Trap wave pioneer M Huncho opens up about making his genre-defining music, his plans for early retirement and life behind the mask.
Reader's Digest: Thanks for talking to us today! Where are you right now?
M Huncho: I’m in Brent Cross shopping centre and no one knows who I am, it’s absolutely great.
RD: Can you break down in your own words what trap wave is, for somebody who has never heard of it?
MH: Trap wave is a mixture of melodic rap and gritty stories from, as one can say, a trap [a place where illegal drugs are sold]—combining a wave which is the melodies with the trap aspect of the genre trap music.
RD: Do you consider yourself the originator of trap wave?
MH: I would say yes, I do, because I feel like no one else sounds like me and although they might try, they never will.
I don’t mean that in an arrogant or ignorant way, or to put people down because there must be youth out there that are inspired by me.
I’d love to see them take that same direction and take it further than where I took it, but only if they make their own sound. It took me months to actually sit down and come up with the sound and it’s not easy. It separates me from everyone else that does melody trap music in our scene.
RD: You’re currently sitting at the two EPs and two mixtapes mark and your sound has grown with each release. What will the progression to albums look like and how will your style develop over your next projects?
MH: I’m just trying to get a bunch of creatives in the room to see the best music that we can come up with. As for the next step, my main aim is to make sure that every release is better than my last. Quality control is a big thing for me.
I’m looking to go into residential studios for a few weeks and sleep there, have rooms there and all of that kind of stuff, get producers in to make beats from scratch, melodies that are made by live instrument players and so on and so forth.
That’s the kind of direction I’m heading in because I know that to elevate your sound you have to kind of go on to a very, very musical level, and I feel like I’m a very musical person in general.
RD: You’ve said before that you grew up on rappers like Jay-Z, Nas, Giggs and Nines. Have you ever experimented with making straight-up hip-hop or were you drawn to the more melodic approach from day one?
MH: I didn’t make music prior to the style that I make now but I feel like, yeah, if I got put up to it or if I decided to go into the studio to do something like old school hip-hop or rap, I’d be able to do that because I’ve got a very distinctive voice. I feel like it will be a strong rap voice as well if I was to take away the melody and actually go in with full grittiness.
RD: So, it’s not something you have done but it’s something that you’d consider doing in the future?
MH: One hundred per cent yeah.
RD: For every track you release, how many tracks never see the light of day?
MH: I would say anywhere between 10 and 20.
RD: Do you ever get tempted to put out an extra project of offcuts and B-sides?
MH: No, I'm always going to be focused on quality over quantity, that’s why I’ve dropped short projects but they all have a creative meaning behind them and a certain vibe to the tape.
Realistically, when it comes down to about making music, quality is the main thing. I’m a musical person, I like good music. I’ve been brought up listening to good music so, you know, some tracks obviously will see the light of day. I might put one on my YouTube channel as just audio or something like that, just to treat the fans. I wouldn’t be here without them so I would release something for their sake so they have something to listen to if they are complaining.
I don’t believe in being in people’s faces too much and being out there in front of everyone because sometimes people do get sick of you. It’s like having the same meal every single day, so I have my periods where I disappear, and I come back with a bang and that’s what it’s all about.
"This isn’t success, this is just exposure"
RD: You’re already at that stage as an artist where there’s a constant demand for new music from you. If you woke up one day and decided to drop a B-side it would be very hard for the fans not to like it. I think they’d always be grateful for more content.
MH: One hundred per cent, I agree with you, but you don’t have to give them products all the time. At the end of the day, what we’re doing is basically similar to drug dealing. The artist has the drug and the fan base are the consumers.
You have to make sure that you have the best drug. You have to make sure that your drug is way more potent than all the other drugs coming out and it’s also expensive, it has that classiness. You have to make sure that you have Columbian cocaine. That’s the best way to put it, to be real with you.
RD: So, you’re like the Pablo Escobar of trap wave right now?
MH: Yeah, something like that.
RD: You share a lot of socially conscious material online about Grenfell, racism in the UK, the treatment of Muslims worldwide and so forth—do you feel it’s necessary to use your platform to raise awareness of these issues?
MH: I don’t feel like it’s necessary, no one’s obligated to do anything, but at the end of the day I am a human being and there are things that p**s me off. So when I do come across things like Chinese Muslims getting systemically erased or tortured, for example, I will repost it.
I’m not obligated to do it, but as a human being, it is my responsibility. If I have a platform, I will retweet it, I will speak about things. We live in a very sensitive society, so I don’t mind touching on subjects that people get p****d off about because it’s the damn truth, and I really don’t care about anyone’s opinion, because opinions are just opinions, they’re not facts.
RD: On a lighter note, you’ve also let out your more humorous side with an infamous appearance on Chicken Shop Date and more recently Gasworks as well as a string of tongue-in-cheek album art. Is it important to you that people know you’re not M Huncho the serious musician 24/7?
MH: Yeah, look, I’m a humorous person, I’ve got an outgoing personality, I’m an outgoing person. I like to talk, and I like bringing good vibes everywhere I go.
It’s been hard enough for me to break through with this mask on, without showing any facial expressions, so I feel like people deserve to see the personality that’s behind it, because I do feel like I’m a lit guy personally and I do feel like I’m a funny guy, I hear it all the f*****g time. So, it’s just an insight.
I wasn’t like that in the beginning, I didn’t really want to show too much but I’ve gotten comfortable and I realised that as long as I can take my energy out, it’s cool. I feel that people deserve to see that, I feel like every artist should have a character behind them.
RD: You’re now appearing on TV shows, selling out tours, and hitting millions of views on basically everything you touch. Is this what you define as success, or is there still a new level to reach?
MH: Oh, no, this isn’t success bro, this is just exposure, that’s what it is. It’s not success.
