Verb T is an immensely talented rapper/producer who is signed to High Focus Records, who carry the mother load of U.K hip hop artists. Aside from his vast catalogue of solo work, he is also a member of supergroup The Four Owls, alongside Fliptrix, BVA and Leaf Dog. He is currently working on getting his own record label on the go also, In The Balance records. Chillman will be the first artist to debut material on the label with his album ‘Abstract Patterns’. The album has been in the making for 2-3 and is solely produced by Verb T. Today, he also was featured on a track with Irish hip hop group This Side Up called ‘Signs’, which can be viewed here. We caught up with him to discuss the album, his work with the Owls and loads more.
How involved were you in the making of Chillman’s album? Was it just a case of handing over beats?
“For me as producer it’s really important for me to be fully part of it. Especially because he’s young guy, he’s 21. He’s recorded and released music before with his crew Verbal Highz, but I had a really specific vision of how I wanted the songs to come out. The lyrics and the topics are all him but I did have a lot input in every stage of recording. He did some of it on his own, but when it came to mixing and everything, I was very much involved.”
Who are your main influences in terms of production?
“I think Q-Tip is the cornerstone of it all. I’m also a big fan of DJ Premier, RZA, J Dilla, Madlib. They might be considered obvious names, but I think those are people who made a huge mark on hip hop production. The first Slum Village album was quite inspirational for me, but Q-Tip is the main one because he kinda changed the way people sampled. He changed what they sampled with jazz, funk and records from other countries. Obviously Premier and Pete Rock did that too, but I think Q-Tip has a very distinctive feel to his music. He also worked closely with Havoc and Dilla too and I think that line of producers is what inspired me. It’s tough at the same time though because you don’t want to sound too much like them and it would be incredibly arrogant of me to think I could replicate that. I just take that inspiration and try to carve out my own thing over time.”
What has been the proudest achievement of your career so far?
“It’s a tough one man. I guess there’s different things. When we did the Four Owls second album and we had a DJ Premier track on there. That was like a life time goal to work with him. If you had of told me when I was a kid that that would happen, I might not have believed you. But also just the fact that there’s been a constant progression in what I’m doing. It feels like I’m more in demand and performing more. It’s not about sales, but there’s more of an appreciation for my music now than there has been at any point. It’s been a slow incline but it feels like there’s constant progression which is good.”
A lot of your lyrics are very personal and detail things about you we might not otherwise know. Are you ever hesitant to release any of that material?
“I try not to censor myself. For me, that’s the type of music I like. I try not to make it too upfront though. I try to use wordplay and metaphors which sometimes people get and sometimes they don’t. It might not be clear enough sometimes. When I’m not restricting myself creatively is when I’m at my best, even if that means I get kinda personal. When people relate to something personal they feel the music tenfold because they can tell it’s from the heart. That’s the sort of connection is what I live for when making music. I get nervous before any album I drop. I think ‘have I made a mistake’ or ‘should I have done more of this’. But I kind of feel like the way I work best creatively, is to just let it go. It’s tough because you don’t wanna just put it out there half-arsed. I listen back to stuff I’ve recorded over and over again and pick out all the little details, especially from a technical point of view.”
How has U.K hip hop evolved since your career began?
“It has had it’s ups and downs but I feel like it’s improved in terms of sonics. You’ve got people making very high quality sounding music. You’ve always had top class producers in the U.K but I think now, there’s more of them. At the same time, when the quality is higher you get more people making music in general and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The stuff that’s really timeless will stand out still. I think competition is good and it’s good to see so many people are embracing hip hop and are wanting to express themselves through that. There’s always that stigma when you mention UK hip hop. I try not to make that distinction, it’s just hip hop. It’s not one of those things I sit and think much about. I just make good music. There’s a lot of love across Europe for what people are doing all across the U.K so it’s definitely good at the moment.”
Is there a sense of friendly competition when recording with the Four Owls?
“There definitely is and it’s something that we all acknowledge but it’s never really spoken about. We give each other respect where it’s due. There’s not really any digs at each other or anything like that. Well not really. Sometimes we say “you’re the wack one” or something like that. The thing about the Four Owls is that we always work together rather than try to out do each other. On one hand, every MC thinks they’re the best or whatever and that is what it is. But at the same time with all of us, we wanna shine on the track. Because the first album was received so well, we still have that to live up to every time. The focus is always gonna be on making the overall product the best it can be. We always try to have specific topics for songs. There are some very serious and heartfelt tracks and when your writing for them, you’re not thinking ‘I’m gonna kill this guy’. You just want to do the track justice.”
What are you working on at the moment?
“Well there’s the Chillman ‘Abstract Patterns’ album that I produced. I’m also producing an album for Moreone for In The Balance records, which I’m pretty excited about. It’s sounding good. In terms of stuff with me rapping on, I’m working on another project with Illinformed. Also I’m working on stuff with Pitch from Mouse Outfit. I dunno how long those will take but we’re well on the way and we’ve got a couple of tracks down. I’m at the stage now where I’m not trying to rush anything I don’t have the same sense of urgency. Hopefully I start making songs that I feel are gonna stand the test of time. Where I had to finish a verse the same night I had started it previously, now I’m taking time to get each word perfect. I kinda feel like there’s no point in me making albums now unless it’s my best work. It sounds a bit frank to say, but I’m not gonna let anything go out unless it’s on another level to what has come before it. That’s the key for me. It has to better each time.”
What song do you feel best represents you as an artist?
“In terms of my production, ‘Defeat Stress’ by Chillman. That’s one song that when I made it, I instantly knew it would go down well. I sent it to Chillman and he just nailed it exactly how I wanted him to. As a rapper, man it’s hard because I feel there’s two sides to me. There’s the side like ‘Where You Find Me’ which is from a comical point of view, even though I am talking about stuff in it. At the same time it’s funny though because I’m from quiet a serious thing of being a bit paranoid to go outside, which isn’t necessarily a joke. That’s also probably my most popular song. And then ‘Foggy Eyes’ and ‘First Stone’ from my project with Illinformed. There’s more metaphors and imagery in those. I thought a lot about those songs. I guess it’d be between those three.”