On a sweltering summer day, in a studio tucked quietly away amongst an industrial estate, I sat down with Frisco (and his PR Jadie) to discuss ‘Back 2 Da Lab 5′ and more. Frisco is someone that really needs no introduction being the grime veteran that he is. But for those who are new to the genre Frisco has been in the game for well over ten years, and has had success both individually but also as part of grimes most recognisable collective, Boy Better Know (BBK) alongside: JME, Skepta, Wiley, Shorty, Jammer, Solo 45 and DJ Maximum. Having had such an illustrious career and with Back 2 Da Lab 5 having recently been released, we started with some of the basics.
How you doing today bro?
I’m doing well man, I’m hot.
Enjoying the weather or not?
Yeah I’m loving it, this is what I’m built for man. My birthday’s in July like I’m a f**king summer baby…JHEEZE[Jadie grabs one of those fold out fans and starts fanning him mid-sentence]
Fan on deck! This is how we living b[Everyone laughs]
Alright so let’s start off at the beginning how did you get your name?
Urrm…I stole it from my uncle, who used to have a sound and that back in the day. So I just kinda stole it from him, he was called Frisco Benji. Frisco Benji, I just took that off and stuck with Frisco. I was Frisco D at first then dropped the D, just Frisco, Big Fris.
Obviously you’re a North Londoner, how much has North London been an influence on you?
It’s everything. Like the surroundings that you grow up around has an influence on everything. So definitely, where I grew up and the people I grew up around influenced the style of music I do and the style of emceeing. Even just the content and the subject matter that I speak about in my music has a lot to do with where I’m from.
You also always come through with the Jamaican element in your music, and there’s a huge music culture out there. Would you ever make an out and out reggae/dancehall/bashment track? Or will Jamaica just always come through in your grime?
Jamaica will always come through in my style of music ‘cause that’s where I’m originally from. But in terms of doing a bashment tune – yeah probably.
Jadie: Do it!
Like I wouldn’t say never, it’s not something I’ve got on the cards at the moment but you never know. There’s a lot of songs I’ve done that haven’t been planned and they’ve just turned out good.
You’ve had a long and prestigious career in the scene so far, so what have been a couple highlights for you just off the top?
A couple highlights? Oooh…I’d say more recently the O2 Takeover, that was a big thing for us, that was definitely a highlight. The first time headlining Wireless and Glastonbury. What else? The first time I got a publishing deal for a track that I had called ‘Bringing It Home’, which was on Fully Grown and that was the first kinda situation that I had. I’ll tell you what was a highlight for me, realising that this could be a career ‘cause when I started doing music it was really just a hobby. It’s not like now where you jump into music with the aim to make it, where in my time no one was really making it from music like that.
So what was it that kept you motivated back then? When things weren’t looking sure what did you plan to do?
I didn’t have any other plans, there was music or road. There wasn’t ever really any other plan so the music really had to work because I kinda like stopped doing other things which were paying, to do music. It’s only because I love music so much that I stuck with it ‘cause music didn’t work for many years, even though people see it now and it looks good, but there were times when it wasn’t working.
Now that you’ve seen how well it’s going is there any advice you would give to your younger self? Or what advice would you give to anyone that was younger trying to come up?
I think the advice I woulda given to myself back then would have been to take it more serious. D’you get what I mean? Like the yutes now don’t have that much of a problem ‘cause they can see a lot of people around them, people they know have taken it serious and look where it’s got them. So, it’s more of an incentive for them to do music and be serious about it; whereas when I was starting I loved music but I wasn’t 100% committed to it because it wasn’t paying me at that time. But there was a 2-year period where I was doing music but wasn’t taking it that serious.
‘Cause think about it, I clashed Wiley in 2003 then from 2003 to maybe 2005/6 I wasn’t really taking music serious. I just thought “Ah I clashed Wiley, I got a little name now, got a little buzz now” but I wasn’t really doing anything with it. Within that time period Skep, Jamie (JME) they’ve progressed they’ve kept on growing, they’re doing Roll Deep now and whatever else so that was an incentive for me to say: rah d’you know what if I carried on with them man I probably would have been further as well. But I didn’t, I wasn’t taking it seriously. So when I did start to take it seriously in like 2006, that’s when I said I can see where this can go…and even then I didn’t see it going to where it is now.
