A dynamic duo, in more ways than one. Eksman, the legendary drum & bass MC, and J Mulla, his 17-year-old son, have joined forces after Jaydan (J Mulla) follows in his dad’s footsteps, pursuing his own career as an artist. Coining the genre drill’n’bass, J Mulla has brilliantly sculpted his own unique style, taking inspiration from his dad and then twisting it into his own beast.
To celebrate Father’s Day – yes, salute to all the dads out there working hard to raise good human beings – we are celebrating their story by digging deeper into the inner workings of their artistry and of course, their relationship as father and son.
Eksman and Jaydan, also known as, J Mulla! How are you both?
Eksman: We’re good, thank you.
J Mulla: It’s hot… but we’re good.
With it being Father’s Day, we were keen to speak with you guys about the amazing musical journey that you’re on as father and son. Do you celebrate Father’s Day in your house? Is it a thing?
Eksman: Yeah definitely! I mean, he’s at an age now where he can start giving me something for all the hard years I’ve put in…
Eksman: Nah but seriously we do, it’s nice. We always go out and have some food.
J Mulla: We always have a good time together when we go out so it’s good to do so as much as we can.
Do you have any siblings or is it just you Jaydan?
J Mulla: Just me!
Eksman: Makes it less expensive that way…
I like your style. Alright, let’s kickstart with you Jaydan. When did you first realise that you also wanted to be an artist and how did things progress from there?
J Mulla: I did my first bar when I was 4 years old to my Grandad. I’d always see Dad rapping so I kind of picked it up from him and then as I got a bit older, he put me on Independence Day. That was the first time I’ve ever recorded anything. I grew up listening to drill so I started off playing around with that sort of music but it was sort of natural that the drum & bass route happened… It runs in the family!
It sure does. It’s lovely you’ve been so inspired by your dad. Let’s talk about your style, which you’ve coined as drill’n’bass. You’ve carved out quite a niche there. What inspired this formula?
J Mulla: I’ve sort of created my own sort of sound. Obviously, people my age, especially around where I live, don’t really listen to d&b. They’ll listen to what’s current in the charts and because that’s been drill, I took that sound and sort of sped it up to a d&b tempo… and called it drill’n’bass.
Eksman: The thing is, drum & bass MCs have all grown up listening to drum & bass MCs, a lot of them have been inspired by people like me, Skiba, Shabba and then as time has gone on maybe Azza and Grima. But when he was growing up, he didn’t listen to d&b. He’s not been inspired by the drum & bass MC. He’s been listening to drill MCs. Therefore, as a drum & bass MC, his style is completely different to anyone else. People hadn’t heard his style over d&b before. It’s so original and authentic. It’s a mixture of drill and drum & bass and I must say, ever since he’s started doing it we’ve seen a load of people doing that kind of style, it’s become quite popular. It’s so easy to digest because it’s not double time. It’s between double-time and half-time. It’s a completely different pace.
And you two deciding to work together, was it something that was always in the works or was it a lil convo in the kitchen, over breakfast… What happened?
Eksman: So I did my first mix with Maji in 2003. I remember I got Jaydan on the mic and he was like ‘You’re listening to Eksman, the best man’ he was so young he could barely talk! I might have to post that actually, you know… and then later on, we did another mixtape and got him involved. He must’ve been about 10 at the time. He did a little 16 bar and at the end of it I said ‘Watch out for him’. It’s mad how it’s actually all panned out. Then, as he got older, I was like ‘You know what, let’s do something, let’s come together’. So we started with some 16+ raves first…
Is that because of your age at the time, Jaydan?
J Mulla: Yeah I was only 14 so it wouldn’t have been right for me to have been in those clubs at that time which was fine by me.
Eksman: So we did those and I guess they were like a warm-up, getting him used to stuff. Then we did NASS, and then we put out a couple of tunes together. As he hit 16/17, I thought, you know what, I’ve heard his bars, I’ve seen his work. He’s ready to step out. It’s time to get him into the real clubs. So at the beginning of this year, we did it properly. We thought about what we’d do, I had a chat with my agent and he was gassed, he really wanted to get behind it and then he sorted a load of dates for us. I think we kickstarted it with 7/8 dates. And now every time we go out, it just gets better and better.
