Since the mid-2000s, Peckham rapper Giggs has maintained a towering presence over the sound and shape of British rap.
With his instantly-recognisable voice, staccato flow patterns and, of course, the breathy ad-libs, he carved out a blueprint for UK road rap which paved the way for artists like Nines, Fredo and Loski.
Last month, Giggs took everyone by surprise by dropping a brand new 16-track mixtape. Now or Never featured guest turns from artists like Jorja Smith, Dave, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie and Obongjayar. Beyond that, it showcased everything we’ve come to expect from Giggs – reload-friendly bars, party-starting instrumentals and punchlines that only he could pull off.
Speaking exclusively to Crack Magazine, Giggs walks us through the project and reflects on his status as a godfather figure with his finger still firmly on the pulse.
Giggs’ comments have been condensed and edited for clarity.
Now or Never
“I was making Now Or Never and All Spinach at the same time. I had given up smoking and I was getting used to making music sober. It was a madness! I was thinking, ‘how am I going to get into the zone?’ and it was taking me longer to get into it. Then, at like four in the morning, the beat for All Spinach was on and man was just like, [“Two 16s and it’s all finished”] then I stopped that and I put Now Or Never on and I got straight into that as well. I was just making them simultaneously.”
“All Spinach is just wavy. It’s not complicated. It’s not a lyrical thing. People might think, ‘where are the lyrics?’ but it’s not about that, it’s about the wave. It’s whip music. You know, when you’re in the motor and you’re driving and it’s late? It’s more about the beat. You’re just complimenting the beat instead of overpowering it with ‘lyricism’. Now Or Never is the lyrical one.”
“Bare tings have been posting like ‘I’m a Buff Baddie‘ but the gangsters like it as well – it’s got that simultaneous vibe. I made it in Australia. There were bare tings in the studio and mandem and that and we were just vibsing. Then, the beat was on and the girls were dancing before I even jumped on it. I was like, ‘Yo, this is lit!”.
“I had Debonair in my phone for a while. I thought it was cold. While I was in Dubai – this was when I had just left Australia, so after I’ve made Buff Baddies – I made Debonair, or started it. It was another wavy ting. It’s sick to be able to say [“Companies invest in me, they’re investin'”] but sadly it still ends in [“Niggas want me feelin’ like / This ain’t my destiny but I’m destined”]. What I’m saying is, even now man’s come a long way, but he’s still got the non-believers. But man’s going to definitely make it happen differently because man’s destined.”
100 Repsft. Kyze
“This was just a straight shoot-out! Me and Kyze have always got beef in the studio and this is what this is – us just straight up having it out. The producer on there is Mike [WhoIsMike]. When I was in Australia, I was doing a festival and Rico Nasty was performing as well. She had bare hard tunes and when I Googled them they were all from Mike. He came with 100 Reps and said, ‘check this one out’.”
Changed Meft. A Boogie Wit da Hoodie
“This came together in Australia as well. I made this a couple of days after Buff Baddies in the exact same studio. A Boogie was playing at the same festival as me and we linked up, vibsed, had a few parties and stuff. Then, on the last day in Australia, we made Changed Me together. This was organic, we just banged it out. It’s a real life song, like when he says: [“But you don’t love me anymore / I am not a fucking ghost”] he was saying that his daughter used to always say to him, ‘Daddy, I’m not a ghost’ if he ignored her. It made me think about my son and my daughter.”
“This beat’s mad! A kid from Germany made this, his name is AgaJon. He’s only 18 or 19. He was working with a producer who I’ve worked with before called Farhot and he brought him around. He was Farhot’s young shooter. He played me a couple of beats and he played me the Branch Out beat and I was like, ‘fucking hell bruv, this is mad!’. It’s got this old-school, hip-hop Compton vibe but it’s also trappy. It’s a next ting. Mad different.”
No Back Boneft. Aystar and Tiny Boost
“My son was showing me Tremz, this was before anyone had even heard of Tremz. I was posting him and someone commented saying I should check out Aystar. I checked him out and he was just bodying! I hit him up and said, ‘your ting is crazy’ and obviously he’s on Landlord. Also, Tiny Boost is the hardest. It’s just beginning for him as well. This tune is just some gangster shit. Straight up nonsense, gangster shit.”