You’ve recently released the 5th instalment of the ‘Back 2 Da Lab’ projects, what keeps you going back to that series?
Well, the last one came out in 2012 so it’s been a minute still. But it was just my first mixtape series that I started out, it’s just kept going and it’s something I can always go back to and kinda just be reckless with the music. You know, just put out shit that I wanna put out without having to think too much about it. That’s what ‘Back 2 Da Lab’ was for, it’s got to five series now and it’s gonna be the last one so there’ll be other stuff coming obviously.
What’s your current favourite track on the project?
Current favourite track on the project? Right that’s a good question, people would usually say what’s your favourite track on the project and I wouldn’t be able to answer, but if you’re saying my current favourite track probably ‘Good Feeling’.
Why that one out of all of them?
Because I’ve been performing it and it goes off! So now when I listen to it, it even means more.
You recently dropped the visuals to ‘Cricket’ off the project as well, how do you plan the visual releases alongside a new project release?
I just go with what I’m feeling, and obviously what the feedbacks been. With ‘Cricket’ I just done ‘Cricket’ ‘cause I wanted to do it. Like out of all the tracks, that [‘Cricket’] I’ve had the most feedback about. And this is what I’m especially happy about with this project, there’s not one track that everyone likes, there is one like ‘God Forgive Me’ everyone says ‘God Forgive Me’ but like generally it’s the whole mixtape. Or people will say that song or that song, some people say ‘Good Feeling’, some people say ‘Young Kings’, some people say will say ‘No Respect’, others will say ‘Invasion’, d’you get what I mean? So it’s a lot.
What’s the difference for you going into mixtape mode and album mode?
Mixtape mode I don’t really have to think about it, I can just let the music flow and not have any restraints or whatever. The album, the music flows as well but it’s a bit more strategic, it’s more thought out, it’s way more planned, and you put more thought into it, stretch your mind a bit more, speak about things you might not have spoken about before or certain things.
You said that ‘5’ is gonna be the last one in the series, how do you know when it’s the right time to stop a series of projects like that?
I just think now’s the right time because number ‘5’ is a good number to stop on, and I think the project itself is a good project to close it on. You just know when, there’s obviously artists that have come out and said they’ve stopped certain projects and then gone back to it. But I don’t know, I don’t think I would, like I said I got other projects and stuff I wanna get out. So yeah, but ‘Back 2 Da Lab’ like if you don’t know about this series I don’t know where you’ve been, but check it out from volume 1 up to volume 5 you’ll hear the growth, you’ll hear the evolution.
What’s kept you inspired throughout the years?
Just the love of the music, love of the music man. I’m just a fan of music, I’m a fan of the art form.
How have you managed to stay so relevant throughout your career without compromising or conforming to the sound that’s currently popular?
Like I said, I’m a fan of the music so I’m always gonna be current because I listen to what’s current and even though I listen to a lot of old school music too, I listen to what’s current. I don’t try to force it or reach too much to try and keep up with anything, but I think it’s very important to stay current and embrace the youth. So I embrace the youth and I share my platform with the youth, you know I think it’s important to do that.
Have you ever thought of moving into other business ventures, if you haven’t already, for example J2K and Crep Protect, Skepta and Mains etc.?
Well I’ve got The Den. That’s what I’ve been working on for the past three years and that’s gone from strength to strength so in terms of stuff outside of the music, and this is still kind of music related but a different avenue, that’s what I’m focussed on at the moment.
What’s your favourite thing that you’ve bought throughout your career?
Ahh man there’s been so many things I’ve bought and I thought…but you see me like I’m gassed then after a week, it’s like back to what’s the next thing. So I never get too gassed that I lose myself d’you get me, it’s like setting targets kinda thing. You set your target that you wanna get this and then you get it and you think alright cool I’ve got it now this is sick but after a while the novelty wears off a little bit so the next thing is you set yourself a new target. So like I said, its probably like whatever the time, at this time now I would probably say putting my studio together and stuff like that. Cause that’s been quite productive for me.
We can see the little ‘Back 2 Da Lab’ Air Forces over there in the corner, so what’s your favourite trainer of all time?
Ooooh ooooh, maybe the air force one. The plain white air force one maybe you know, that’s the most classical all round trainer you can wear with tracksuit, jeans, shorts, even a suit if you rock it right.
Jadie: That’s my favourite too!
