Interview: Sangy

The rising Manchester MC chats about his recent EP Second Best and future collaborations

Interview: Sangy Sangy is one of the exciting rising prospects in Manchester's buzzing bass-heavy scene; the MC recently dropped his EP Second Best, and with a number of impressive singles receiving a positive reception on YouTube his journey, whilst still in it's beginning stages, is already looking interesting. Bearded caught up with him to talk about the new release.

'I'm cool, not much really' says Sangy when I ask what he's been up to today. 'I dropped the video for Scumbag which is a track from the EP which you can get from my Bandcamp page, and this new video is the last one from the project. I've been sorting out some bits for other things I've got coming out as well. I'm just trying to keep this music thing going'.

The Manchester MC describes his introduction to making music. 'I'm 22 now, I first started writing bars when I'd just turned 19. One of my good friends is Jack Redeye from Redeye HiFi, he runs a local sound-system and he DJ's as well. He'd been doing music since he was like fifteen or sixteen, and he'd been putting on parties since before we were allowed to go, but we went anyway. I got into it with him. He had a home studio, and I was at the place he was living at the time a lot anyway, so I'd go check him or other people that lived there, and then we started making some tunes. I was like 'these are alright, I'll have a proper go at it' and I've just been rolling with it since then'.

Sangy tells us what he wanted to do with the Second Best project. 'I've been billing it as my debut EP. I put a mixtape out that we recorded in Jack's bedroom before he had a studio, but they were all internet beats and stuff, and then I put something out on Room 2 Records but I took that down; there were a couple of tunes I liked that I did videos for which are still online, but I didn't think the project was that strong. It didn't really represent me as a person or as an artist. I was thinking about the style of the music and what I wanted to do with it a lot more than just making stuff that I like. With Second Best I was doing stuff with Jack in his studio, and it was all pretty relaxed. We didn't have to worry about turning the tunes down because it was getting late, nobody was going to tell us to shut up; it was a proper studio space and we were just making tunes. We made 'Blind' about a year and a half ago, and I was like 'I really like this, this is a vibe I'd like to run with'. It's bass music, 140 BPM but it's not grime, it's a bit different'.

The project is released through Bare Noise Records, and Sangy tells me about how that formed. 'It started off as not a youth project, but a project. It was a space for people who didn't have studio equipment to record their tunes. There were a few of us who went; me, Free Wize Men, there were a couple of people who were already a bit more into music than some of the others; it was a good space to go to and network. The plan was that they'd start a record label, which they have now, and at the end of each term or session everyone would have a tune to go out, and that never came to fruition but it has turned into a label now. They've helped me a lot with putting it out in terms of the funding, so all the funding for the videos, the promo, that's come from them. It's money that would have been hard for me to put up myself, and they've helped me with links and getting the thing out there and looking professional. It's been good'.

I wonder why he chose to introduce himself with an EP as opposed to a full album. 'I think with albums, it doesn't necessarily have to be one idea, but it should definitely be conceptual, and with an album I think it's important to have a consistent style, but the sounds should be different. Today I've been listening to Drake's new album Views, and the tunes on there you're like 'I know that's a Drake tune' but all of them are very different. With an album you have to kind of capture your diversity, your energy and your style all in one piece, whereas with an EP you can have five tunes which are quite similar in a lot of ways but they don't all sound the same. An album is something you do when you've been around for a while and you know where you want to go. I don't think I'm ready to release an album yet, and I thought those tunes sounded good together. Originally it was going to have a bunch of different tunes; I had some tunes from Dom HZ, a couple from Sin Seer, he's from Manchester. I played it to Chimpo at his gaff, and he said 'the best ones are with Jack, you should put some more together with him and put it out, it'll have a more consistent style, it'll be more of a project as well as it's with a singular producer', and I ran with it like that. It's produced and mixed by Jack Redeye'.

The Levelz collective have been going from strength to strength lately, with a successful mixtape and consistent touring marking them as one of the ones to watch over the next year or so. The bass heavy sound, which has influences from drum and bass, grime, hip-hop and dubstep but remains un-categorisable, crops up in Sangy's music too, and I ask why Manchester is the leading producer of such music. 'I think it's the attitude up here more than anything. In Manchester, and maybe it's because you know them anyway, but you go somewhere to play a gig and no matter who's big doing what, you see them and it's always like 'yo what you saying', it's always vibes and it's always friendly. There doesn't feel like there's any confrontation. I've played other gigs, with people from down south and you go into a room and you've got people looking at you like 'who's this, you shouldn't be here with us' kind of thing. The attitude up here, at least from people I meet anyway, is that nobody really gives a shit about who are you are or what you've done, but in a good way, not like 'we don't care about him' it's more like if you're a nice guy and your thing's good we'll back it. The whole attitude is, for lack of a better phrase, is not giving a fuck. We do our thing and if you don't like we don't care and we're going to carry on doing it anyway. We're not trying to cater to anyone's sound. With the Levelz thing; although they've formed a new group and they're smashing it, it hasn't just come around like that. They've been doing their thing separately for years; Skittles, Sparkz, T-Man, they've been hosting raves and doing their thing for years, Chimpo's been around for years, I went to school with Metrodome, he's been making music since he was like twelve. These guys have been doing it for time, so for them to all come together and for it to pop off is no coincidence. I don't think there's a Manchester sound, but I do think there's a Manchester style and a Manchester attitude that goes with the music'.

