Tab Interview: Scroobius Pip
Scroobius Pip talks to JACK RIVLIN about his new album, being British and why he hated Trinity Hall June Event. Listen to new track Get Better here.
Scroobius Pip is a man who knows where he comes from. Despite his cosmopolitan outlook, and his belief that he can crack America, his music is indelibly tinged with Britishness. It’s no surprise then that the 28-year old rapper’s second album with DJ Dan Le Sac retains the concern with the state of the nation that made him a cult hit in the first place. Scroobius Pip’s best known hit is still his debut single, Thou Shalt Always Kill, a preaching polemic aimed at educating Britain’s youth. That track spawned a record deal for ‘Le Sac vs. Pip’ and the pair, who met working at HMV, had soon produced a similarly instructive debut album, Angles.
Thou Shalt Always Kill
Logic of Chance marks Pip and Le Sac’s return and it is in many ways a similar offering. Certainly the polemics are there, and they’re more direct than ever. Get Better instructs the under-privileged to go out and improve themselves, while Stake a Claim sees Pip urging citizens to make use of their vote. “This time round I haven’t sugar-coated things, I’ve just told people what I’m feeling,” he explains. There are still the story-based tracks: he’s particularly proud of Cowboi, “a song about attempted rape with an uplifting and positive message.”
What holds the musically varied Logic of Chance together is a very British focus. Scroobius Pip is a product of the society he lives in, and his problematic relationship with his country is obvious even before you listen to Great Britain, where the rapper’s bipolar patriotism is played out on the topic of knife crime. It’s energetic, tense and easily the best track on the album. I ask if he is patriotic and Scroobius gives a typically confused response: “I’ve got a lot of pride about Britain but patriotism has quite negative connotations. If you go past a pub and see an England flag hanging outside you think ‘I don’t want to go in there.’ It shouldn’t be that way.”
With a British outlook comes that famous national affliction: class-consciousness. The son of a factory worker, Pip hails from Stanford-le-Hope, a small town in Essex, and this has inevitably coloured his outlook on the world. When I tell Scroobius he looked bored at Trinity Hall Event in 2008, he responds, “I’m a little Essex lad and it was all very posh. There were a lot of people keen to express their wealth and coming where I come from, that was odd.”
Not that he is angry. For all his social concern and confused patriotism, Scroobius Pip is self-proclaimed “cheery chap:” “My music can come across as quite preachy but I’m not saying I’ve got all the answers. I just want to provoke thought. You can have a discussion without being angry, and at the end of the day music is about enjoyment.” He has time for his fans, even their strange requests: “Plenty of people ask to touch the beard, and as long as they’re respectful and gentle I don’t mind.”
I point out that many listeners will probably miss the message in his lyrics and he’s untroubled: “You can listen to music on the level you wish to. It’s all got its place and its worth. Someone once described James Blunt and Dido as music for people who aren’t into music. I think that’s true but it doesn’t have to be an insult.” It’s a remarkably restrained statement from someone who cares passionately about the quality of popular music and has been outspoken in his encouragement for listeners to develop their faculties: Le Sac vs Pip’s 2008 single, Fixed subverted Dizzee Rascal’s Fix Up Look Sharp to question the role of money as a motivation for producing music, and he has been openly critical of contemporary pop music.
But this restraint is understandable given Pip’s passion for moral wellbeing. It’s an outlook which means he’s avoided the corruption that fame and fortune can bring: he’s been in a relationship for three years now, and Le Sac vs Pip are signed to independent label, Sunday Best. “Me and Dan have probably benefited from starting our musical careers a little late in life,” he explains. “If you don’t have any targets other than making money, once you’ve got it you’re not going to improve anymore.” Scroobius is keen to point out that he’s kept his feet on the ground, and it’s hard to deny he remembers where he comes from. “I buy The Sun quite often,” he confesses when I tell him he’s being interviewed for a tabloid.
There’s something strikingly imperfect about Scroobius Pip, both musically and intellectually. At times, the blending of genres on Logic of Chance amounts to little more than a mish-mash of dance beats and poetry, and his stutter reveals a man still at odds with himself. And yet, the appeal of Scroobius Pip probably lies in these imperfections. For all his idealism, there’s a refreshing honesty about the man, and he’s clearly aware of his shortcomings. His musical partnership with Dan Le Sac is itself a chaotic one: “We do sort of stumble along, and that’s what produces a varied sound. But the new album is a development.” And that, penetrating insights and musical talent aside, is what really makes Scroobius Pip relevant: he’s nowhere near perfect, but he’s always trying to get better.
Logic of Chance is released on 15th March. Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip will perform at The Junction on 15th March. Tickets available here.