Success is determined by when you reach the goals that you want to reach and you look back. I don’t look at anything that I’ve achieved right now, because frankly, I don’t see them as achievements at the moment. But in the future when I do get the right accolades and try to get nominated for a few awards here and there, try to work myself, push myself to that level, then maybe I’ll look back and think, Yeah, man, I’m happy with what I’ve achieved.
But as for now, I don’t see that as an achievement, I just see that as hard work. Whatever you put into the game is what you’re going to get back and I give it blood, sweat and tears.
"Whatever you put into the game is what you’re going to get back and I give it blood, sweat and tears"
RD: The conversation of which UK rap artist will finally break America reappears year after year. Do you think there’s scope for you to achieve success stateside with your Atlanta-influenced sound?
MH: I think I can [break America] but I’m not really fussed about it, to be honest. I don’t worry about how the US takes [British rap culture] in general because frankly, we don’t need acceptance from any outsiders. I feel like we’ve got something good going on and it’s good at a global level.
I feel like in due time, yeah, they will be able to accept that not just me but other artists in the UK would be able to thrive in the States as well. I like Atlanta because every time I’ve been there, everyone just shows me love and I’ve worked with sick producers out there that I’m still in contact with. You know, they always tell me “Yo, man, the UK doesn’t deserve you, come down to Atlanta, let’s start, lets work.” They’re on my case all the time, and that’s the type of energy that I need.
So, I feel like within due time, without forcing anything, we’ll get there, we’ll be even more global than we are now.
RD: What’s your dream collaboration and how close are we to seeing it happen?
MH: I wouldn’t say I have a dream collaboration but in the US... I like Meek Mill, Future, Drake, I’ve worked with Gunna already but I wouldn't mind doing it again, Da Baby, Jigga [Jay-Z]. A hundred per cent Jigga, even though he’s old school, but obviously Jigga’s in the billions right now, he doesn’t give a f**k about me.
Nowadays everyone sounds the same, but the people that I mentioned, they’re a bit different. I think Lil Uzi’s dope too, that’s kind of my vibe.
RD: You’ve steered away from littering your projects with collaborations whilst a lot of other artists put features on almost every track. What is it that’s made you determined to focus on your own talent first?
MH: You have to pick and choose your collabs. I have people ask me for collabs all the time, but I have to kindly let them down because I just don’t see it happening. I’ve never been the type of person to give people that leverage or the upper hand of ever saying “you are in this position because of me"—everything I’ve done I've built from the ground up, so I stay away from that because I feel like it will devalue me as an artist. You need your own creative direction, I need my own sound to go through, I’ve got my own creativeness to work around the album, I’m not going to work around collaborations.
If I wanted to collab, I could’ve collabed with every artist in the UK and then had a tape and probably gotten a number one, or number two or number three, whatever. I don’t even care about the charts, and that’s why when it comes to releasing music, I release music whenever I want, I don’t care who else is releasing. I’m not here to compete, I’m just releasing music for my fans.
Collabs are a touchy subject because not everyone is going to sound good together. Sometimes when someone asks me for a collab, I sit down and I think which member of the public would ever say Oh I really want to hear M Huncho and so and so. If it just sounds wrong when you say the names, I stay away from it.
I like working with people like Nafe Smallz, I’ve worked with D Block Europe, I’ve worked with Headie One, I've worked with my friend Ambush, but everything should be done with your own two feet and your mouth and your brain and your hands—everything should be built up by yourself in the first place. Now in the future if you want to do collabs, or you want to do X, Y, and Z, that’s fine, that’s not an issue.
"I’m not looking to be 35 and rapping, it’s not really ideal for me"
RD: On the new project, you give the impression that you’re still leading a very private life. What it is about the limelight that you find so off-putting?
MH: I just find it all off-putting to be honest. The fake relationships, the fake hellos, the fake smiles, the fake well wishes, I just don’t like it.
I’ve never been that type of person where I’ve been in people’s faces. Before music, I was a low-key guy and I don’t really f**k with many people, so I just thought why not bring that same concept to what I’m doing now.
RD: So, if someone walks up to you and asks, “Are you M Huncho?” when you are unmasked in public, what’s your response?
MH: I would just laugh and say nothing, to be honest. Nobody has actually come up to me in public, I’m not the only person that’s my build and my height, you know. The only sign that would give me away is probably my voice and when I’m in public I don’t even talk, I just walk and deal with what I need to deal with.
The people that I come across on a day to day don’t even listen to me, so, yeah, they will not know me, they wouldn’t know who I am.
RD: Aren't there days when you wake up and feel so proud of your achievements that, temporarily, you want the whole world to know who you are and what you look like?
MH: Oh, never man. Never. That is my worst nightmare.
RD: As you’ve made it crystal clear you don’t want the fame; do you ever see a time where you step back from being in front of the cameras and take up a more managerial role within the music industry?
MH: Yeah 100 per cent. I’m not even going to tell anyone when I stop making music, I will just retire without anyone knowing.
RD: You’ve said previously that one day you aspire to be married with children. When that day comes, what does it spell for M Huncho’s music?
MH: It will be just a distant memory. I’m just going to stop doing music. As much as I like listening to music and making music, I just don’t believe that it’s something that I should be doing when I have a family.
You have to experience life to make music, so in my eyes, I’m not looking to be 35 and making music or rapping, it’s not really ideal for me. I would like to get into management and help to guide the youth. Like I said earlier on, I want them to be people that are inspired by myself, that can take it further than where I took it and that’s what it’s all about, seeing someone else taking it further than where you took it.
That will be a proud moment to be honest with you, especially if I’m managing them as well. I can give them the right steps and guidelines on how to do this, I can literally give them the recipe.
M Huncho plays a sold-out show at O2 Academy, Brixton on 28 September
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