“When you’re standing on a red carpet and no-one knows who you are, that can be a bit annoying!”
It doesn’t sound like an experience that a bonafide pop star with over 100 million global track sales would endure. But alas, Taio Cruz admits that there are times when people have no idea who he is.
“It doesn’t bother me… until it bothers me!” the 32-year-old laughs, warmly. “At those times, I’ll be thinking to myself, ‘I’ve sold 100 million records – I can’t believe no-one knows who I am!’ But if I’m sitting in a restaurant with a friend or I just wanna be chill one day, I’m happy to go unrecognised.”
It’s perhaps not a huge surprise that Cruz isn’t immediately recognisable in every situation. A self-confessed “low key” character, the London-born singer, songwriter and producer says he’s never been one to bask in the limelight… ”
“If I die I’d hope to find you in another life, so we could fall in love again,” sings PJ Morton sweetly, whilst simultaneously playing the lush, warm keys of his classic Fender Rhodes electric piano. It’s a Sunday night, in the intimate candle-lit confines of The Hideaway in Streatham – aptly named because of its rear, sat-nav deceiving backstreet entrance – with a 250 capacity crowd predominantly of enraptured couples seemingly hanging onto every note of First Began, the romantic lead single from the man’s fifth studio album – and arguably his personal masterwork – Gumbo. Wearing his trademark thick-rimmed prescription glasses – a look he fashioned years before Tiny Tempah’s stylist and the hipsters caught on – and an emerald, sweat-drenched dashiki with uniform clean white trainers. The footwear is also worn by his modest four-piece band [plus two female backing vocalists], who join their leader by kicking into a groove after the solitary intro, sounding unerringly like Stevie Wonder’s legendary seventies tour outfit Wonderlove… ”
Whoever would have thought it? Macka B, the original ‘Gentleman With Manners’ and a UK reggae veteran… is now an internet sensation, thanks to YouTube and Facebook. That’s where you’ll find video instalments of his two popular series, Wha’ Me Eat Wednesdays and Medical Mondays, both of which proffer advice concerning our health, in a style that’s as entertaining as it’s educational.
Nearly 50 million people have watched the video to Cucumba [pronounced “cu-cum-ba”] – a rhymed ditty highlighting the plant’s beneficial properties. There’s Macka, stood cradling a cucumber and dee-jaying the lyrics in that deep, engaging voice of his. It’s funny, yes, but the sense in what he’s saying is undeniable.
“What a t’ing, huh?” he says with a well-deserved grin… ”
Few hip-hop groups have had the kind of internal reshuffles that Slum Village have seen. Once a three piece of J Dilla, Baatin and T3, when Dilla left in 2001 their membership reduced to a two-piece. When Baatin exited two years after, they had another re-ordering. Along the way, their ranks have included Elzhi, Dilla’s younger brother Illa J, and since 2012, Young RJ. A surprisingly elastic aggregation. But such is the goodwill towards the group that 2015’s Yes! saw the group still able to pull in guest spots from De La Soul, Bilal and Phife Dawg. You might say the Slum Village sound is so recognisable that it almost doesn’t matter who is in the group, as long as the sound stays consistent.
Some 20 years since first working with the group, RJ’s now seeking the spotlight for himself. It’s been long in the works – and he’s produced the likes of G-Unit, Little Brother and De La Soul along the way – but Blaq Royalty is his first solo album, one that sees him staying true to that time-honoured Slum bump, while also out to prove he can go it alone… ”