Breaking into the music industry is no walk in the woods for anyone. Attempt to do this more than once and people may call you crazy. But what do they know?
London-born and bred rapper, Phaze What, is the mastermind behind potentially one of the strongest comebacks the UK Rap scene has seen, returning with more fight and clarity than ever before. Since releasing his pop-culture and wrestling influenced album, The Sweet Chin Movie, in 2015, Phaze has been well and truly off the radar.
Taking a step back from the music industry, social media and even certain social circles, the North-London rapper knew he needed the break if he ever stood a chance of creating again. He explains: “I took time to just figure it all out. It’s not even a love-hate relationship that I have with the industry; it’s more of a love and disagree with what I don’t find morally right”. From the way in which he considers his answer and reflects on where he now stands, it’s apparent that Phaze is experienced in commanding the way he moves through this world, but only because of his lived experiences.
Before he pursued his career as a solo artist, Phaze was part of London’s Piff Gang who, at a glance, could be mistaken for the UK’s version of Brockhampton but actually stood as a pioneering collective for British musicians. After their first show at the now-permanently-closed Alibi club in Dalston, they went on to tour alongside the likes of A$AP Rocky and Yung Lean, taking the sounds of an unapologetically lavish lifestyle across Europe. Although some would be satisfied with achieving this and then throwing in the towel, it’s apparent that Phaze wants his work to reflect his own growth. “I like growth in the people that I listen to which is going to be reflected in my own music” he comments. “I never used to bring my personal life into my music, but now that’s something I’m working on doing.”
Phaze is also a firm believer of staying true to yourself as an artist in today’s music industry, particularly on the Rap and Grime scenes: “You see certain big names releasing these Pop tracks that they know will make them money, but aren’t them. I won’t do something if it doesn’t feel right to me.” Listening to I Ain’t Finished With You, it’s hard to imagine Phaze even contemplating giving in to making a chart-friendly track. The diversity in styles on the five-track EP, such as the smooth RnB backing on Greatest Hits to the darker, synth combinations on Back In, demonstrate just how focused yet experimental he can be. With beats from producing sensation KAYTRANADA already under his belt, constraining him to a box of only one genre would be near-enough impossible and almost an insult to his ability to create.
Despite Phaze not having a huge amount of input when it came to filming the video for Finesse, a punchy track with a nod to Eastern influences, his desire to exercise his capabilities in the future is evident: “I like having range, whether that’s in my music or in other parts of my life. Options bring you happiness.” Armed with a screwed-on head and a determination, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see Phaze working on other projects, including those that may dabble in fashion or even film. With a contagious sense of ambition in his every move, he signs off by telling listeners to “stay tuned for features”, confirming that Phaze What has only revealed a glimpse of what’s in store.
Words by Claudia Knight