Headie One Knows Nothing Else

“At times, I do feel lucky to have escaped yeah. Definitely, ‘cah it could’ve gone left. Easily.”

On January 3rd 2019, Headie One dropped ’18HUNNA’, featuring Dave. Following a sturdy string of releases in an extremely progressive 2018 for the Tottenham-raised artist, from Kenny Allstar’s ‘Tracksuit Love’ to of course, ‘Of Course’, ’18HUNNA’ accelerated Headie’s presence in the game. The video not only propelled his meme-worthy entrance to the masses, but the track entered the UK chart at No.6, being the highest position a UK Drill artist has ever charted, a monumental collaboration of straight bars over a chrome-plated 169 beat.

Now, with six full-length projects under his belt, three of which are joint projects with fellow drill MC RV, a top 10 single and an upcoming mixtape this summer entitled ‘Music X Road’, it appears Headie is preparing to become the one.

“It’s been a little while still…” Headie begins finishing munching through a bag of Strawberry Haribos, sporting a light grey Gucci tracksuit, as we sit perpendicular in a clinical Sony Music boardroom. Talking on his recent music releases, aside from March’s Drillers X Trappers ll with RV, a feature riddled drill paragon, we agree it’s been a quieter year thus far than the previous. “I think that’s the longest I’ve gone without having nothing building, no music or nothing. Obviously I’ve been working in the background…”, leaning back.

Despite the noticeable gap between ’18HUNNA’ and the most recent single, ‘All Day’, another Champions League-eqsue drill track created through Headie and M1onthebeat’s artist-producer chemistry, his work ethic should not be challenged, though I am sure to question it’s origination. “Its just me, I like to move ennit…” he explains apathetically. “I don’t really like sitting still. I’m always up to something, even when I’ve been quiet. Yeah, definitely.”

“I feel like when we did the first Drillers X Trappers, it was a little while ago, and it was like, raw…” as we begin to touch on the development of his sound throughout the past few years. “…But then I feel like the second one was a bit more… for now, more of the time, know what I’m tryna say? It was almost like a more modern version of the first.”

Despite his unspoken claim to the drill scene’s throne, Headie’s versatility is becoming ever-more prominent. Most recently with 2018’s ‘The One Two’, flexing between autotuned trap-wave cuts such as ‘Traces’ as well as the projects intro, to straight barring on’ Work’ ft K Trap and the infamous ‘Match Day’ ft RV. “I just vibe to what I hear, literally like sometimes I come out the studio with some completely random sounds, each time…” addressing this sonically fluidity. “I go through little phases innit, ‘cus my music changes according to what’s happening. Literally, there’s nothing to it. I’m just going with the flow”.

“RV, in the studio, that’s my guy man. In the studio we bounce of each other nicely ennit, he’s very lyrical, he’s proper, he can go forever. It’s good to be in that environment with him and bounce off his energy and that.”

Whilst the recent triumph of ’18HUNNA’ manifested from a combination of lyrical ability, flows and strong production, the successes also lay in the intersection of UK drill’s amplitude and undertone of social commentary with melodic, hooky, US-infused trap. The joining of these are key to Headie’s progress as he explaines, “I listen to a lot of trap music. I started to realise, when I first started to do drill, they were both kept apart, one way or the other, but I just felt like, why? What’s wrong with putting like a trap melody on a drill beat? Or putting a drill flow on a trap beat, as long as it sounds good. Yeah literally, that’s it. So I started experimenting with it, and just managed to kind of turn into one. This was like 2014. I used to listen to like Young Thug, Future, all these guys, then drill started coming out a bit more, so I started try and merge it together.”

We then detour onto Dave, as Headie explains his admiration for what the young superstar has now achieved. “No. 1 song, No. 1 album, it’s inspirational innit. I feel like guys like Dave are important ‘cah they’re making it doable. Showing that it could be done. Then that’s motivating the people coming through, to do the same.”

I wasn’t expecting the reaction to 18HUNNA nah, I was a bit taken by the reaction and that, but yeah man, it was lit still.

