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The Rap Game UK: Meet Mwangi

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Producer, DJ and Rapper, Leeds-based Mwangi is of British and Kenyan heritage and describes himself as the ultimate “triple threat”. A professional DJ, Mwangi has made music a priority in his life, and prides himself on his unmatched work ethic and drive to succeed.

You’ve grown up in Leeds, but you’ve previously stated feeling a little detached from the town, what was your experience like?

I love being from Leeds, it was just that the town I grew up in was very quiet, very small. I’m a city guy, I’m a DJ who’s trying to break into the rap world, so the busier life was always my thing. It scared me to have to fall into the usual pattern I saw around me: go to school, leave, find a trade, it was what everybody else was doing. Nobody around me was breaking out, and I didn’t want to do that. I want to do my own thing, set my own path and do something different – something special – and that’s what I’ve tried to pursue.

Did you grow up listening to rap music, or were there any other genres of music that influenced you growing up?

Yes, I grew up listening to old-school Grime and Hip Hop – you know the classics that built the industry we have today. Most of my influence came from my mum, she raised me on Reggae, like Bob Marley, and African music too. I really didn’t realise how much of an influence that played on me as an artist until I got older. In terms of my rap inspiration, it was really artists like Chip and Lethal Bizzle – they built the foundations of UK rap music and I feel like the rap style I make feeds off that with its textures of skippy, sort of old-school Grime flow.

What’s your definition of real rap?

My definition of ‘real rap’ is rapping about my situation in the realest way possible, so it could be rapping about where I’ve come from, where I want to be, what I’m doing and where I’m going. If I’m talking about my problems and my financial situation, it’s just me being brutal and honest, and real. It’s possible to talk about situations and put your life on a track without it always focusing on the negative and violence; for me it should be aspirational and motivational – I’m talking about how I’m going to get there. I feel like a lot of people fall into the typical. ‘I’m just going to talk about hate and violence’ to get views, you get me; it doesn’t always have to be like that.

You work full-time as a DJ, how has your background prepared you for being on The Rap Game UK this series?

Being a DJ has helped me as an artist myself, because I see what sort of tunes go off in the clubs – I get to see crowd reactions five times a week so it’s great for me to trial and error tracks, I use it a lot like audience research. It’s the same with producing and rapping: I’ve made beats for a lot of artists in the past so I know what works, and it allows me to understand the music, and trial different sounds so I’m not stuck in one place.

What was your favourite part of the whole filming experience on The Rap Game UK S4?

My favourite part was the feeling you get after a clean performance. It’s just you, and you’ve finished performing and you can now exhale and enjoy other people’s performances. It’s no more “what are my lyrics”, “what are they judging me on”, you can just relax – so that’s not my favourite moment but has been a moment I look forward to at the end of every challenge.

I’m big on collaborating, when I’m home one of my favourite things is writing with my boys, mixing and just getting into a track and I’d missed that feeling. So, my actual favourite moment was not even captured on camera, it wasn’t part of a challenge, it was just me and JClarke vibing in the studio at the penthouse.

We were preparing for a challenge, working on this last hook together and at one point, I swear it got so good we were screaming and gassed and that’s what I love. We were just vibing; it was 2am and everyone else was asleep, and that feeling reminded me of why I do rap. It reminded me of collaborating back home with my boys, it was the exact same feeling – so I think that was the best moment in The Rap Game UK for me because it brought me back. It was the closest to home I’d felt outside of the pressure of this situation.

From your experience on the show, what has it shown you about what you need to do to succeed in the industry?

Honestly, I thought I was confident, I thought I had it all to be an artist and that’s the only reason I went on to The Rap Game UK, I wouldn’t go on it if I didn’t think I could win. But going on it, you realise – and I even said it to people – you feel like you’re a big fish in your tank until you go into an environment like this and realise that you’re not a big fish and there are sharks in the water too.

Working with the mentors (Krept, Konan & DJ Target), and then you have guest mentors that walk into a room, and you’re taken aback because you see and listen to them, and it makes you realise that these people don’t miss – they don’t mess about. If you want to be on their level, you have to step up quick.