A Jack the Lad’s alternative to rap: Catch‘em
It’s March 2011. And at his first live performance held at Milly’s World, a gig reserved for the freshest talent, Ash Catch‘em confidently takes to the stage. Among the line-up of neo-soulsters and indie collectives, Ash conquers the first hurdle of standing out. But he’s almost too laid back; clutching a bottle of Dragon Stout, rocking a pair of Nike Air Jordans, but supported by a full, seasoned band. What could this cocky, cheeky chap have to offer?
Two tracks in Ash has won the audience’s full attention. He’s one of the last acts to perform, nevertheless cheeky one-liners and snappy wordplay capture attentive ears, long after beers and fruity ciders have had an effect.
“It’s funny ‘cos I was working as a lifeguard then”, reminisces Catch‘em – who has since dropped ‘Ash’ from his name. “I’d be mopping up the poolside, and slyly rapping to the rhythm of the squeegee. I’d fling on Maxwell or Lauryn Hill in the background, thinking, ‘Ok, this is Milly’s World, this has to be perfect.’”
It’s this distant memory that inspired the track 9 to 5 Music, featured on his first mixtape Stouts and Silvers. Covering Maxwell’s Get to Know Ya, Catch‘em introduces himself with: “9 to 5 look, I strive to stack well/ headphones on while I vibe to Maxwell”, indicating everyday life really does influence his lyrics.
But despite confessing his perfectionism, it’s a carefree, comical attitude working in Catch‘em’s favour – he’s happy to laugh at his own expense. While most streetwise artists take an over-confident approach to music, Catch‘em is just as comfortable rapping about the JobCentre as he is groupies.
“I’m not afraid to talk about what’s sh*tty in my life. Lot of artists talk about the good stuff: the parties, getting wasted…I write about that, but my downfalls too. From relationships to being broke at times…the sun doesn’t always shine.” But don’t expect to hear anything ‘woe is me’ related, either. “When I’m addressing life’s serious issues, it’s just in my nature to crack joke and ease up the tension. There’s nothing worse than someone talking some deep sh*t on a track without showing the funny side to it; everything has a humorous side.”
Naturally, most of Catch‘em’s lyrics toy with a juvenile sense of humour. And he understands his audience: a group of nostalgic twenty-somethings establishing their place in recession-ridden Britain and fondly remembering the ‘good old days’ of a childhood circa 1990s. They’re a niche group, favouring snapbacks over ordinary caps, can sing at least three Lauryn Hill songs immaculately and model the outlandish trends of the 90s – with pride. Catch‘em’s referencing of Britishness and cheeky schoolboy rhymes, such as – “We slap the bums like the mums up in Asda”, and “F*ck science class, look I was in the back sparking fags off the Bunsen burner”, appear to earn this particular tribe’s approval.
With a year since his first gig under the belt, Catch‘em has come a long way – but has a work rate suggesting he knows there‘s much more to be put in. That’s if he is to follow the likes of Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and Tinie Tempah – all of whom have successfully branded themselves on their tongue-in-cheek style to break into the mainstream music scene. Rightfully, Catch‘em isn’t sleeping on the underground popularity of Stouts & Silver; instead swiftly following up with Wray & Nephews, Baileys & Blunts, and a forth free download, Year Of The Dragon Stout, released this week.
From his choice of mixtape titles it’s clear Catch‘em loves his vices. Particularly Dragon Stout. But is this just a desperate attempt to gain sponsorship from Jamaica’s most popular beer? Not really – it’s all his manager (and music video director at SBTV) Morgan Keyz’ fault, he says.
“Morgan used to buy them all the time. Before I got hooked, if he asked me to do something like, ‘Ash, come follow me video shop?’ – I’d say no. But when a Dragon Stout was thrown into the mix? I’d be swayed. You may as well call him my supplier. I love Dragon Stout man; it’s just…there for you. Cold or warm…” (He starts professing his love for the beverage, much to my concern.)
And that random stage name? There’s a story to that, too. “Whenever I’m in someone’s house and there’s no ashtray, I’d just use my hands. My real name is Ashraf, it’s Moroccan, so my friends joked around, saying ‘Oh look, Ash Catch ‘em!’. Yeah man, my culture is obviously a big part of me. Where else would I learn how to ash cigarettes in my hand and get away with it?” he jokes.
Releasing a video for Drink Up, a track taken from Year Of The Dragon Stout, Ashraf is clearly enjoying the journey thus far. Which is just as well: as he’s fast becoming the underground scene’s underdog – worth keeping an eye (and ear) on.Tagged in: Catch‘em, Milly’s World, music, rap
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