Visionobi is an anomaly among D&B MCs…
2018 marks 20 years since he first put pen to paper, yet he’s never had a birthday bash. He went from the underground to breaking through into the mainstream winning Best MC in the Drum&BassArena Awards and was Wilkinson’s MC of choice for several years, before heading back underground where he flourishes on some of the deepest, boundary blurring labels in the game. He’s a halftime MC in a doubletime world. He’s never once had a big public beef. Yet, like all the best barsmiths, he’s defiantly remained singular and faces every challenge head on to create his own space and signature in a highly competitive game.
That signature and space have been compounded lately with his debut EP; Trapped Spirit. Following tracks with the likes of Artificial Intelligence, GLXY & Hugh Hardie, Gerra & Stone and Nitri, Trapped Spirit is his first full artist release. Four tracks deep, coming courtesy of Dispatch, it captures the London MC’s narrative, often politically charged, conscious and introspective style beyond the live shows he’s best known for. And the beats are supplied by a rollcall as vital as his lyrics as DBR UK, Tephra & Arkoze, Icognito & Phentix and Melinki all deliver.
A blazing beacon on his ongoing MC excursions, Trapped Spirit marks the start of a new chapter for Visionobi as he continues to develop the studio side of his skills and build up his recording repertoire. With an album well under way, plus his Rogue Jedi project about to drop with long time sparring partners Joe Raygun and Taelimb, Visionobi’s unique trajectory is about to raise again in 2019. Here’s where he’s at…
First artist release. That’s gotta be big bucket list business?
Spot on. I’ve always wanted to put out music as well as perform. Even as a nipper I was writing and wanted to do something more tangible than shows. I love the live environment, but it’s important as an artist to release music and have that outlet. I’m moving towards putting out as much music as possible but stuff moves slowly and this EP is a big landmark. It’s also fitting that the EP is on Dispatch because Ant TC1 took me on when I stopped working with Wilkinson and the more commercial side of the scene. He got me on his agency and supported me since then so it’s fitting my first EP is on his label.
Yeah that’s nice. So how far do these go back? I remember you playing me tracks two years ago were they the early incarnations of the tracks on the EP?
Quite possibly! I can’t remember what I played you but I do bank things for projects. I’ve got an album folder where tracks are collecting and they won’t see the light of day until the album eventually materialises. There are bars that must be at least seven years old, maybe even longer. That’s how it works sometimes; I want my album to be perfect so everything I’m really happy with I just bank.
When you bank some bars or lyrics do you leave them on that track or do you still perform them live?
Interesting question. I think because I work on a conceptual basis it’s easy for me to know if something is going to be for the album or something I’d do live or on mixes.
So they’re two different writing approaches?
In a way. I definitely know what I’m writing for once a concept has been formed. In terms of the album, I have such a clear idea for it and already know what it’s going to be called.
I’m not ready to confirm that yet, but I do have a very clear plan of how it’s going to work out. So it’s easy for me to know if I’ve got a perfect album track. I work with a lot of different producers and if something really works for the album then I clear it with them and bank it. It’s a long process but that’s how I have to do it right now with a full time job and shows every weekend.
It’s mad you already know the title and concept. I was going to sign off with the obligatory album question, you’ve kinda ruined that for me now!
Ha! It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and had in my head. I’ve got five tracks ready, a few more in progress. I want to have a lot more before I go to any labels I have in mind. The interesting thing is that I’m not signed to any label. But a lot of the artists I’m working with are. So I need to clear every producer as a featured artist.
That’s quite a lot of moving parts
Yeah there’s some things to manoeuvre but I’m new to that technique, I think that’s how it’s done on most MC’s albums. Look at DRS’s albums, he’s set the blueprint there within drum & bass. I’m inspired by him so much, his output is just incredible.
There’s some nice parallels between you and DRS; lyrically you share ideas around escapism through music and creativity and the catharsis of writing. There’s a lot of self finding and coming to terms with shitness in life.
Thanks man we had a nice conversation at Phonox at Calibre’s night a while back and ended up having a mad b2b session between him, Lowqui, SP, Linguistics and myself. It was nuts and a real moment for me. I spoke to Del for a while and I thanked him for his energy. There are two MCs who really set the parameters for me; Stew SP who taught me I could be a halftime MC in drum & bass and Del just wrote the book didn’t he? He embodies everything I love about MC culture and that’s inspirational. We’ve chatted about how we’ve got a similar energy and message, hearing that from him was very humbling. You can see it in the music we make and I think that’s partly because I listened to him for so long. He’s had a profound impact on me and it’s humbling to talk to him about that or to hear those comparisons .
