The video for “On Me” featuring Manga Saint Hilare and Strict Face is out now on GRM Daily. It was important to me to have the video hosted there because the song is a classic UK grime homage and their channel is the go-to place for new British rap music of all kinds. It’s really exciting to have been influenced by all these artists from the UK over the years and then have my track sitting side by side with them today. Getting Manga on the song was another important part of building that transatlantic connection, shout out to Freeza Chin for making the introduction.
Freeza mixed and mastered my last record from 2018 and I saw last year that he worked on Manga’s most recent album Make It Out Alive. I listened to that record and heard so many stylistic parallels between the two of us. I was already familiar with Manga’s work as a member of Roll Deep, particularly on the blistering song “F’Off.” I randomly came across Australian producer Strict Face’s album New Racer a few years ago and sent him a DM and we bounced some ideas back and forth. I suggested we make some old school grime inspired by early Danny Weed instrumentals and he sent me back a beat that was titled “One For Rollie.” And was it ever! Something about the slinky bounce of the beat made me think of a chase scene. Around the same time, I read an article in the New York Times about a company called Clearview AI which featured this image from their marketing materials:
Clearview AI is like something ripped directly out of a science fiction movie: a search engine for faces. I mean, come on, the name of their company is even pretty close to SkyNet. Corporations have used the technology to background check potential employees. Before it was widely known by the public, the rich and powerful used it as a party trick. Somehow, the fictionalized, dystopian future of ‘80s and ‘90s films has incrementally crept into our present day reality. I was particularly interested in the racial dynamics around law enforcement using this technology where there was the ever-present threat of mistaken identity. I recall reading an article about how facial recognition technology being designed by white coders who couldn’t differentiate between black faces caused their racial bias to be baked into the applications they designed.
That got me thinking about how pervasive surveillance has become in everyday life. Like Jim Carrey’s obsession with numbers in his unintentionally hilarious film The Number 23, I started to see surveillance everywhere I looked. Google and Facebook sold my consumer profile to the highest bidder. Opting into social media meant willingly presenting myself to be surveilled by my friends, family and fans. We unlock our phones with our faces and fingerprints. On a trip to LA with my girlfriend, she said something about Fenty Beauty. I was served an ad for the brand on my phone ten minutes later.
The most recent iPhone updates finally give us the option of deciding whether or not we want to be tracked by every app we use. But take note of the sneaky way that they dole out this choice: by placing the Allow button where we’ve been conditioned for decades to expect to click No.
This UX design shows what these companies want: your data. For the video, we wanted to tap into the theme of surveillance by making everything look like security footage. Produced and directed by Scott Pilgrim, he coordinated three different shoots in three cities: one with me shot by Sara Mojtehedzadeh (who performs the vocals at the end of the song) in Toronto, one with Manga filmed by Zeynep Ağcabay in London and another in Montreal with Samuel Olaechea shooting the individual TVs with the footage on them, all edited by Cameron Morse. I really enjoyed the postmodernity of this setup. A perfect pandemic production! It looks like the UK has taken notice:
Grime music has routinely been one of the most surveilled and policed music genres in history so the subject matter felt particularly fitting. And filming the video primarily using obsolete CRT televisions that are outside of the purview of modern surveillance felt symbolic as well. The video for “On Me” is out now on GRM Daily.
ICYMI, I’m touring the United States with my good friend Fat Tony this coming fall:
9/30 - Denver, CO - Hi-Dive
10/2 - Chicago, IL - The Empty Bottle
10/3 - Cleveland, OH - Beachland Tavern
10/6 - Brooklyn, NY - The Sultan Room
10/8 - Atlanta, GA - The Earl
10/13 - Houston, TX - White Oak Music Hall (Upstairs)
10/15 - Austin, TX - Far Out Lounge
10/16 - Fort Worth, TX - Wild Acre Live
10/20 - Los Angeles, CA - Zebulon
10/21 - San Francisco, CA - Bottom of the Hill
10/22 - Portland, OR - Polaris Hall
10/23 - Seattle, WA - Clock Out