Rap, freestyle, uncomparable energy and countless adlibs. That’s how you could briefly describe Backroad Gee’s music, a British artist who is making his own place in the UK rap scene. His latest mixtape Reporting Live (From The Back of The Roads) is out now, featuring eighteen tracks that combine elements of drill, grime and smooth soul. Filled with collaborations, he brings us pure rhythm as he talks about everything that’s going on in his mind, from where he comes from to where he’s at now, the good and the bad. He makes songs you can dance to even when he’s talking about difficult moments he’s lived, but that’s just who he is. “If you know me personally, this music and energy I give you are me from my heart”, as he says.
Music just comes naturally to him, so even when he doesn’t come up with the words he’s looking for, he uses sounds to express whatever it is. He just goes with the flow. This new album has a song for every moment of the day, for every state of mind, so I’m sure you will be able to vibe with Backroad Gee. Chatting with him about his background and career, you can already get an idea of the good vibes he gives off.
For those who may not know you, how would you introduce yourself? Are you the same guy from the studio?
I would introduce myself like this - bruuuukata live in the flesh, tell a man say it with his chest and we're spraying the woof off everywhere, it’s your boy BackRoad Gee. And yes, I am the same guy from the studio, yes, it’s me.
Listening to your songs I can notice your broad versatility, going from rap to afrobeats and softer melodies. How would you describe your sound?
Out of the ordinary, extravagant, upper echelon, unbelievable, organic, beautiful.
What about the name?
My name is my name. I is me, me is I.
I’ve read that when you were in prison, you wrote a lyric on your phone and then showed it to your manager. Is that how you started in music? Was it a way from escaping from the difficult situation you were in?
Yes and no. Basically, that’s not how I started in music, but obviously, I wrote something in jail and when I came out I recorded it. Then, my manager heard it and that’s where we made the transition of hearing the drill stuff instead of the softer melodies and the afrobeats. It just got flipped around. But, I’ve always been doing music, and yeah man, we’re here.
You have a strong Congolese heritage that comes from your parents. Did you grow up listening to Congolese music? How has your background shaped your artistic range and rhythm?
Yes, I did [listen to Congolese music], very much. That’s what made me want to do music. It shaped it lot, because listening to music from my country was what really made me understand the structure of music and the chorus, bridge, all of that kind of stuff. I understood it from that point. So the way I do my music is a little bit different.
Going through your work people repeatedly comment about your sound being so unique and BRG being one of the most promising artists in the United Kingdom rap scene. How do you manage to have an innovative style and unmatched energy when it seems like everything in music has already been created?
I really try my best to not do what everyone else is doing. I don’t want to sound like anyone else, I don’t wanna be like anyone else, so I just do me. I’m just me to 100%. Literally, nothing more, nothing less.
Party Popper with Ambush and Pa Salieu was a breaking point in your career. Lots of people started to get interested in what you were doing. Before releasing it, did you expect this feedback? Do you usually know beforehand when a single will blow up?
No, because it’s really just the vibes for man [me], so whether the people take to it or not I’m just happy that it’s out there. I 100% appreciate the fact that people even take to it and they like what we're doing.
Since you are now coming out with your new album Reporting Live (From The Back of The Roads), couldyou explain a bit about the process and the concepts behind it?
Reporting Live (From The Back Of The Roads) is just giving you a little more insight into me and where I come from and the thoughts in my head. And, I’m just basically a journalist, reporting what is going on in this treacherous dunia [temporary world], in this life we live. Good, bad, whatever. Full of emotions and yeah, the concept behind it is the journalist, BackRoad Gee.
You released See Level co-starring Olamide, one of Nigeria’s biggest rappers, accompanied by a colourful music video that fits perfectly with your energy together: it gives us nothing but good vibes. What do you want the listeners to take away with this song?
What I wanted people to take away from this song is see levels man! Enjoy life, chop life, and just live to the fullest. We all go through some things, but we all see levels. There’s levels to life and we need to conquer and get there.
In singles like A YO we can really get to see how you master ad-libs, defined as signature impulsive vocal effects. You definitely like to play with these crazy sound effects and freestyle in your songs. How do you come up with them?
Boy, how do I come up with them? I don’t even know. If I told you there was a method behind that, it would be a lie. It’s just me man, it’s just how I talk, literally.
You’ve collaborated with Burna Boy, who has massive hits and is internationally in the spotlight. How did you link up? What was it like working with him?
Linking up with Burna Boy was lit, [he's] just a big dog. Obviously, he told me to roll up to his studio when he was in London. I pulled up there and it was just pure energy man. [It was] crazy still. Very crazy, it’s unexplainable. Big him up everytime!
Is there a specific track from the mixtape Reporting Live (From The Back of The Roads) with which you connect on a deeper level? Or one of which you are the proudest?
I’m proud of all of them. Every song on that [album] comes from somewhere, you know? They all mean a lot to me. I listen to different ones on different days, different moods, different settings. But I love all of them man, they are like my babies. You lot, make sure you check it out!
As you said in previous interviews, in the UK rap scene you didn’t see as many artists celebrating their African identity. Nowadays artists are joining up and proudly representing where they come from. How do you see the situation evolving? Would you say that it’s more about the public finally giving them the recognition they deserve?
Yeah, right now the game is in a good place and everyone is celebrating where they’re from and that’s what it’s about. We are literally growing as one and I’m loving it.
What music do you usually listen to? Are there any songs you have stuck in your head at the moment?
I’ve been listening to Kodak Black - Killing the rats album, some Nito NB and some Drake. Also, I'm still banging some Future. I’ve got bare tunes.
If you could pick three artists to work with, who would you choose?
Koffi Olomide, Adele, and my Killy Kodak Black.
Is there anything you are working on that we should be expecting? Any live concerts?
The tape is out now! Reporting Live (From The Back Of The Roads), go whoosh that, push that, press that, enjoy! Ancestors feat NSG music video out now as well, you lot go watch that. We’ve also got the Pa Salieu tour, Koko festival. We’re going lit [on fire].