From organised fight clubs to being wrongfully accused of pushing weed at a young age, MoSik has seen it all. The British-Indian MC was born to Indian parents who ran a corner shop in Bournemouth. Forming one-fourth of the UK-based hip-hop crew Jungle Brown, MoSik is emerging as one of the finest young brown voices in the region. A student of all things hip-hop, Mo Sik’s flow reminded me of some of Nas’ earlier works, and his new EP Da Demo is a collection of raw, unpolished songs that profess his love for the culture.
We caught up with the MC to talk about his work with Jungle Brown, his experiences with racism, and his future plans.
DHH: What was your early life like? Where did you grow up?
Mo Sik: My early life was good; My parents are both Indian and like quite a few Indians they ran a corner-shop in Bournemouth, a town on the sea in England. I’ve got a lot of good memories growing up there, I got to know a lot of locals and there was a real neighbourhood vibe. This was before the internet and Tesco’s took over. You had a few shops next to each other, the corner-shop, a grocery store, bakers, butchers, off-licence, etc. It was always busy; I had a good time. Secondary school was another story though. I ended up going to three different schools and in between my parents sold the shop and split up, and we moved to another area which was considered to be a ‘better’ area. I think they did that to try and keep me out of trouble. No community vibe at all but that didn’t stop me from getting into trouble either.
I was expelled from 3 of those bummy institutions (secondary school) and college! Which is cool, but I was not the worst kid there by any stretch of the imagination. All sorts of shit went down, for example, the first school had an organised fight club for a while which I was too young to attend, but my ethnicity definitely had a part to play in what went down for me for sure. If I wasn’t the ‘tow the line subservient Indian kid’ that everybody expected me to be, it was like their world was shaken. Not everyone mind you, I got on with a lot of teachers. A lot of it was this one Scottish woman on a power trip that had it in for me. Once I got kicked out of that place, the others just had me on red alert. I was no angel but I wasn’t looking for trouble either. The second place kicked me out because some younger boys got caught smoking weed and one of them lied and said it was me who sold it to them, which wasn’t true, but that was enough for them to move me…
Same with the third place, some older girl in 6th form there (college attached to the school) wrote a letter saying I was pushing at school. By that time I was too paranoid to be doing any shit like that, but they kicked me out anyway. I had lost interest in their bullshit a long time before that though so I didn’t I cared too much. Anyway, by that time I had rap music so it was all good!
DHH: What was the first kind of music you started listening to?
Mo Sik: I didn’t listen to too much music as a kid. I was really into sports, or just hanging around with the lads. The first stuff I really got into was reggae. I started listening to some Wailers around 8th or 9th I think. Besides that, my dad would play classic desi music in the car or some classical music, but I couldn’t get down with that.
DHH: When did you start writing / rapping?
Mo Sik: I started rapping quite late compared to a lot of people I work with now, at 15, while I was getting into trouble. As soon as I was struck by how complex some of the writing was it was like boom! This is me, the themes, the culture, the place it was coming from. It gave me a way out and it does for a lot of us. It lets us know we aren’t alone in our struggles, especially coming from a black or brown perspective and being so contemporary as a culture, it’s a positive thing to be a part of. I’ve been writing since I started listening to what was going on, and I listened a lot to make my own writing better. I’ve thrown most of my energy into it since then.
DHH: What artists / producers influence you?
Mo Sik: Everything I experience influences me to a certain degree, so I am aware of what I let in. I’d like to think RZA and Q-Tip have left their mark on me. I have to mention Nas, it started with him for me so big upon the comparison, not sure if I hear it though! I still listen to a lot of 80’s / 90’s New York Hip-Hop, mainly because it’s got the biggest amount of quality material. But, I love it all man! East, West, South, North, UK, French, etc. all of it! I’ve been recording, digging and producing for a little while now and I own a lot more jazz, funk, and soul than I do anything else. I spend more time listening to that stuff. I think rap music is jazz music, so I would like to think that influences my sound.
