Interview with Riko Dan: Clashing is good for the youngers, but why are veteran MCs involved?
It’s fair to say that grime veteran Riko’s mixtape, Rise of Da Farda, was released with the minimum of fuss. Until Kiss FM’s Logan Sama began championing its release on Twitter, even the most ardent grime fans would probably not have been aware that its release was imminent. “Originally I kept telling people it was coming out” he says, “but I’ve said stuff before and not done it so I thought I’d just give it to ‘em and when it came out it was a surprise.”
After the release of 2010’s Sleeping Giant mixtape, Riko took a little bit of time off from the music industry, “I sort of dropped out for a bit,” he says, “put it on the backburner for a year because I had my first child”. Rise of Da Farda includes a tribute to Riko’s son, where he promises to steer him away from gangs and guns and focus him on more artistic and musical endeavours.
However, his new status as a family man doesn’t mean that he has any plans to stop making music any time soon, “I’m doing music for many years to come because I was doing other stuff before I was doing grime, like drum n bass and ragga, and you can do that in your fucking 60s” he says with a laugh.
Despite being from the harder side of Roll Deep, Riko has enjoyed a lot of success with the crew. In particular he lists appearing on Top of the Pops, SMTV and other TV shows in the space of what he calls a “mad week” as the proudest point of his career. “We went on all the shows,” he tells me excitedly, “we went on Sky Sports, we went on fucking Soccer AM, I was loving it”.
Riko’s fellow Roll Deep and Cemetary Warriors crewmember, Flowdan, once claimed that he couldn’t think of an MC who could beat Riko in a clash, and there have certainly been more than a few occasions in grime history where the self-proclaimed “London City Warlord” has lived up to his moniker.
One of the more unfortunate recipients of Riko’s wrath was Demon, an East London MC best remembered for his verse on Pow! or his song Armshouse. “Yeah, he disappeared after that” Riko tells me, laughing nostalgically, “I remember it was on a Saturday night, I woke up to a million missed calls and messages on Sunday, so I went to the studio and done three tunes and I gave them to every single DJ that I knew and I went to every radio set and I slewed him for ages, AGES, and he just disappeared.”
For a while there hadn’t been much call for Riko, or for most grime artists, to get involved in any serious lyrical war. Other than Jammer’s Lord of the Mics DVDs, a lot of MCs have been content to sling it out over social media rather than writing dubs or clashing at raves or on radio. However recently it seems as if war dubs and competition are making something of a comeback in the genre, thanks to the friendly war between some of grime’s biggest name producers, and MCs such as Maxsta, whose 30-man send It’s Not What It Looks Like kicked off a spate of lyrical dubs from other MCs in response.
So with all of the dubs flying around, did Riko ever consider getting involved?
“I will clash anyone at any time but I’m not getting involved in that made up war” he tells me, “me and Chronik were saying if someone called our name we’re taking it to the roads but I’m actually a war MC so I don’t understand why anybody would actually do that”.
Riko did believe that the spirit of competition between up-and-coming MCs was a good thing, however he was less kind about some of the veterans who were involved. “I’m not mentioning no names but there were a couple elders who were jumping in it and they shouldn’t because it’s embarrassing,” he tells me, “but the worst thing is they’re gonna end up getting spun because a couple of these yutes are good”.
By the time the dust had settled on the producers’ war, there were well over a hundred war dubs to sift through, so keeping score was difficult for even the most active grime fans. The MC war was a lot more clear-cut for Riko, with a ringing endorsement for his fellow Roll Deep member, Manga.
“The Maxsta one and the Invasion one were alright, but Manga’s dub was the best,” he tells me, “I’m not even being biased, from a lyrics perspective and impact, Manga’s was the best all day long. ”
However, Riko speaks bluntly about some of the other MCs who were involved in the war, “I listened to a really, really bad one but I can’t remember who it was,” he tells me, (after a bit of prompting, it turns out he’s referring to Bloodline member 9 Milli Major) “oh mate it was terrible, they were dissing Frisco as well and I was thinking, “Where’s that come from?”
So is it fair to say that Riko is not a fan of Bloodline? “Nah, I don’t rate none of them,” he tells me, “I like people with a bit of substance, I like people who’ve got bars”. He lists a lot of the usual suspects when discussing his favourite MCs “I like Skepta, Ghetts, Killa P, Flowdan, Chronik,” he tells me “there’s a good few that I rate and that’s a credit to the scene”
Riko, however, pays particular tribute to the Godfather of Grime, Wiley, who he believes is a national treasure. “There will always be good MCs like Skepta or Ghetts who people say are on a par to Wiley but he’ll never be replaced, no way” he tells me, “he’s an actual machine mate, in studio he’s incredible, unbelievable. Without him we wouldn’t be on the phone now.”
Looking to the future, Riko tells me that he is looking to do some more work with his crew, Cemetary Warriors. “I aint gonna promise them a Cemetary Warriors album,” he tells me, “but me, Killa P and Flowdan are definitely gonna do some work”. Riko also answers candidly when asked why Cemetary Warriors haven’t worked together as often as a lot of fans would like, “I dunno if it sounds a bit silly but we’re 3 men with big egos and it was never gonna work from the start,” he says, “It’s just human, nobody wants to work in an environment where they’re not happy”.
Rise of Da Farda is available to hear on Soundcloud and to download on iTunesTagged in: grime, LOTM, Riko, roll deep
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