J Mulla: Definitely. It just gets more polished. It’s always improving.
Jaydan, how was that for you having your dad – who is also a legendary drum & bass MC – give you the seal of approval? Was that a big thing for you?
J Mulla: Honestly… I didn’t think too much of it until things started to happen. Then, I saw what it was like performing at a drum & bass rave. I saw the craft. Before my first performance with my dad, I’d never seen him perform before. I’ve never seen a live set. It made me realise it’s not just getting on the mic and rapping, there’s a real craft behind it. That’s actually what made me like it even more, it’s an art form. It’s not something you can just do, it takes practice.
Eksman: When I think about it – I’m not going to lie – I’m quite harsh on him! I’m harsh because I want him to be one of the best. If there is anyone out there that I want to be better than me, to outdo me on stage, to go further than me, it’s my son. When we come back from shows, I’ll give him feedback but I’ll make sure to say to him ‘Even though I’m hard on you, never feel like you’re not doing great, because you are standing up on the stage going toe-to-toe with someone who has been doing this for 27+ years’. I just want him to be better than me… although some people already think he already is!
Is there any aspect of performing as an MC that’s taken you by surprise, Jaydan?
J Mulla: All of the rapping parts were second nature because of being in the studio. It was more the crowd control side of things, but that comes with being confident. At first, I found the talking in between the bars a bit kind of hard to get my head around. I thought ‘What am I supposed to say’ I’m not talking to anyone directly, this isn’t a conversation! But the more confident you get, you just know. You’re more happy to be yourself on stage.
Eksman: He’s held it really well so far though. We did a gig in Birmingham recently and there were 3/4000 people! Everything is about experience and I tell him that. The difference between us is that I started off as a radio MC, and my breathing wasn’t correct so when I got into a rave, I couldn’t get my lyrics out. He’s come in as a recording artist, so he’s naturally got the lungs for it and his style works a lot with the music. He’s really growing in confidence though. For example, we went out a few weeks back, I’d done 7 shows that weekend and I was thinking ‘damn’ but at one show, it got to a point where Jaydan was holding up the set and I was thinking ‘this is good.’
Haha! A little break for you. Perfect. Jaydan – what are your aspirations with your music, would you like to follow in your Dad’s footsteps or do you have other goals in mind?
J Mulla: Honestly, in terms of following Dad’s footsteps, I’d love to. As a job, it’s something that some people dream to do. Going to other countries, performing in clubs and making a living out of it… I’d love to do that. I’d also like to go down the artist route, not just as an MC. I’m quite versatile, I can do lots of different styles. I’d like to showcase that I can do more than drum & bass, more than drill & bass, more than drill. I’d just like to get my talent recognised and show people what I can do.
Eksman: The thing is he’s great in the studio. When we’re recording, I’ll do like 5 takes and he’ll step up and just fire it out on time, on point. It’s inspiring to me to see it. His age group don’t come into the industry as MCs, they come in as artists, and they make tracks and that’s what I’d like to see him do. He’s got something special. But before you become an artist, you need to do the groundwork. Some artists go out onto big stages and they can’t project their voice without straining it, they don’t know how to work a crowd. So he’s 17 right now, he’s training that side of him and as the years go on and he hits those big stages, he’ll know how to work the crowd.
Time to get into the nitty gritty… Jaydan, what’s it been like having a parent that works in music and is quite often out working unsociable hours, at raves, travelling a lot etc?
J Mulla: People think it’s unsociable hours but really, it’s the weekend so he’s out the same time I’m out and actually, through the week, after school, he’s always there. It’s not as bad as people think. I always find it kind of cool. Someone might say ‘What do your parents do’, they’ll say ‘My dad’s an accountant’. I say ‘My dad’s a rapper!’.
Eksman: You call me a rapper yeah? I didn’t know that!
Aw, that’s nice! You look happy about that, Eks! Then from your side of things Eksman, how tough is it doing what you do whilst being a parent?
