British rap star, Loyle Carner

Despite the laid-back flow and mellow beats, late 90s jazz-inflected tributes to A Tribe Called Quest, Slum Village and Guru, Loyle Carner’s songs are intimate, confessional affairs dealing with family, loss and the passage from youth to adulthood.

His debut EP A Little Late opens with BFG, featuring a sample of Donnie and Joe Emerson’s “Baby”, with the heartbreaking line “Everybody says I’m sad/Of course I’m sad, I miss my dad” – a reference to the man he’d lost in the months leading up to its recording and who he honours by often wearing his dad’s favourite player Eric Cantona’s Manchester United number 9 shirt when gigging. More recently he’s collaborated on tracks with Kwes and Kate Tempest, both of which can found on his SoundCloud.

We caught up with Loyle during his recent tour to discuss how he’s managed to carve out his own niche in the industry, on his own terms.

Has this been your first proper solo tour?

We had a small tour last year but it was only four dates so it didn’t really count in my eyes. I’d say this is our first proper, proper tour.

Domesticity is a bit of a recurring theme throughout your songs and videos – have you missed being away from home at all?

I miss my mum and brother a lot but other than that it’s cool. I enjoy being on the road; it’s nice to get away for a bit to clear your head. We’ve got a good little team here, all of us are friends. It’s nice and easy, kind of like being on holiday.

How much of a part do you play in making the videos?

Everything, in essence, comes from me. I have the concept and ideas, storyboard it out and then draw people in who share my vision for it and understand what I want to do. I work with friends quite a lot of the time – I think it’s easier, you’re kind of already on the same wavelength. You’re not trying to battle someone else creatively. That’s usually how it works.

Your lyrics are often very personal, how do you find performing and having to speak about them time and again?

It’s difficult to find that space everyday because you’re playing shows day after day. Sometimes you can struggle to find that same emotional connection and honesty, it’s quite exhausting. But I enjoy it, I do. It’s therapeutic for me, to be making sense of things and each time takes on new meaning depending on where I am and who’s there and who’s listening. And sometimes it depends on the day – some days I’d rather not talk about things. These are things I’ve written about and I’m glad I did.

Do you think you’ll always be the kind of writer that draws from personal experience?

Yeah – I write for myself and to make sense of the things that I can’t talk about properly to friends or family. So yeah always, I think that’s where my music will sit.

How does it feel to be part of a burgeoning UK grime and hip-hop scene, and how much of an influence was it growing up?

Grime was a huge part of my early youth and still is, the older stuff as opposed to newer stuff – it was the first kind of music I really listened to alongside rap and hip hop. Although I always really put them in the same bracket because I used to spend a lot of time watching Channel U [now Channel AKA] and that would play Skinny Man then Getz – but it’s been a massive part of my upbringing. In terms of contemporaries, UK music in general and everything that comes under the umbrella of writing rhymes is getting more attention at the moment and rightly so. I’m just excited for the scene.