TPS Fam have started to make waves in the hip hop world and the quality of their last release, Hot Water Music, makes it essential that we get to know them a bit better. These guys are well worth checking out if you haven’t heard of them, and if you have heard of them, this interview might give you a better insight into their influences, biography and upcoming releases.
Give us a brief bio of all the members of the group?
The Strange Neighbour (TSN): Strange Neighbour. I'm from South London and rap & produce for the team!
Jack Diggs (JD): I take care of half the production alongside Strange, as well as rap.
Big Toast (BT): I'm Big Toast. I rap, I make our videos and I handle a lot of the label stuff. I've been making music for over a decade. Not too great about talking about myself unless I'm drunk or in rhyme form so if you want to know stuff about me check the music or buy me a drink.
How did you guys come to meet and start performing together?
BT: We formed back in 2006. First show was at Bangers in Croydon with Oliver Sudden. I know Jack ‘cos he's my younger brother! Him and Jay met at College.
JD: Me and Toast were making music before the forming of TPS, being brothers and into the same music it was as natural as it could be. TPS came a few years later but we all got on well and had the same ideas and direction so it just gelled together naturally as well.
TSN: I met Jack Diggs at an induction at Croydon College for a music course we was applying for. Chatted a bit about music, realising we had very similar interests in music and styles. Started the course then started making tracks together. Jack didn't live to far so started coming to my shoddy build home studio at my mum’s house & started bringing Toast as he rapped too! Finally built stronger then decided to form a crew. From there it’s got bigger and better.
What do you think makes the music you guys produce unique?
TSN: I don’t know actually. I guess having all similar views on life and being as tight as we are, we literally just express us. It’s a sound we've naturally adapted over 10 years, rugged, raw and not conformed to any style. I really like the sound and concepts we work with. Dusty crate digger shit!
BT: We just do our own thing. I don't think there's many people who sound like us. We each sound different vocally and come with different styles. I like to write about what I see day-to-day, picking apart the characters of all the soggy inferior people and the pointless shit they do.
JD: We all got different styles, as Toast said. Vocal tones, delivery and lyrics are all our own. We don’t sound like each other, you know whose verse it is when it comes on, but we’re on the same level when it comes to writing, we just put our own styles to a concept. A lot of UK crews sound like they all have the same favourite rapper whose styles they’ve adopted! It’s unoriginal! How you gonna bite an extremely distinctive style and attempt to carry it off as your own? This shit’s all about style, you gotta have your own!
Although London dominates the U.K. hip-hop scene, there is good hip-hop coming from all over the U.K. Which scene do you rate the most?
BT: Not so sure London is dominating as much as it has done before. It's a huge city so is always gonna be represented, but the UK scene seems pretty diverse right now. In terms of a particular scene I'm not sure Britain is big enough to divide up like that. There's a load of acts I rate coming out of Bristol at the moment. I like all the Blah lot too. Now with social media and all that bollocks, there's not really a separation between this city or that city. We've played a few other towns and there's talent in every area. I think with places like London though there's so much competition it drives you to really push yourself and improve. It also makes it hard to be heard but it's all swings and roundabouts…
TSN: I would like to agree that London dominates things, but it seems a bit slow right now. Artist-wise, we have undeniable talent and skill but it seems like all the fans are outside London and those fans tend to follow local artists, or artists that sound like them. I gotta be real though, I love that grimey inner-city rap whether it’s the Blah lot up north, Split Prophets down south or the Triple Darkness lot from London. Shit just seems more real to me!
JD: I agree with the other two, at the moment I wouldn’t say London is the force it has been. There’s a lot of quality here, but there’s quality everywhere and there’s people pushing music more consistently in other areas in my opinion. I like what’s coming out from up north. Manchester has some good shit popping off right now, like the Mouse Outfit, The Bluntskins got style too. I like the northern accents on a beat, it has a nice gritty sound to it. Lee Scott’s been killing it with the releases as well. Blah have real variation now. It’s good to have a label trying to add another dimension to this scene, and actually succeeding as well!
I know you guys do most of your own production. When producing an instrumental do you have a clear-cut idea of how it’s going to end up before starting the process?
TSN: I still shock myself sometimes. From the mystery of the dig not really knowing what samples I’ve dug, to coming home and making something happen. 80% of the time after hearing a sample you know the general direction but sometimes it flips on its head and what goes from a summery jazz sample can be flipped to a dark horror hammer. Gotta love that shit man!