Eksman: As he said, during the week, you might get the odd thing in the nighttime. So when he was younger, he was always in bed when I was going out to do shows during the week. And then as he’s gotten older, he’s out doing his thing so it’s never been an issue at all. Obviously, on the weekends I might be sleeping through the day for a bit but on the weekdays, I’ve always been around. I’ve always been firm with him getting his education, I’ve always been on point with the schooling until he gets to a certain age where he can decide for himself. But as I said, through the week, there’s no change. It’s actually a great thing about the job because you do get to spend that time with your children. Normally, people are out 9-5.
J Mulla: Absolutely. We eat dinner at the same time every night. He’s always there.
As Jaydan has gotten older and wanted to pursue his artistry, have you worried about the darker side of the industry that he might be exposed to? The drugs, the late nights in random cities etc…
Eksman: He’s very much like me, he’s very reserved, very calm. I’ve never been into any of that, I don’t promote any of that and he’s not been brought up around any of that so I just know that he wouldn’t go down that route. It’s not him as a person.
J Mulla: If I was immature, then maybe he’d worry, but a lot of people say I’m very mature for my age, which I am. I don’t come across like a 17-year-old. Because of my maturity, things like that aren’t a worry. At the end of the day, I know what’s good and what’s bad.
Eksman: I’ve seen him around, even when he came to the birthday bash, there were loads of people there and there are some characters in d&b, as you know. I saw the way he handles things and talked to people. I’ve never had to worry about that. The worry for me would be how he conducts himself in an environment to make sure he’s handling himself properly. When he’s around people, to always be respectful. Which I know he is. These are the things that I want to drill into him. The respect, the morals. I know he’s got it already but I reiterate these things because promoters don’t want artists turning up to an event with five people and those five people are causing issues, for example. It’s a job. When you arrive, you do your work, you’re respectful, you perform to the best of your ability, you don’t get caught up in any palavers or dramas and you go home.
Eksman – what traits have you picked up from parenthood that have helped you in your work/made you change the way you work?
Eksman: I think being a parent naturally makes you more compassionate, a lot softer. When you have a child, it opens up a whole new side of you. In my younger years, not so much, but at my age now, definitely. There are a lot of young people in the clubs now so when I talk to them, I’m just a bit more mindful that they’re young people, potentially new to the clubs and these environments. You’re more conscientious. It kind of changes the way you interact with them because you think ‘Some of these people could be the same age as my son.’
What’s the future for you guys collaborating together?
Eksman: We’ve been going out as Eksman and J Mulla but we’ve branded it now. It’s called MTM which stands for ‘more than music’ because obviously, we’re family. So, that’s how we’re branding it. Sometimes we’ll still just go out and MC but with this specific show, we’ve tried to formulate it as a properly curated showcase. We will be putting out a load of songs together so – we want to use them. Our showcase is about trying to not just always go out and do the normal MCing. We perform tracks together, and then we’ll go into the live MCing thing. Every new tune we do we’ll make it part of the showcase and the showcase itself will be carefully crafted every time. It’s rehearsed so that it’s the best we can make it.
My final question for both of you… Eksman, what would you say to a parent that has a child that wanted to pursue a creative venture or become an artist?
Eksman: I’d say just support them all the way but don’t force it. There are some people out there that push a certain role or career path onto their kids but if your kid wants to do something and they’re passionate about it, of course you support them. You help them in every way to help them get there.
Totally… and Jaydan, do you have any advice for young people wanting to pursue a career similar to their parents, whether it be music or otherwise?
J Mulla: I’d say; if you’re inspired and you want to follow in their footsteps, take into account what they do and put your own twist on it. Don’t be afraid to do something different from your role model, especially if it’s your parent.
Any final words guys?
Eksman: I just want to say how proud I am of Jaydan. He’s in his own lane. He’s still in education and he’s doing all the things he’s meant to be doing but he’s also really excelling with his music. I’m just massively proud of him and what he’s doing. Finally, happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there putting that time and effort into their children and giving them that important guidance. Keep up the great work.
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