Also singing wise… There’s a little bit of that on the Chirality mix you did with GLXY. Did you write that hook for that Tokyo Prose tune?
I did yeah and madly Del also does a singing bit to that tune on his and Luke LSB’s Space Cadet mix.
Ha! Mad coincidence or did you do that subliminally?
Nah not at all, I hadn’t heard their mix until we’d done ours. I worked on that mix for a long time and wrote specific bars for tracks like Untitled Horn and Bitter. I hadn’t gone in on a mix and felt really inspired by a lot of things. I actually moved in with Jon from GLXY and I have an amazing girlfriend who articulates herself very well and inspires me so much. That month and a half I put on the mix was the most productive time I’ve ever had. And that singing bit was actually inspired by my girlfriend. A nice bit of cheesiness there for you.
Cheese is good! Biggup to GLXY, too. The mix is fire
It is. I love doing mixes. Love love love them. I’m bad for remembering tune names but mixes I can always remember. I’m really happy with this one. It was very special because we’ve got a strong connection and they draft me up for shows. We’ve got chemistry in a live environment and you can hear it on the mix.
What your thoughts on being a free agent MC or being the main MC for one DJ?
I’ve got an interesting view on this because I’ve done both. I love working with specific people and building up that relationship and vibe. But I prefer it now that I have a group of people who I work with regularly. That’s wicked because I love mixing it up and having variety. I think it’s important to keep things healthy. Those relationships can get a bit stale.
Yeah there’s a danger of resting on your laurels…
Absolutely. I have to admit I did for a while, during the time when I was operating in a more commercial field and doing big shows, I wasn’t happy and felt like I was being advised or guided to change how I do things. So now getting the chance to go back to the deeper realms and work with people who inspire me and do shows for Dispatch, Shogun, Metalheadz, Spearhead and Hospital is crazy. I’ve been in various folds over the years and have been able to dip into them which is so fulfilling, it’s nice to explore all the sides and subgenres and emotions you get from all those different labels. It’s incredible, and I’m truly happy to be in the position I am. I’m in awe with these guys who’ve taken me on and I’ve risen to the challenge they set with their benchmarks. When the Wilkinson thing fell apart for a while I thought ‘shit, how’s this going to work? How will I do this?’ I couldn’t’ see how I’d get to work with all these people and be in this place within three years.
Now doing your own nights for Fabric…
Yeah that one is a crazy one! That was my stomping ground in my teens and throughout uni whenever we could get back to London. I’ve got to give them a big shout out; Pack London believe in me and I can’t actually believe I’ve been asked. I’m so buzzing for that.
Was picking the line up like a kid in a candy store situation?
Yeah within budgetary reason! I’ve pulled in a lot of favours and I’m so grateful for everyone who’s coming down to play, the line up reflects what I’m about and the people and friends I love working with. It’s going to be wicked and I’ve already had a few promoters contact me about nights moving forward. I’ve always dabbled in a bit of promotion so it will be good to get back into the fold, I’ve always loved running nights.
You got a love that MC line up for that night too… Nice to see Deeizm on the list!
I love what she does! I saw her at Sun And Bass 2010 and was blown away. I don’t think she’s taking gigs at the moment but she agreed to do it which was amazing. I think, in terms of the line up in general it’s just about celebrating sounds and skills across the board, bringing people through or supporting acts who’ve really inspired me. I want to bring like-minded people together and grow this beautiful thing we’ve got, help each other and represent the music in the best way possible.
Lovely. What’s next? Sounds like your Rogue Jedi stuff with Taelimb and Joe Raygun is about to pop?
Yeah that’s heating up nicely, we’ve got eight tracks ready to go and you can expect more on that front very soon. I’ve also got a release on Sun And Bass Recordings, a track with Mikal and continued work on the album, working with as many talented people as possible. I’ve also got a folder of tracks from guys who’ve sent me tracks that I’ll be working on over Christmas and just continuing on the path I’m on. It’s been a nice gradient every year, I’m so happy with the progress I’ve made just and thankful to be involved in this awesome scene…
Visionobi – Trapped Spirit is out now on Dispatch
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