I dunno if I can endorse that suit one still!
Nah don’t worry I’d show you how to do it and you’d be like rah, but the thing is not everyone can do it. You have to know, but yeah maybe the plain white air force one or…yeah probably the plain white air force one you know. Of all time? Yeah ’cause that’s a trainer that I’ve always had and always gone back to no matter what trainer comes out, I can always put on a fresh white air force one and they’ll look cris’ and just as good as any other trainers. So I think yeah, the plain white air force ones.
Calm so last one that’s off music, what’s your favourite kind of food?
Right now I’ve stopped eating red meat so it’s just chicken and fish at the moment. So my favourite dish probably would be fried Butterfish with steamed veg.
You proved yourself back in the day with the whole lyrical warfare era where there was a lot of clashes, so you’ve even clashed like you said with Wiley, you’ve clashed Scorcher. Though throughout grime’s lifespan what has been your favourite ever clash, including you or in general?
What’s my favourite clash? One of them would have been against Ghetts, when I clashed Ghetts that was spontaneous but the way I did it was cold, I was proud of myself I came through like a real solider, so that woulda been up there even though it was kinda short. I think Skeppy and Devilman was a sick clash, yeah I think those two.
Speaking of them kinda older dubs/clashes type things, how did the Boy Better Know and Movement kind of clash begin?
It’s just competitive nature man, we…at the time we were the two biggest crews in grime and we just thought we were the best and they thought they were the best. It was like two different styles of emceeing init. Like, whether you like how we do our ting – our ting was more punchlines and straight to the point, very clear bars like some of them would say it was more basic. Their ting was more tryna find pockets and say loads of words, whereas we always said we’re saying more than you though. You’re saying more words but it doesn’t mean more, what we’re saying means more so that was always our battle.
So where my ting was different, I had a bit of both – I had the Boy Better Know ting but I also had the more technical ting that them man used to love. So that’s why me and Ghetts have always got along and always done music. That’s where it stemmed from – the competitive nature, and then obviously Wiley’s clashed everyone and their mum so it probably started with Wiley going at Ghetts or Ghetts going at Wiley probably. Then it just trickled out into Skepta and me, cause really it was just me and Skepta.
So speaking of the Boy Better Know camp, how would you describe the dynamic between you lot?
It’s very organic man, it’s just very real and like before anything we’re all bredrins, we’re all friends. That’s why we’ve been able to maintain for so long because a lot of people come together from the music, but they don’t really get each other like that they probably get a lot of things that they don’t like about each other. Whereas with us…actually we all have like don’t get me wrong we’ve fallen out before, had arguments before but we all understand each other and all understand our role, the position that we each play and we respect each other equally, there’s no hierarchy. It’s just very real and very organic.
So you mentioned that everyone plays their role or position, what would you say your position within BBK is?
My position is just to be Frisco. That’s everyone’s position, to be themselves. My position is to be Frisco and not to be JME or Shorty or Skep. And Skep’s position is to be Skep, and JME’s position is to be JME and as long as we keep on doing that, that’s why it works so well because all of us combined we bring something that no one else can bring.
If you could work on a song in any capacity with an artist dead or alive who would you choose?
Vybz Kartel. Just a tune back to back. That’d be like me testing myself, saying right I wanna do a tune where we go verse for verse or back to back on the verses or whatever. If I hold it up in that then I know like, I’m certified.
That’s a mad collab still! I know you got a show coming up at Omeara, where can people get tickets, what’s the date?
31st of July. If you’re reading this now, click here, buy Ticketmaster, Live Nation yeah.
What can people expect from the show?
Just madness, just expect pure vibes, sick energy, greatness. Good performances, special guests, the whole nine you get me.
So aside from this show coming up, what’s next from you individually or as BBK?
I can’t give away too much, but just know that for me right now I’m working on The Den. Like getting The Den out there worldwide so we’ve done a couple shows in Europe so far. We did our first show abroad in Bulgaria, we did another show in Prague, we got a show in Stuttgart coming up in September, and next year we’re gonna be on some big stages so right now just look out for The Den.
Right now I just wanna share that platform not just to people in the UK but to also take it abroad, I’m getting local artists out on the bill as well as the main artists from whichever area I’m in. Shout out Smack, we were in Prague the other day and he’s like the main artist over there, he came down and shelled it.