The unavoidable was then touched on. A strong contender for meme of the year, Headie’s entrance in the ’18HUNNA’ video. I put it to Headie that, so clearly, the humour channelled through his unstirring facial expressions and demeanour is a key part of his image. Not to mention the bar describing the lavatory mishaps of his ‘young boy’. His reply? “Come on..” with a wry smile.

Our conversation moves onto Headie’s background, and the ‘infamous’ Broadwater Farm housing estate in Tottenham he has emerged from. “I feel like growing up in the estate is like the biggest influence ‘cah, that’s what influences everything..” he exclaims with a sigh, chest out, voice louder. “All my experiences innit, that I speak about. Literally, the type of music I make, the lyrics, it all comes from life experiences where it’s obviously affected by the place you grew up. It has a very big part to play.”

“At times, I do feel lucky to have escaped yeah. Definitely, ‘cah it could’ve gone left. Easily. I had so many close calls like, so you just gotta look back and be thankful that, that things turned the way they are innit.” He laughs, almost in disbelief. The monologue continues,“I feel like, it’s almost mad how that situation can turn into music ‘cah before, that (road) was all I really knew really, that was life. Day to day, morning till night, round the clock, either, I was in jail, I was out probably risking things that would put me back in jail, round the clock, 24/7, that was life, normal to me. I didn’t know nothing else. So when I started going to the studio it was still like that, that was just life, studio was just like a, nothing basically.”

“So, when I started moving in a positive direction and getting positive feedback, it still wasn’t the primary focus, it was just something on the side yeah. I didn’t even really think about money from it, that wasn’t my focus, it was just go studio, people say it sounds good, the mandem like listening to it themselves, so we just go and make it happen.” His focus shifts from the negativity of his past to the difficult transition periods that all self-sufficient creatives have encountered at some stage. “Then obviously, when I started getting more and more recognition, you could kinda tell ‘cah the attention started to split. It became a challenge to… to balance them both. So that’s when I knew, its probably getting a bit more serious ‘cah, it was almost like, day to day decisions had to be made. I mean, I need to be in the studio, but I need to be at somewhere else the same time. Its clashing, you know what I’m tryna say. That challenge went on for a long time.”

“This is… (sighs heavily) up until very recently if I’m being honest yeah. Until it wasn’t a challenge no more, until it was a no brainer.” He relaxes, sipping on an empty Fanta can.

However, for a UK drill artist, it’s no secret that crossing over from road to music doesn’t come without its challenges. The most prominent on our agenda was that of authority interference in the culture. In March 2018, Headie’s concert at the Barbican Centre was shut down by the metropolitan police. It’s a hot, but not a new topic right now, given the recent Skengdo and AM incarcerations as well as Krept & Konan’s Ban Drill campaigning. He breaks down his take on the situation. “It’s not really rocket-science is it. I don’t think you need to think into it too deeply. Its not everyday that you get certain individuals…doing big things…” he begins, confident, beady-eyed. “Cah, like, when you see someone that, five years ago, was in the Old Bailey, the biggest criminal court in the country, and then 5 years later, he’s in… Kensington doing interviews… you know what I’m tryna say? It won’t sit nice. It will make someone feel like they haven’t done their job properly. That’s where, people try to test you innit. Make you slip up.”

“I feel like, by all of these shows getting shut down, and these risks and assessments and all that, that’s what it’s all about really, just a test. It’s about how you take it, if you turn it into a positive or a negative. It’s very demotivating if someone’s tryna stop your money, tryna stop your progression…”

I question how he deals with it. He shrugs the question off – “Fuck it ennit (laughingly) What can you do? Just keep tryna’ get there, and when they don’t get shut down, then we shell it down. Make them know that they should have let the other ones happen. You do that enough then…” he lets off the Headie smirk once more.

So what’s next for Headie? Alongside the newly announced tour, the upcoming ‘Music X Road’ summer mixtape will undoubtedly prove to be a definitive moment for the rapper, despite how tight lipped he was about it. With recent chart successes of Dave, MoStack and more, it’s potentially his time to cash in. “We’ve been working for a long time, ‘cah I know, I’ve seen a few people say last year was like continuous, it’s not been the same this year but its for a reason innit. So I feel like, the storms about to start. Soon. My end goal is to…there’s no limit, no roof. You just go, to break, do things nobody’s done before. Make it happen.”