Birmingham MC Slick Don is a true original. His brand of full-throttle Grime has grabbed the attention of fans over the world, and he shows no signs of stopping. Matching his energetic flow are eye-catching visuals on videos like ‘Dat Boi’. We sat down and spoke to the talented musician about musical influences, working with Toddla T, and the universal appeal of Grime.
How would you describe your sound to someone who had never heard it before?
I would describe my sound to someone who has never heard it before as – original, real, energetic, grimey, forward thinking, experimental at times, the list goes on.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
My music taste and influences are quite broad and wide ranging but I would say my biggest musical influences are people I grew up listening to the most such as Bob Marley, DMX, Three 6 Mafia, Lauryn Hill, Dizzee Rascal and So Solid just because all these people were basically the soundtrack to my childhood and they were artists that made me feel inspired whenever I listened to them.
How did you first become involved in the music industry?
I first became involved in the music industry starting out when I was 16 when all I viewed music as was a hobby because I loved it, I started making a few songs in my friends bedroom studio out of boredom which happened to get good feedback and turn a few heads, and it was that which gave me the motivation to want to get more involved and take it serious, so I did and here we are today.
While Grime is a genre typically associated with London, you’re from Birmingham. Do you think that there is too much of a focus on London in the UK music scene?
I used to think there was too much of a focus on London but I feel like that was only because there were a lot more active artists in London than there were here which took the shine away from everywhere else and whether you wanted to go on radio, do an SBTV, get a record deal or whatever it may be, London was the place that had everything and still does but over the years I’ve seen a change, there are a lot more artists actively doing stuff from Birmingham now aswell as media channels etc to the point where we’ve built up our own scene and platform and not only that, bridges have been gapped between cities now and I feel like it’s got to a point where people’s eyes and ears have been opened up to more than just the London accent and because it’s something different to the ‘norm’ they love and embrace other accents such as the Birmingham accent because we bring something fresh and new to the table.
How would you describe the music scene in Birmingham?
I would describe the music scene in Birmingham as thriving and full of life. In terms of unity we don’t support each other as much as we could but I can’t name a city that does. We now have a platform where as an artist you can get heard just as much as a London artist and although we’re still behind London in a lot of ways, times have changed and we’re building something special as a collective.
The videos for ‘High and Lows’ (set in a dystopian city) and ‘Dat Boi’ (acclaimed for its stop-motion animation feel) are distinctively creative, as is the artwork for many of your EPs and singles. Would you say that it’s important to you to establish your identity as an artist through your visuals as well as through your music?
In a time where there are so much artists and everybody is doing the same thing I do think it’s important to establish your own identity because personally I want to stand out from the crowd, I don’t want to do what the next person is doing because it’s already been done! I like to be innovative when it comes to my art and my music and with the help of my team that I have around me who have the same vision as me I am able to execute my releases exactly how I want as a pose to following trend.
As someone who’s played abroad extensively — in locations across Eastern Europe and at the renowned Barcelona music festival Sónar — how would you describe the way that Grime is received outside of England? Why do you think it has such appeal internationally?
Grime is received very well abroad, I’ve been places where I’ve performed my songs and I feel at home like I’m performing in my own city, it’s mad. I performed in Bucharest last year to 5000 people in a air hangar and got 3 wheelups like I was in England and the whole front row knew the words to my song, I couldn’t believe it but it shows how far music travels and how universal it is.
I think it has such appeal internationally because of the energy and the rawness, there’s no other sound like grime so when you hear a sick grime riddim with an MC who is talking about everyday real life stuff, you feel it and it hits you and until I went abroad I thought it was just people who were from the place where Grime was birthed who would understand it but I realised that no matter where your from we all go through the same daily struggles in life which is why it can be so relatable all over the world.
Not only that, people who have been pushing the sound from the very start for years like Dizzee and Skepta play a big role in why it appeals to an international crowd today.
We hear you’ve previously worked with the likes of Toddla T and Mele — would you be able to talk more about these experiences for our readers?
I have nothing but good things to say about these guys. Toddla T who I’ve known for years is not only one of the most humble and genuine guys in the scene but one of my favourite producers. We’ve worked on a few songs in the past and I love working with Toddla because it’s always fun and whenever we’ve been in the studio together we always end up leaving with something totally fresh that you’ve never heard or would imagine hearing before, that’s what music is about.
Again, Mele one of the most talented and nicest guys you’ll meet and always fun to be in studio with. Around 2013 we were touring around the world so we got to spend a lot of time together and it was an experience because we both shared the same vision and passion for the music so to be able to travel around the world with one of your best friends doing something you both have a mutual love and respect for was sick man.
Earlier this year you released the high-octane EP Hold Out. How does it compare to your earlier releases? What kind of messages were you hoping to communicate with the release?
My new EP ‘Hold Out’ is a follow up from my earlier singles Brap, Feds, My Don and Highs and lows but although it’s a follow up, I didn’t want it to sound like any of those songs, I wanted it to be a continuation to them almost as every song I make is a story within itself.
I think the EP title ‘Hold Out’ kind of speaks for itself but the main message I wanted to get across in this EP is that wherever you come from or whatever struggle your currently going through, from the littlest thing to the biggest thing, things will get better in time, they always do, so just Hold Out and rise up!
What are your plans for the rest of 2018?
Well the EP is out now and I’ve just dropped the video for ‘Dat Boi’ as well as my live shows which you can catch me at throughout the year so keep an eye on my socials on where to catch me but yeah I have another video off the EP to drop and after that I’ll be murking again.