“Someone nicked my hat last night man. Long! I’ll go buy a new one later though innit, see what cool stuff they’ve got. Man’s gonna get a nice new hat.”
Meeting Inja for the first time, you cannot help but smile at how very ‘on-brand’ this all is. Most people would vocally vexed at the loss of a holiday-worthy hat to twitching mitts, but the Kings of the Rollers’ king of smiles lives up to his beaming press shots and don’t-take-shit-too-seriously social media posts. There again, there is lots to be happy about. Inja marked an important moment for lyricists everywhere when he recently became Hospital Records’ first MC signing in the label’s 22-year history and his hugely anticipated album Blank Pages also dropped last month. We grabbed a moment at the inaugural Hospitality on the Beach in Croatia to talk Blank Pages, healthy mind-states, festival survival and just wanting to dance…
So we’re at the first ever Hospitality on the Beach! How are you finding it?
Really good. Really bloody good! It’s a beautiful site, the people are amazing, it’s really hot! People are smiling and getting drunk and they’re looking happy! Yeah!!
Blank Pages just dropped, congratulations! You’ve worked with a huge range of artists and genres over the years and there are 7 different producers on the LP – how did you choose who you wanted on your debut Hospital album?
I think it more fell into place. I work with people who are my friends, because we have a relationship and an understanding. So I reached out to the people that I love and whose music I enjoy and who understand who I am and how I am over their music. It wasn’t a hard thing! It’s like “yo, I want to make a meal, what ingredients have you got?” And the mandem chuck me the ingredients, and we go back and forth – have a little taste test – and we end up with a nice little dish.
Her Room with Pete Cannon, Birthday Song with Logistics and Highwater with None Decay are all very lyrically emotive tracks – how do you find putting emotions and thoughts out into recordings for other people to hear, pick apart, discuss, etc.?
I don’t know if I really think about it like that. I like to remind myself of ways of getting out of certain personal turmoils and stuff like that, to make sure there aren’t any repeats. That’s why I leave these little messages. They all start because they work for me. If they work over the soundscapes then they get out there. But it’s up for people to interpret. You can give everyone the exact same things but everyone will wear them differently… taste them, smell them, touch them differently… hear them, whatever. For me, the main thing first is just being a happy person. I confront a lot of my issues and demons over music because it’s always been my safe place to do that. However people want to take that let them take it – gwarn with that! I love that people enjoy the shit that I do but yeah… it’s a much more personal thing for me. I’m just very honoured and grateful that people actually are into that.
Talking about another specific track from Blank Pages – you’ve mentioned before that you wrote She Just Wanna Dance a long time ago as a song but no one was interested at first because of the subject matter?
Where did you hear this?
I read it on the internet…
in an interview with you!
So then it featured on Huffington Post as a spoken word video. From that, how did it come to be included on the album?
Because I’ve always wanted to get it out as a soundscape. I feel it’s a very important message. It’s something that I have seen happen all of my life - the objectification of human beings. Whether it be females, or over race, or class, the objectification of human beings goes across every board.
People try and talk to me when I’m at a dance and I mean, I can’t hold a conversation! The music is loud and whenever music is there that’s my number one focus. That’s why I go to these places! And that’s just people trying to have a conversation! So I’ve never understood, if you want to try and get with someone, or to try start checking someone, why the fuck would you go to somewhere where the music is excruciatingly loud, and it’s really dark, and most of the people are completely off their fucking head? That is no sane or safe space to make a good formal introduction to someone!
There’s nothing more beautiful than a woman who is losing her shit, in her zone, fully enjoying why she is at this place, but I’m not going to go and encroach on that. I think “you know what, that is fucking beautiful, you crack on, you go enjoy your shit – and you look good doing it”, but I’m not going to say anything, because it isn’t for me to say anything. People want to go there to dance, so when the mandem do that it just makes me a little bit sad like, “come on geezer”. Especially when they start bringing their attitudes. It doesn’t make people feel safe and, ultimately, we all just want to feel free and dance and enjoy ourselves.
