In this new feature, we bring some of the best musicians in the UK back to where it all began and explore how they first fell in love with the beautiful game. Music has always been a huge part of football. In the same way that US hip-hop artists dream of playing in the NFL or NBA, UK MCs and producers have an identical love affair with football.
The parallels between sport and music culture has never been stronger. We'll explore this relationship in VERSUS Jerseys, taking artists back to their roots while they rep their colours in some of the game's most iconic retro fits.
Walthamstow is a boiling blur of motion as we weave our way through the marketplace Faze Miyake used to get lost in as a kid, “I’ve run away from my nan about five times here. I was on another planet.”
If you’ve followed UK rap and grime over the last few years, you’ll know that Faze’s beats are every bit as spaced-out as Faze Miyake junior was back then. Faze is still mischief-making today, where he’s become renowned for being one of the most straight-up, funny-as-fuck guys out of the UK rap scene.
But when it comes to the music itself, Faze stays completely focused and competitive; traits he’s picked up from his strong sporting background before bursting onto the scene with grime anthem "Take Off" back in 2011.
Faze is now breaking out of the labels previously assigned to him, (RIP Faze Miyake, DJ), but unlike a lot of artists who’ve blown up quickly, he hasn’t forgotten where he’s come from. After handing him the same Spurs shirt as the first one he ever owned, we linked up with Faze in Walthamstow to find out more about his roots, his pathway from football into music and why he's finally decided to jump on the mic.
VERSUS: What was it like growing up around here?
Faze Miyake: As a kid, I kept moving about all the time and lived all over North East London. It’s left me feeling the same; I don’t like to be in the same place for too long. I just get bored quickly. I always have to switch studios as a result. Even in LA, where I’ve been living recently, I was like that.
To be honest, I had loads of cousins and everyone in my life was based around here. Well, the family we liked and spoke to anyway! But yeah it was cool, it was good. I used to just fuck around and play a lot of sports. If I’m honest, my dad was pretty much a pro cricketer, and my cousin played for Leyton Orient with Beckham back in the day…so I’ve always had sports in my life. Even with school, I just looked at it as somewhere that I could go and kick ball. I didn’t give a shit about school.
I went to two or three growing up, but because we were moving around so much, I never really settled at any school I went to. I just went there and kicked ball, and bonded with people that way.
“After I got injured I was mad frustrated and had nothing to do. That’s when the music thing started.”
And you’re a Spurs fan cos you grew up in Walthamstow?
Yeah man, Spurs was all I knew cos of my family. I didn’t have a choice but to support them! All the other kids at school were all United or Arsenal, but I always stuck with Spurs. And now it’s finally paying off! We’re looking sick nowadays.
Did you ever watch them live growing up?
Nah not really, I used to watch bare cricket though. My old man being a cricketer, he used to take me to cricket games all the time. But I wasn’t into it. It naturally made me sick at it, but I was always into football.
When did you first transition into making music?
I actually did my ACL in playing football. I used to do Power Leagues and stuff, nothing too major, but after I got injured I was mad frustrated and had nothing to do. That’s when the music thing started.
How old were you when that happened?
When I was 20. But put it this way, when I was sat on my arse doing nothing, I was messing around, trying it out. I used to have everyone around my house using the studio. I had all the equipment and stuff at first with the intention of trying to become an engineer, make money off studio sessions and shit.
Then after a while, everyone around me was like, “you just need to make your own beats, cos you’re sick.” So I just stuck to it. I went on holiday to Miami for my 21st birthday…and obviously with it being Miami I did it reckless, and came back broke. But then I came back and the first tune I made was “Take Off.” I blew up after three months.
“With football, or any sport you play, it gives you discipline and knowledge in terms of working towards something.”
And you’re currently working on a new album?
I’m just making music and releasing it as quickly as possible at the moment. Like with “Decided”, me and Nov worked on that for 2 days then dropped it instantly. With the album, I’ve made so many tunes, but I’ll release it when it feels right.
But the thing is with my album I just need to get my head down and work with people who are on the same level of getting stuff done as me. I can’t be working with people playing around – I wanna go studio and just bang work out.
Do you feel that approach derives from your sporting mentality?
I’ve got a formula and I run with it, 100%. My sporting mentality back in the day gave me this attitude. I used to speak to some older people that were into music, and a lot of them used to play bare back in the day as well – there’s such a correlation between music and sport.
There’s a lot of crossover for sure…
With football, or any sport you play, it gives you discipline and knowledge in terms of working towards something. People that come into music not knowing that side of it because they’ve never played sport, maybe they don’t have that same drive.
Maybe some of those people are better as artists. Like when I made “Take Off”, I didn’t think I was a good musician. But now, I think I am (laughs) – I’ve honed my craft. But back then, I was just doing stuff and working hard at it because I was nowhere near as I am now. I’m constantly trying to improve my music, and that methodology is the same in sport.
Harry Kane’s mentality has obviously been creating headlines recently for claiming goals. Would you make a ridiculously bait tune if it were to go Platinum?
