GBNGA is an independent rap artist from Tottenham, North London. After a busy 2018 releasing his second EP ‘FOR EVERYONE’, this year saw the 22-year-old release his first single and music video of 2019, ‘CHERRY B’. Midweek and on an after-work vibe, we caught up with GBNGA to chat about his new single, his music influences and a bit of Gospel Rap.
How do you balance having a full time job and a developing music career?
It’s long because it’s like you’re chasing two bags at once! If my colleagues can’t see what I’m doing on my computer, I’m probably doing something music related, but when they come behind me I quickly change tabs.
So you don’t stop the grind?
That’s what I do, I don’t stop the grind the grind keeps going even during 9-5 hours. Even after this interview, I’m going studio. You just have to keep the ball rolling.
How did CHERRY B come about?
I was just in my room one day, listening to an instrumental. I listen to instrumentals every day, even at work. It was like a Gunna-type beat and I thought of the line “I had a golden one and she was cute but she had too much lip” and I wanted to expand on it. From one line, you can spend a lot of time on it to create a vision.
“You have to choose the colours you’re going to use to paint the picture.”
I thought of the idea of the hook, then I told my long-time friend GXNXSIS to add his flow to it. We went studio but we didn’t know what we were gonna call it. I was drinking a Magnum and there was a girl in the studio and she was drinking Cherry B. The mandem were saying this is a smooth track, this is something you’ll probably listen to with the missus in bed. It gives you that type of cool-jazzy-vibe. I saw her drinking Cherry B and I thought Cherry B is a lovely name and this is something I can associate with females. It’s nice imagery because it’s not too sexual or sensual, it’s just chill.
We loved the video, what was your inspiration?
I watched Jay Z’s ‘Dead Presidents’ music video and at the end when they were playing monopoly with real money. I thought let me flip this around with girls and throw a bit of ‘Belly’ (the movie) into it. I wanted to empower women and not sexualise them and yeah that’s how it came alive.
Growing up in Tottenham, what were your main music influences?
From Tottenham: Skepta, Wretch 32, Chipmunk – even going a bit further maybe like N Dubz. They were all the people that I was watching on Channel U/Channel AKA days, so I was just absorbing all of that. People like Skepta and Wretch 32 are from Tottenham, so I felt closely related to them. Being a young person, it was like watching distant older brothers.
Do you think your sound is a typical Tottenham sound?
When I got to secondary school I was hanging around with different types of people, I was hanging around kids that listen to Paramore, Ben Howard, Ed Sheeran. I think around Year 9 is when I saw the Tyler the Creator, ‘Yonkers’ video.
“When I saw that video for the first time I was like rah someone who is young, black and different.”
And then it just started from there and I got to know like Frank Ocean, it was that time when alternative music and all these American influences came to the UK from the Cat Daddy, Jerkin’…
So you would say that time period shaped your music?
It shaped me, but I am still from ends. For some people they let that American music control them and they start talking in an American accent. Ends and the alternative American thing sat well with me like at a balance. That’s why I think my sound is UK but there is something different about it at the same time.
How would you describe your sound in a sentence?
It’s very like lo-fi chill-upbeat music – versatile. Although, I feel like I am still discovering it. Some people tell me, you know your sound already but I don’t want to say that I know it because I don’t want to stop there. I want to keep on going and exploring.
“I just want to make music or make content that actually touches people.”
That makes you feel happy, turn up-y, just calm, when you’re in a bad mood, all sorts. That’s why I don’t want to say that I know my sound yet because I don’t want to just stop at making music. I can’t sing but I can try, J Cole does it all the time. You feel it when they try. Focusing on the talent can’t let anything else get in the way of it.
How did you know that music is what you want to do?
I always knew I wanted to do music from young because I always used to write poems. When I got to Year 7, I knew I loved music, cameras and creative stuff like that. So I started doing like Gospel Rap in Sunday School. I would also volunteer and do spoken word at Church. When it got to secondary school, everyone was doing freestyles and clashes and talking about madness and there was a period of time in my life where I was kind of going in that direction. We would just talk about stupid stuff.
“So, imagine I’m just doing Gospel Rap on a Sunday but I’m just chatting madness on a Monday.”
That’s where it kind of started. I never thought I was good enough because everyone around me was so hard, so I kind of left it for a while until I picked it back up again in second year of Uni.
What happened in second year of uni?
That’s when I took it seriously – that’s when I dropped my first track LORD KNOWS on Soundcloud. From there everyone was saying yeah you’re good. But I was thinking it’s just my friends saying this and your friends are always going to tell you you’re good. I started noticing that the plays were going up on Soundcloud – I dropped another track after track and a buzz was kind of forming. Then I started thinking, I am actually alright. That gave me the confidence that was missing from way back to kind of say let’s do it.
You made your own YouTube channel where you post your music rather than using other platforms is there a reason why?
I really want to insert myself independently – not that I won’t use those channels – I just think there is a certain pride in knowing that you did it yourself. No one can take that away from you. It’s kind of self-building. People like to see that stuff. Someone who is really grinding, its sets the challenge to work even harder. I don’t want to just get the views I want to work for it.
You know that when you do something it’s not the labels or any other platforms influence, it’s your own. Some people are so reliant on views on other platforms and their label, they can’t really build themselves. If I get to the point where I have built enough, I wouldn’t mind going on GRM Daily etc because I know I would stand out.
What can we see from GBNGA in 2019?
The plan is just to make an impact – cement myself here in the underground scene. I don’t really care about the mainstream thing, I just want to stay underground and stay low within there. Do more pop up shows like at Ace Hotel, Birthdays.
“Shows are where I can tell my friends there is a motive come down.”
I need to cement myself first before I start getting booked. I don’t want to say everyone book me when I haven’t worked for it. It’s something you earn.
Is there any other collaborations you want to do?
I have artists that I like: Knucks, Octavian, Sam Wise and it would be cool to gain experience from them, for someone like me who is kind of fresh into it. But really, I want to collab with people that I personally know, like my friends that I know are hard. I want to work with my people and uplift them and make a bigger bag for all of us.
What advice would you give to any one who’s just starting out in music?
This music thing is hard man but you have to remember that it’s art and you can’t get lost in trying to be popular or statistics or views. I think that’s one thing I have struggled with a tiny bit because it’s all your stats you’re doing, always checking. You just have to let go and let God do his work and I think that’s the approach I am taking with life generally.