Launchpad Records are taking off
Back in 2004, following the release of Wiley’s debut album Treddin’ on Thin Ice and Dizzee Rascal’s semi-seminal Boy in Da Corner the previous year, a young grime fan named George Quann-Barnett wrote a handwritten letter to XL Records asking if there was any way he could be involved in working for the label, “In hindsight” he tells me, “I should have realised that I wasn’t really going to get anywhere at 12-years-old, but the music business was something that I definitely wanted to get involved in”.
Fast forward to 2012 and George now works co-running the label Launchpad Records with his business partner Louis Serrano as well as managing Manchester’s grime and hip-hop prodigy Blizzard, whose rap battle with teacher Mark Grist went viral and became a Youtube sensation earlier this year. Getting to this point in his career has taken a combination of grime’s entrepreneurial spirit, some good fortune and a lot of old-fashioned hard work but what really got the ball rolling was some vital help from a very unlikely source.
In 2010 grime legend Wiley and his manager tweeted advertising the chance for fans to get involved in the video shoot for his upcoming single Electric Boogaloo. George travelled down to London from Skegness hoping to meet Louis after talking to him on the internet “about music and whatnot”. Louis was unable to make it, so George immersed himself in the video shoot, talking to the film crew, the cast and Wiley’s fellow crew members, J2K and Manga.
By the time Wiley arrived, he had been told that George had travelled over 150 miles to get involved in the video shoot and vowed to repay him for his efforts, “He gave me his number and told me to stay in touch. A few days later I rang him saying that I wanted to get involved in the industry in some way, he said I could help him with A-List Records [Wiley’s label].”
Soon, George and Louis were running the social networks for A-List Records, and promoting the label online. George and Louis decided that they wanted more, George tells me “there was something lacking for myself and Louis, so we decided to form our own record label: Launchpad Records”. The early days of the label were a struggle, by their own admission neither George nor Louis really knew what they were doing, but they were keen on getting as many demos in as possible in order to get their first release under their belts. W
hen Wiley found out that George had been using the grime star’s U Stream account to promote Launchpad Records he wasn’t happy, but called Louis to ask about their plans for the label. “We told him that we didn’t have our first release sorted but we wanted to get something out asap, he told Louis that he wanted to go with us for our first record under one condition, that we had to have it out on iTunes and all other retailers the following Sunday”.
Less than 24 hours later Wiley had sent them the beats and vocals for The Radio Kid, the song that was to become the first Launchpad Records release. The Radio Kid was played on Logan Sama’s Kiss FM grime show the very next day and all of a sudden Launchpad Records was go. “That week was crazy” says George, “the single was played on Mistajam’s show, Westwood’s show, Radio 1, there was a Sun feature and we seemed to be getting interviewed and featured left, right and centre”.
The Radio Kid ended up hitting number seven in the Electronic Chart and 165 in the official chart, this was followed by Joombi, a second Wiley track which proved equally successful for the team. After the release of Joombi, Wiley took a step back from Launchpad and became an A&R for the label, rather than releasing any more singles. Importantly, Launchpad now had two successful singles out, and suddenly they were being taken a lot more seriously.
Since then, Launchpad has released music from Roll Deep’s Manga, Scratchy and J2k, given us Dexplicit’s Pull Up Riddim, a furious eight-bar rally featuring grime legends Big H, Big Narstie and Durrty Goodz as well as Toronto grime MC Tre Mission’s Maxin’ Everything EP. The label also helped Manchester MC Blizzard achieve a top 20 in the itunes Album Chart with his EP Sooner than Never, and a number three in the Single Chart with Neckbreaker, the first release off the EP. You can also hear their latest release Get Down, a single from Juxta, one of Launchpad’s own producers on the radio now after it was premiered on Mistajam’s show on October 8th.
So what’s next for Launchpad? “We are working on a big Blizzard single” says George, “we’re currently looking at the route we would like to go into in terms of production and features, we believe that artists shouldn’t be forced into one lane, they should always be 100 per cent comfortable with the music that they make”.
I, for one, am glad to hear that George and Louis are still as ambitious as ever and hoping to disprove the notion that grime doesn’t pay, “we are looking forward to the future, we have some tricks up our sleeves that will hopefully change the way people see grime. We know that grime can chart, it’s just about doing it right”.
For more information about Launchpad Records visit facebook.com/LaunchpadRecordsTagged in: dizzee rascal, grime, hip hop, westwood, wiley
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