Do you often find yourself taking material that was originally written as a poem or spoken word and using it for a song, or vice versa?
I have no idea whenever I go to write, I don’t know what it’s going to be or how it’s going to end – I just write. I just like writing for writing. I get inspired for poetry anywhere and all sorts of places, the same way that I do when I’m writing to soundscapes. It’s all ‘creative writing’ and that’s what I like doing.
If you had to pick someone who is normally known in the hip hop scene to hear on a DnB track, who would it be?
There’s loads! All of my friends! They’re all part of the family tree and the tapestry that I’m part of. From my Delegates of Culture gang, to Task Force, to Dirty Dike, Contact Play, SMB, my bredrens. But that’s just personal self-indulgence. It’s down to whether they find something that inspires them to do that. I’ve spoken to nuff people about them doing stuff that is different from what they do, and in some case they’re not into that.
I guess I ask because at the end of some High Focus nights for example, they’ll do a ‘Pete Cannon tear-out jungle’ set and everyone will jump on and the guys are sick, yet artists almost always get siloed into ‘hip hop’, ‘drum and bass’, etc., and then stick with that. It’s not something that has happened to you – why’s that?
I think it’s comfort zones… and I have no un-comfort zone. Haha!
You have an enviably work-rate – Kings of the Rollers, your Fully Fuelled Flex, hosting other sets, writing tunes, podcasts and Facebook videos – how do you keep motivated and healthy in an industry that can be cruel to artists, both physically and mentally?
I keep healthy and I keep cool by not giving a shit about any of that! I do what I do for me. I don’t do it for anyone’s gratification. Ultimately, if you’re not making yourself happy then why the fuck are you doing something? If you’re doing something that’s making other people happy and it’s making you unhappy, then you have to fix that shit. Your happiness is your health. Our biggest demons are ourselves, and why the hell am I going to let myself gang up with other people to try to beat me, when I can take them all out, in my head? People get stuck and really hurt because they let other people in. There’s not a lot that can get me down because I don’t let anything in to get me down. It doesn’t mean that I’m not susceptible to it, but that’s why I’m consistently reminding myself, and I share those reminders.
Have you had feedback about the Facebook videos? Do you get people messaging you?
Yeahhh. I do. I find it like, weird! I just say, “thanks”! I got told by someone that I value very highly that I should share my smile so that’s why I started it.
On the one side you have the “I’m going to be happy for me” outlook, but the videos seem very much “right, let’s make others happy”…
Because you can! You can bring a smile out of people. Even just a little feeling, like a tiny little side-smile, or a little smirk, or a “yes I don’t want to smile but there is a slight happiness in me.” The feeling of it is naughty, it’s nice, it’s fun, it’s happy, it’s encouraging. Even if you fight against it, it’s still taking your mind off whatever the fuck is in there. It’s giving you that slight break and communication with other human beings and that’s something that I feel we all lack.
Back to the festival… Hospitality on the Beach is 5 days of sun – lots of sun - beach vibes, boat parties, after parties, you name it. What are ‘Inja’s top 3 festival tips’?
Number one: real badman don’t camp. Either get a hotel, or you rent out a van…
Number two: real badman’s in the shade when the sun comes out!...
Number three: keep yourself hydrated! You stupid? Sitting out in the sun, burning yourself and drinking alcohol and no water? Iiiiidiot! That’s Inja’s 3 top tips to keep a cool festival!
Let’s say the guys give you your own 3-hour boat party to curate for HOTB next year – who’s on the line-up and what do you name the boat?
Oh whaaat?! Ok, soooo. Who would I take? … Children of Zeus, Levelz, Task Force, Dirty Dike, Randall, DJ Die, Nu:Logic, S.P.Y.
MC-wise I would have GQ, Dynamite and… I think I’d definitely have to have Trigga and Bassman.
And also… Oh fucking hell! I’ve got to have the Kings of the Rollers on the boat!
And we’d need… We’d need… 6 hours!
And what are you calling the boat?
Inja’s Music Mafia!
(If anyone at Hospital is listening, please make Inja’s Music Mafia a thing next year!)
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