Interview with Big H: Behind the scenes of Fire And Smoke
This winter has seen something of a buzz returning to the grime scene, with fans finally seeing the release of four of the most anticipated releases in the genre’s history, all within the space of a month. Cas’s The Number 23 and Terminator’s Darkside Pioneer both dropped over Christmas and Chronik’s Rise of the Lengman finally saw its release this month, with the East London MC no doubt terrifying any number of grime fan’s mums by turning up at their doors to hand-deliver the CD himself.
Perhaps the most anticipated event of all, however, was the return of Big H and the release of his once-mythical album, Fire and Smoke, the follow up to 2009’s Street Crime UK, which many fans consider to be one of the greatest grime releases of all time.
In July 2012, Big H and his Bloodline crew returned to the scene after a short period of inactivity, appearing on Logan Sama’s Kiss FM radio slot and filming a live show which set the scene alight. The North London crew called out MCs who they claimed had gotten too comfortable in the scene in their absence; including Wiley, Scratchy, Manga, Trim and members of Boy Better Know. Shortly afterward, he signed to Inside Music, who helped him put out Fire and Smoke. While many grime artists have negative views regarding signing to labels or management, H is more upbeat and positive about his relationship with Inside Music. “I didn’t see it as signing to a label,” he tells me, “I saw it as expanding my team. Inside Music know my music, so it’s not like signing with a guy from Sony, it’s not about money, it’s about strengthening and expanding”.
With Fire and Smoke taking so long to be released, it was inevitable that the finished product would have changed significantly over time, however long-time fans will recognise tracks such as Alarm or No Rules which have been on YouTube for a while now. “No Rules and Alarm are the essence of what Fire and Smoke is about,” H tells me, “that direct aggression, that’s what Fire and Smoke was based on so that’s why those tracks had to go on”.
Out of the newer tracks on Fire and Smoke, the one which has caused the most controversy is In the Game, a 3-minute airing of various grievances against members of the grime scene. Big H has something of a reputation for sending for other MCs if he has a personal issue with them, and in this case he reserves particular resentment for JME. “The feud with JME is quite personal,” he tells me, “how can you be in a crew called Boy Better Know, a phrase I created, with Wiley who’s always insulted me?”
In the early 2000s, Big H was part of the Meridian Crew, which included JME and Skepta in its ranks, a few years later, JME and Skepta left to form Boy Better Know. H claims that Boy Better Know have stolen more than just their name from him. “In grime there are two sides behind the scenes, there’s the side that I’m on and then there’s them,” he tells me, “I’ve got a problem with them because I feel like they’ve impersonated my style and my flow and discredited me as they’ve been doing it. They’ve watered it down and took away the true essence of what it is.”
Lyrically, Big H is nothing if not personal and while his music may contain grime’s typically graphic and violent imagery, he is not as limited as other MCs when it comes to content. Fire and Smoke includes a number of references to hearing voices, suffering from nightmares and struggles with faith which suggest a fragile mental state. “People’s minds these days are too narrow,” he claims, “some people haven’t been through what I’ve been through and they think it would send someone mad”. “Suffering and going through hardship isn’t being mentally ill,” he says, “thinking Wiley’s better than H, to me that’s mentally ill.”
With the release of Fire and Smoke and his feature on Meridian Dan’s German Whip, the biggest grime song of the year, 2013 was a strong year for Big H and he shows no sign of slowing down going into 2014. First up is an appearance on the sixth instalment of Lord of the Mics, where he is set to clash South London MC P Money, a clash that he feels confident about, “to me it’s just business as usual but for P Money it’s probably a giant leap for mankind,” he says with a laugh, “I don’t know what he thinks he’s getting out of it, he’s just turning up to lose”.
Big H is also promising a follow up to Fire and Smoke, “it’s going to be an all grime album” he tells me, “this time round I’m going to show people what grime actually is”. “Grime can sound like hip hop,” H claims, “it doesn’t have to be 140bpm; I’ve heard instrumentals made out of gunshot sounds”. Fans of Big H and Bloodline will also be glad to hear that H has no plans to water down his sound in order to achieve commercial success, “we ain’t got to go to a beach and throw a rubber ring in a swimming pool like Wiley to get somewhere,” he tells me, “German Whip is the biggest grime tune to come out in a long time and I’m talking about punching up Scratchy and Trim”.
“Grime ain’t about glorifying violence and drugs” he tells me, “it’s about documenting what’s actually happening, the reason I write about violence and drugs is because I’ve got nothing else to write about”.Big H, Bloodline, Fire And Smoke, grime, Grime albums, new music
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