'I don't sit down and think about writing' says Sangy about how Manchester influences his music. 'I do sometimes, or I think about a specific topic. I never think I'm going to write this story; I don't think i'm gonna talk about this, this and this. It's more organic. It's things I've seen, things I've done, things I've seen other people do, it all comes together. That almost creates a story, or a narrative or a commentary. Not in terms of I'm great, and I'm saying all this, it's just more a commentary of what I've seen, and experiences I've been through, and having conversations with people and going to places, so especially a lyric like 'round here's full of bad lagers, absent fathers and Manc martyrs' from 'No Place Like Home', it's not like me saying 'Manchester's bad', or 'this is Manchester', that's just my experiences of life and meeting other people. That's what I know, that's what other people know. I've heard people say those kinds of things. That all links into Manchester in that I'm from here; these things aren't necessarily Mancunian, it's just me, and I'm from here. At the same time, I am proud to be from here, and I like it, but it's not so much that I try to push Manchester as a whole. It is good to have a collective sound, but I'd prefer to say that it's my sound, but that the Manchester thing ties into that'.

I ask about how important he finds it to be personal in his music, as the EP definitely highlights Sangy's skill in introspective writing, even if it is sprinkled rather than being the focus. 'Maybe not on 'Second Best', but other things I've done which are a lot more personal, I think 'should I really say that', but then it's like fuck it, I'm gonna say what I'm gonna say. A big person who I like, even though my music is nothing like her's, is Amy Winehouse; her music is so personal and raw, and she does it in a way that's not whiney, it's not 'Ah my life has been so hard', it's just me, this is what I've done, and I'm not afraid to show people that. That's how I approach my music. If you can relate to it cool, and if you can't then it's just me saying how it is. If someone wants to say something negative to that then that's their business, but I'd never hold back from saying something if I felt like I had to say it'.

I wonder how he feels about the matching of personal and tough topics with the energetic, bass driven production. 'I do feel like I've got a sound, and my sound is the bass music, but it's not just club tunes. Most people think of grime and they think of club tunes. People are expecting a four bar hook and then some bars like 'I'm the best, I'm sick, I'm better than you' and that's what people want to hear in a club. My thing is, not in a pretentious way, but it makes you think. At the same time I'm not saying I don't want to have tunes that bang in a club; No Place Like Home, I've played that out a few times and that's quite good. I'd definitely say that having something that's different from everyone else is important. Before this project I was trying to come with a style, and I didn't really know what it was, I was just thinking 'should I do this? Should I do that'? The thing that people say is be original, do your own thing, and if you like it then that's the most important thing, if you like it and you are your own biggest critic, which I definitely am, then surely other people will be able to appreciate it. So yeah, that's probably what I try and run with; having something that's very listenable, but will also make you think, or at least makes you think about something rather than just thinking 'this sounds good'.

As we draw to the end of our conversation I ask what Sangy's been listening to recently. 'A lot of people go out searching for people, but a lot of times I just listen to someone by chance or stumble across them. As big as he is, I never even listened to J. Cole until about three months ago, and everyone was like 'you need to listen to him', and I just couldn't be arsed man, he's just gonna be one of those American rappers. I wasn't too bothered. I listened to '2014 Forest Hills Drive', and I just rinsed that, I ruined it for myself by playing it too much. I do that to be honest, I'll listen to five or six people at once until I can't listen to them anymore. I've been doing that with J. Cole, Jesse James, Bisk from Blah Records, and then there's people who when they put something out I'll always check for it; people like Future, Casisdead, Lee Scott, Drake's new thing today. Trim's cold, whenever he puts something out I'll check for that'.

What's next for Sangy? 'I've got an EP with Dom HZ, that'll be out July, August time, it's just getting the mix down now/ That's four tunes, and it's called 'Life'. I've got some tunes with my mate Nathan, I'm not even sure what his producer name is but he's sick, so sick. They'll be out at some point. I've been working on some stuff with some more established heads which'll hopefully see the light of day, maybe they will, maybe they won't. I'm trying to drop videos; making tunes, making videos for them and getting them on blogs and stuff. I'm trying to build the buzz and spread it out really, and keep the thing consistent. I don't want to now put out an EP and three videos in a month and a half, and then not put anything out for three months, I want to keep the output consistent and at a high level'.

Sangy's EP is available to download here