Everybody Deadft. Demarco
“This took me ages! Songs like this, Lock Doh, Linguo, they sound proper simple but they aren’t simple. I went to the studio and tried to find a flow but it wasn’t working, so I gave up. Then, I went back another day and tried again, but it wasn’t working and so I gave up. Everybody Dead had me, to be honest. The beat is so cold as well and when the beat is this cold I just want to do it justice. I don’t want to ruin a beat. That’s how this had me feeling, I felt like I had to come with something proper. I can’t wait to perform this.”
I'm Workinft. Jorja Smith
[“Yeah, so alone / Break a window and you throw a stone”]. This one is kind of an all-rounder, it’s just about being in the position that I’m in a lot of the time where man does feel that way, kind of alone. You know like, just being one of the successful people in the circle or the main guy, then family, friends just look to you to handle everything and no one really understands being in that position. Everyone just thinks you’re rich or a machine or have no feelings. [Like] you can just handle everything and take care of everything. We were both going back and forth just bouncing off each other. Jorja’s one of the easiest people that I’ve actually worked with. Sometimes you’ll work with someone and it’s just hassle, but Jorja’s just a vibe.”
“Songs like this, I do them quickly still! Because it’s just so wavy, I could say like, “It, dit do, it might be you” and it would still be cold. I don’t need to overdo it on this. I could just jot something silly like [“Monster / Abominable Snowman“] and no-one else is ever going to say that, ever! I’ve always been like that in music. There’s always that fun moment that you have with it.”
Man Are Outside
[On comic book lyrical references like “Think you’re X-Men? Forcing Xavier”] “Man just loves Marvel and DC and Dragon Ball Z, Disney, Dreamworks, everything! All that shit! If there’s a new X Men or Justice League or anything like that then man’s gonna bang that now! There’s more on Hoochies when I’m like “Splash some Captain America / Hulk, in the jungle I’m Mowgli” Even on the Dave tune I’m like “Black Panther, I’m too Bagheera”, I can tell no-one even knows what I’m talking about!
Straight Murder (Giggs & David)ft. Dave
“Me and Dave 100% percent have it out in the studio. That’s a gassed up yout bruv, trust me! He’s cocky, he knows he’s nice…you know tings who know they’re nice? That’s Dave with music. He spoke about Straight Murder like, ‘I feel like this one’s going to be something special’ before it was finished. This is us having fun.
I love seeing the young artists come through. That’s why I did this as well and went so hard for it, so that the younger generation have options and see that they can become great and become anything that they want. To see where the game’s at now…I don’t want to sound cliché, but it’s a beautiful thing.”
“A lot of people who’ve heard [this] have probably been like, ‘what is this weird song? This album could have done without this’. Some people may have liked it straight away. I know it’s a weird kind of beat but I just thought, ‘imagine if I’m just rapping on this?’ and I kept going and going and knew it would probably be something crazy. A lot of it’s [about being] experimental as well. When the beat’s switching and the flow’s switching it’s just futuristic, next dimension!”
It's Hardft. Emeli Sandé
“When I made this, it was just me. I wasn’t putting anyone on there. It was finished without Emeli but I just thought she’d bless this nice – and that she did.
When I was writing this George Floyd had just been licked down and it was just sad. I was watching some Dr. Dre interview with Lil Wayne and he was like, ‘yeah man, this one feels like it could be the one this time’. I was thinking, that’s sad man! Black people are getting killed by police legally and it’s been [like this for years], especially for man like Dr. Dre. Remember, he was around when Rodney King got [beaten] on camera. Decades later, it’s still happening and now it feels like it could be the one? How sad is that? You know them ones, it’s ridiculous and disgusting. I was off social media so I didn’t speak on it. I remember I was making this tune and it was just a wavy ting, I wasn’t trying to go down that road but it just came out and next thing I knew I had started talking about these issues. It was then that I realised that it was bothering me more than I knew. It was just coming out and I was getting mad emotional. When I went back to the studio the next day I lightened it up a bit and started talking more positively. Just talking about how, obviously, we got through a lot as Black people but this is how we still make ourselves feel good.”