for the past couple of years, the album is that. It’s me to the tee.
"Who knows where music will take me in the next couple of years? Maybe on that album the sound might change.
"For that time, around my teenage years up to now, my influences are in the album.”
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You mention that it’s a biographical album detailing your journey from Tanzania. You also lived in New Cross in London. How do you get into the mindset of songwriting taking your experiences and turning them into song form?
“It’s the same way as writing a diary to be honest. When you’re writing a diary you feel like you’re not really trying because you’re documenting what’s happened in your life or what things you’re going through at the time. I look at the music the same way.
"I’ve always been a reserved person, so I hold a lot of things back. I feel like whenever I’m writing music, it’s a release of some sort. That’s why you might hear a lot of complaints on the album! But it’s me expressing how I feel.
“Most of the people around me might not have even known I felt that way until they listen to the album.”
Has songwriting always helped you in that way? The release it gives you?
“It does make me feel better. I feel like writing things down makes me feel better. At the beginning, before I was even planning to do to music or anything, I had a few A4 books that I used to write random stuff inside. This was after I was stressed out by stuff in school or maybe I was stressed out with family issues. The way of me expressing myself would be to write things down and draw pictures. That’s why it came to mind for me to call myself an author. I honestly thought I would one day become an actual author.”
It was recorded at the prestigious RAK studios – what was that like and what did you take from the experience?
“I went to RAK and was looking around and the first thing I thought was ‘wow, I’m a proper musician!’. Before that it was bedroom studio, bedroom studio, bedroom studio.
"It was a good switch having these massive live rooms, mixing desk at the top. You’re hearing about ‘this person is coming to record next week’. You’re hearing these massive names and you’re thinking ‘OK, I like this!’.
"I feel like it made me step up. I felt like I needed to make the most of it. I was thinking ‘someone’s going to have to pay for this big arse studio! I really need to come through with my lyrics and songwriting’.
“I learned a lot during that time. Working with John, he taught me a lot about song writing and music in general. He’s a super genius. It was an amazing experience.”
Do you think you’ll take anything you’ve learned onto your next project?
“I’m always thinking ahead. Whatever you learn in music, it’s not easy to forget it, especially if you have a love and passion for it. I’m soaking in everything from that.
"Now I’m ready to put this music out and share it with the world, get some more life experience and share it some more.”
You teamed up with Nines for Fly Em High. You’ve collaborated with him on other projects since 2015 but what was it like working with him on the track?
“I’m just a fan of his music. He’s one of my favourite rappers in general. He’s a funny guy. His personality always lights up a room.
"Working with him is a no pressure kind of thing. Because we’ve been working with each other for a few years, we know what works for each other and everyone comes on their 'A game'. The music we make is amazing.
"This time making Fly Em High, it was just another day in the studio where we bounce ideas off each other and a great songs comes out of it.”
I love the video too with the vampires in the trap house. It’s got an important message behind it, the metaphorical vision of not being able to get out of the cycle. How important is it for you to touch upon these subjects?
“It is very important. I’m trying to give you my perspective of what I was seeing through life. Of course, growing up in south London I’ve got all sorts of friends.
“Everyone’s circumstance is different. I’m doing social commentary of what’s going on around me at the time. For me, I have to try my best to put this message across in my music and even in my videos. Even if it’s in a metaphoric way.
"We want to be creative about things. You don’t want to seem like everything’s straight forward and you’re just preaching. ‘Stop doing this, you need to do this’. I’m almost telling a story in the video where there’s these kids that have taken this route and I’m trying to show them there’s a light on the other side.”
How much do you think London has had an impact on your music?
“It’s had a big, big impact on my music. Mainly in my lyrics and my approach to everything. I feel like it’s given me this fearless approach.
"Because I feel like I’ve seen so much throughout my teenage years that I’m not really scared of people’s opinions or what anyone thinks anymore. I have the same approach with my music – I don’t really care what’s in fashion or what’s not in fashion.
"I just care about my message and hopefully that can reach as many people as possible. If I can change some lives, that will be the main goal for me.
"Growing up in London has helped me with my mentality towards the music.”
It feels like an exciting time in this country for music especially, across genres. What’s it like being an artist in the UK right now and what do you make of the scene here?
“It’s great. You have to look at it like this. When I was growing up I was listening to Dizzee Rascal and Kano, Giggs, Wiley.
"People like Wiley, I used to listen to them and they couldn’t even get on mainstream radio. It was underground stations, pirate radio, where you have to look for the pirate station and that’s how you can listen to the music.
"Compared to now where you have people like Nines having the number one album in the UK. It has completely flipped and I feel like that is how it needs to be.
"Rap or grime has always been popular in this country, even in the pirate radio days. But there was no way of gauging how many people are locking in. There was no such thing as streaming. If there was, a lot of MCs would have been charting from then.
"Now, because everything is there for you to see, you can’t deny it anymore. Everyone knows the blueprints. They’ve been set up so people are knocking the doors down, people know that once they have a certain amount of following, they can set up a tour and tour the country and people are going to turn up to the shows.”
You go back to Tanzania every year. There are lots of African artists breaking out, aren’t there?
“Yeah, man. My aim is to connect with a lot of people in Tanzania. I’ve made some really good relationships. There’s an artist called Harmonize. He’s super big out there. I feel like he should start to spread around and blow up internationally soon. He’s an amazing artist. There’s a group called Navy Kenzo as well. They’re amazing. I’ve worked with them already. They’re so good.”
What’s next for you Tiggs? What are you hoping the future holds?
“I’m excited to release the album. Once I’ve released the album, I’m probably going to go on holiday, get some new energy and start writing some new material and see where that goes.”
Tiggs Da Author’s Blame It On The Youts is out on March 12 via Alacran Records
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