JD: To be honest when I put I record on, I hear a sample that captures my attention and I just think about where I’m going to chop it. I tend to make at least 40 chops to a sample, which could only be 16 bars long. Every individual note gets taken, so if for example it’s a track with a singer on it, there may be a bass note or piano key in the second the draw for breath, I’ll chop that, and do that throughout the song. Then I try and form a melody from what I’ve got. I always have an idea of the direction I want to take, the vibe I want a beat to bring, but a lot of the time the melody will just fall into place. When I do have a melody in mind it very rarely forms exactly how I picture it! I do like to try and keep relatively close to the vibe I was given when first hearing the sample, especially if I’m making something to write to myself. If that music has taken me somewhere I wanna stay in that place, get me!
What are your musical interests outside of hip-hop?
JD: I listen to jazz music a lot when I’m working, mainly jazz funk, stuff like Lonnie Liston Smith and the Cosmic Echoes, or jazz guitar like John Abercrombie and Kenny Burrell, it makes me zone out and feel differently to how hip hop makes me feel, time goes quickly when that stuffs playing! I really like neo soul too, Erykah Badu gets played weekly, she’s one of my biggest influences musically, I love her music, she’s one of them singers you know is on another level creatively, or anything on Daptones records I’m interested on, Charles Bradley is amazing, so is Sharon Jones.
TSN: I generally love the music I dig. Mostly anyway some stab in the darks can be fucking awful... but saying that, digging music to sample has taken me so far into what I enjoy, and what I don’t. Seriously opened my ears! My musical ear enjoys anything and everything that’s just good. It seriously wouldn't matter for me old, new, pop, or rock. If it touches me I like it.
BT: I like anything that's made from the soul. I hate the shite you hear on the radio. People making all that paint by numbers, cynical, soulless drivel need to be sent to death camps. I listen to a bit of psychedelic rock, ska, northern soul, blues... I still have a soft spot for garage and grime too ‘cos that was basically all you'd hear in South London when I started going out to discotheques.
You’ve managed to get some serious talent featuring on Hot Water Music, if you could get anyone to feature on one of your tracks who would it be and why?
BT: Personally I like collaborations to come about naturally. I wouldn't want to just get a throwaway verse or generic chorus from a big name. We've managed to work with a lot of people I rate so I'm pretty happy with that. Would be cool to work with some singers in the future though. Someone distinctive with a bit of character.
TSN: I’m really happy with those features and you know, without sounding cliché, I seriously think I’ve done it all after doing Hot Water Music, Heisenberg EP and Cinematic with Phoenix Da Icefire!! I’ve featured nearly all of my favourite artists and worked with everyone I would only dream of! Even though we've already featured these but i think I’d have Efeks & Oliver Sudden on every song I ever made if I could!
JD: Like Toast said, it’s gotta be natural, I’d love to have Ghostface or Nas on a track, and I could if I had enough money, but there’s no connection other than a financial one. There’s hundreds of people I’d like to work with, but it always has to for the right reasons, money isn’t one of em!
What’s happening in the future for TPS Fam and Revorg records?
TSN: Well we have Cinematic LP, which is me on the beats and, the genius that is, Phoenix Da Icefire on the bars... This album is conceptual of movie genres and it features the kings of the game and is seriously an album to look out for. I speak on behalf of all of us and we hope to push a little more Vinyl too. I was aiming to do this with my solo rap album I’m doing.
JD: We got a lot of stuff waiting to come out, we’ve just had a few setbacks that have delayed a couple releases. Me and Efeks' E&J EP is waiting to go, Phoenix and Strange have a release ready, I’ve got a new solo joint halfway there, so do Strange and Toast and I’m working on some production outside of the camp too. As for a new TPS album, that’s not gonna be any time soon, just because of what we got waiting to drop or finish, when we clear the backlog of work we can then maybe think about starting a new one!
BT: I’m working on a couple of solo projects. Got the Wedding Fund LP, which I’m hoping is gonna raise a few quid for me cos I’m turning a happy relationship into a contractual obligation in the near future! I’ve reached out to a few different people on that one. We do a lot in house but with this I thought I’d like to use some other producers and get verses off rappers I rate. I’m also working on an album which Strange is producing called Save The Pub! That’s a bit of a concept album that I’m pretty excited about! Finally, me and Jack have also started a new crew alongside Downstroke, Gee Bag and Oliver Sudden called The Gatecrashers. Got an EP on the way that’s sounding really good so far! Really looking forward to getting that one out there. To find out about all these things add us on Facebook, Twitter and all that malarkey - @revorgrecords, @tpsfamily, www.revorg.co.uk.