I would say I’d do it but then I’d have done it ages ago. Put it this way, my whole career I’ve avoided being that guy. Before I feel like I wasn’t that sick as I hadn’t been doing music that long, a bit of an overnight celebrity. Majors wanted me, publishers in America wanted me, but I just wasn’t ready yet.
That’s why I joined Rinse, cos that was a good fit. It was like picking a team. Rinse were my team. We’re family now. But now I actually feel like I’m sick at this. I’ve honed my craft and made myself better.
You’ve linked up with Nike on both Manchester City and Spurs promotional features in the past. How did those opportunities come about?
Someone who was directing the advert reached out to me saying “I wanna use one of your tracks”. One of the beats I wanted to use in there was from three or four years ago, that I wanted to use to make my own bootleg Nike football advert, with all my own football shirts…and then it ended up in an actual Man City, Nike-endorsed advert.
I’m obviously a Spurs fan, but I’ve also slyly rated City for a while. I’m inspired by City. The glo up of City is something that’s inspiring – they’re just like the Space Jam Monstars man! Sprinkled a bit of money on them and they’ve gone mad. But yeah my whole family made me support Spurs growing up, I had no other choice.
You know there’ll be loads of kids running around supporting City as a result.
Bruv everyone at my school supported Man United growing up, I was the only Spurs fan there. I used to get boyed every single day! Now look at us, we’re in Top 4, doing bits.
Do you follow football closely now then?
Being honest man, I’m so lost in the music I don’t get to watch as much football as I’d like to nowadays. My attention span is fucking terrible.
I was the same back at school, never did any homework, used to copy everyone else’s work…’I was clever but I never used to apply myself’ – that’s what they always used to say. I even used to fuck around in my music lessons.
So you were the kid always pressing the ‘DJ!’ button at school…
[Laughs] Literally, that’s why I think I have all these mad sound effects in my tunes now.
Is that where Woofer came from? All those sound effects?
It was inspired by that definitely, but I wanted to do Woofer way before I made “Take Off” – that’s when I was treating music like a business, like an entrepreneur. My business side now ain’t there anymore, but my music side is. The music side is my driving force now.
When did you decide to get on the mic then?
I’ve been doing that since I was 16. But a lot of people at the time were advising me not to, and like an idiot I feel like I listened. And now I just feel like “fuck it.” I was always gonna do it regardless, but it took me a while to finally get there. Everyone that I’ve worked with – Spyro, Merky – they’ve always known that I’ve done it.
Giggs, Skepta, Wiley, they all DJ’d before too…
This is the thing. Us as UK artists, our culture as musicians is so different from the USA’s. You don’t hear about rappers doing that in the States. Our craft is so different to theirs. Nines used to DJ, Capo used to DJ…
I used to go Youth Club and do music. I got Fruity Loops from my mate from school and then started going to this Youth Club in Romford. That’s where a lot of people went from the grime scene. Rude Kid went there, Devlin went there, Stormin went there. Youth Clubs were an important place for fostering talent like that, and when I was there with them at that age I was always spitting.
But I feel like I probably listened to people for too long who told me not to do it. But now I’ve just decided to put my mind to it and do it.
Is that part of why you’re now presenting yourself as an artist rather than ‘Faze Miyake: DJ’?
The switch up happened because I felt like I was getting boxed into one thing as a producer and DJ. I still feel like producers are getting undercut. I don’t think there’s any other UK producer who has done it like me; in the sense of my profile and being seen as an artist. Who else has released a full producer album in the UK?
It seems to me like there’s a lot of artists – like Novelist – taking the opposite direction and making their own beats recently…
Nah that’s the thing, Nov has always made his own beats. This is it, we’re from the same background. But the difference between Nov and everyone else is that he’s doing it on his own terms.
“The switch up happened because I felt like I was getting boxed into one thing as a producer and DJ. I still feel like producers are getting undercut.”
What do you think of the current state of grime then?
I feel like it’s had its moment. 2014 it was obviously popping. But after that, it seemed like it was forced to be there. So people are saying ‘Oh grime is fucked” – but it was fucked years ago, when I stepped in.
I honestly feel when I produced “Take Off,” that changed the sound of grime into something different. Everyone tried making stuff that sounded like it. But now Grime sounds like everything that I was doing four or five years ago. But now, naturally, UK rap is the main sound – and that’s always what I wanted to do. And I’m happy as a result.
What was it like going to America and working out there?
It’s mad because my vision back in the day was always, “How do we level up with America or be better than them?” But I was going to studio with people out there and being like “Rah, you’re making me feel like I do your genre better than you!” I like US Rap, and always will, but I listen to a lot of Toronto rap nowadays, and listened to French rap for a bit too.
That’s why I was wearing my PSG tops back in the day. I was just listening to a lot of French rap, and I was inspired by their style for a lot of years. They’re proper roadmen, but they dress well – like latest trainers, tracksuits, all of that.
On that note, what do you think of the football and style convergence culture that’s happening at the minute?
Back to the French roadmen, they’ve all wear football tracksuits over there for time, it’s all from them. They brought that over here. But I love it man, I think it’s a sick style, and it’s obviously going to continue to grow and grow.
Photography by Danika Magdelena.
Tottenham Hotspur retro jerseys courtesy of box2boxfootball.com.