DHH: What kind of shows did you go to as a kid? Any memorable ones that you’d like to mention?
Mo Sik: Like I said, I didn’t get into music until my late teens, and started writing as soon as I did. So a lot of the shows I’ve been to are the ones I’ve played at. Although I somehow ended up at Kanye’s first UK show, I think it was at the Forum in Kentish Town. Shit was crazy! he had that violinist with him who played on his debut. John Legend as well, and Dame Dash gave him a platinum plaque that night for being the first artist on the ROC to go platinum in the UK. So that was pretty memorable! The ticket even spelt his name wrong, ‘Kayne West’.
DHH: Which album has had the most significant influence on your work?
Mo Sik: Hard to put it down to one album. ‘Illmatic’ because that’s what I really studied at first, still learning from it! The Sagas of Klashnekoff was a big UK project – in my opinion, it’s still the best hip-hop album we’ve got from the UK. ‘Enter the 36′ by the Wu-Tang Clan. Actually, every thing by Wu-Tang! Then later on stuff by Stevie Wonder really got me, Hotter than July!
DHH: What has the production process been like for your work? Any particular narratives / themes you’re exploring?
Mo Sik: It has definitely evolved and refined over the years, but essentially it’s still the same. Get a beat, write; now I’m making the beats so it’s good to grab and know the emotion directly from the record, that makes writing easier for me. I know what I want to say a bit better. In terms of narrative and themes, it’s been a journey of self-discovery. Sometimes I look back and think my rhymes know me better than I know me. Working in Jungle Brown has taught me a lot.
DHH: What’s the main difference between your rhymes with Jungle Brown and your solo stuff?
Mo Sik: It’s essentially the same process, but I need to be on the same wavelength as the other three people. So it’s a lot clearer from the jump. We don’t just get a beat and write three verses on different subjects; we talk and build stronger concepts from the jump. Which is where I’ve learnt a lot to bring back into my own stuff or to take elsewhere even. Working with other people is great, it’s got rhymes out of me that I wouldn’t have written otherwise. Plus as a group we have more weight, we work with a saxophonist regularly and he plays with us live whenever he can. So Jungle Brown has resources and a lot of musical depth that my own music might not.
My rhymes are more complicated and self-absorbed when I’m by myself. Sonically, the music is harder. Culturally, I’m a hip-hop head and I think my solo music reflects that. The rest of the group have different outlooks on music, and although they are hip-hop heads too, we are all different which is reflected sonically in the music. For example, the group can talk about racism a lot more easily than I can as an individual.
DHH: Your mixtape ‘Da DeMo’ is dropping later this month, how did it come together?
Mo Sik: ‘Da Demo’ is an EP of songs that I had in the bank. I wanted to strip things back, roughen it up in a time where a lot of released music is very polished. A lot of emphasis goes into mixing and mastering, and I wanted to release something that didn’t necessarily focus on those things. The songs have all been in the time offs I had while working on some Jungle Brown stuff, which has been my main focus for the past few years. I wanted to let my own fans know that I was still working, and also to promote an LP that I’ve got coming out with a producer called Koncise – The Dots drops this winter, on digital and physical!
DHH: How do you feel about the current state of hip-hop? Is it in a better place than before?
Mo Sik: I think hip-hop is in a great place right now. It’s hard to say whether its ‘better than before’. I wish I was in New York in the 80’s to properly comment! But UK-wise it’s never been better! Since it came to fore, rap has never left the streets. But, since record sales have fallen, the industry has gone back to the streets, and a lot of talent is coming through on the strength of the love. For once the UK is defining a sound and getting paid, rather than being defined by what’s ‘hot’ to get paid. I think Nas made a powerful statement by saying “Hip-Hop is dead,” and everyone came back hard like “No it’s not!”
Be sure to pick up the pre-release before ‘Da Demo’ drop on the 11th November – http://Mosikmc.bandcamp.com