B Young Talks Starting Out As a Grime MC,’Differences’, The Wiz Kid Co-sign & More
The landscape was a very different one in 2017, not just in a musical sense, but the world itself was a very different place. We probably won’t live long enough to discover what the true legacy of COVID-19 will be, but one thing is for sure, we will now forever define life as either pre, or post Corona. Being in a pandemic may have destroyed our sense of time, as it certainly feels like 2017 was a lifetime ago, but to a Hackney born crooner, it’s a year he’ll never forget. That year, a humble YouTube upload in the depths of winter, would become a similarly (albeit a much more jubilant) epochal moment for the young East Londoner; who’s life has since been defined in pre or post “Jumanji” terms.
That era would arguably go on to shape the scene as we know it, the many variants of the sound slowly began to spread into the mainstream, stars like Ramz, Hardy Caprio, Fredo, NSG and Not3s were all beginning to rise to prominence in similar fashion to the man in question, B Young.
Youtube was still the kingmaker. TikTok hadn’t taken its seat at the head of the table yet, so serendipitous uploads on GRM Daily had transformed these young men’s lives in a matter of months. B Young had become the modern day iteration of an overnight celebrity, he went from being a modest personal trainer, to having one of the most recognisable faces in the industry. It was as if by naming the track “Jumanji” B Young had somehow tempted fate, as he had now been sucked into a game with enough perils and pitfalls to rival the Robin Williams classic itself. Before that fateful Youtube upload, B Young had been plying his trade in relative silence, and “Jumanji” had actually been recorded during what little free time he had while running a gym alongside his brother. But the passion for music had always coursed through B’s veins, although he’s not able to pinpoint the exact moment when the love affair started, it could easily be traced back to his early years.
B was surrounded by a wealth of music during his youth, whether it was the more traditional Turkish offerings courtesy of his Mother, or the smatterings of funk and soul he discovered thanks to his Father’s record collection, the lineage was clear. “My dad comes from a proper musical background, my mum is more traditional in terms of her musical taste. My dad was a music head. To this day if you go to his house, he’s still got some of those old stereo boomboxes, like five/six of them, he's just got them posted, in the kitchen, in the living room, all over the place. He used to listen to funk, soul, all that stuff.”
The music of his parents might have subconsciously informed the direction his sonics would take, but the influence of his older brother’s musical leanings cannot be be overstated: “The first song I recorded was with my brother. That was a grime song. It was some gassed grime lyrics you know? Following that I started to get into more melodic stuff, I was just experimenting with different sounds init.” Witnessing his brother working with the likes of Manic, and himself being a 90s baby, B was just old enough to have lived through the golden age of grime. A time when you always had to be armed with a half decent 16 bar verse, and be ready to spit at any given moment to lay to rest anyones hopes of testing your mettle. These were the proving grounds that nourished B Young, and gave him a musical pedigree most would envy.
“When I was young it the wave init, and we'd just share grime music in school, and write bars. Then we’d come to school with grime bars, and there used to be some cold people back then too! The musical talent that was about, if they'd just taken it serious they could of made something from it. This is just cause of grime, people were just revealing these hidden talents that they didn’t know they had because they were just writing bars.”
B Young’s grimey roots eventually blossomed into the colourful, melodic vocals that brought him to the attention of the masses. Those distinctive vocals are the result of a rigorous refinement process that B went through prior to the “Jumanji” run. So despite the illusion of him being an overnight success, B Young had in reality begun releasing music in 2014; and had of course begun actually recording music many years earlier.
“Spend It” was his first official release, coming out back in 2014, he’d release a handful of songs over the next couple of years, but he was most definitely still a hobbyist at this point. B initially started gaining traction when he released a remix to Dave’s classic “Wanna Know” on his Youtube channel. That kickstarted what would become B Young’s vintage year, with a string of great releases to follow, eventually culminating in the monstrous hit “Jumanji”. During this period, B steadily transitioned from seasoned hobbyist to full time musician.
“When I started releasing tunes, it was still in its hobby stages, but I saw people gravitating towards my music init. I'm getting views, I'm getting streams. When “Been Wavey” came out, and I started getting cosigns from people like Wiz Kid, I was like rah this is looking like a career ting, it’s not even a hobby anymore. Then by the time “Jumanji” came out, that was blowing up, and then labels started hitting me up.”
This was almost five years ago now, so it may come as a surprise that we had to wait so long for a full length project from B Young, but when you understand the man behind the music it makes perfect sense. Despite being a prolific recorder, B is a self confessed perfectionist, so although he was sitting on a tape as far back as 2016, it simply wasn’t up to scratch.
“With me I’m a perfectionist, my brother’s a perfectionist, the whole team really. There are a lot of levels of critique that the tunes have to go through before we decide if something’s good enough.”
This level of quality control has paid off ten fold for B, and its evident in the 16 tracks that make up Differences, the long awaited B Young debut album. Although he cut his teeth releasing anthemic hit singles, B has effortlessly progressed onto compiling a noteworthy body of work. The transition between dropping singles to creating cohesive albums/mixtapes isn’t always so seamless, many artists have fallen at this very hurdle. But B Young possessed an astute understanding of what he needed to do in order to make Differences the remarkable debut we were treated to:
“I don’t record something unless its top quality, I don’t just fuck about in the studio, I’m actually putting in work, so it’s not about quality. I wanted to cover the spectrum properly init, so I can show everyone different styles. So I guess it’s the compilation, rather than each individual song. I wanted to make sure the package is correct, not just the songs themselves”.
B Young’s desire to consistently diversify his musical output rather than stick to his tried and tested hit making formula is testament to the calibre of artist that he is. Many artists become victims of their own success, and find themselves desperately attempting to recreate songs in the same vein as a previous hit single. So B’s focus on making actual music is refreshing, especially at a time when we’re seeing artists increasingly shifting their focus to virality.
“I always make music for the sake of making music init. Some people like the celebrity status, and they like the social presence, where for me, I like being accepted for the music. I don’t mind the other things that come with it, but I want the recognition to be because of the music as opposed to anything else. Whereas some people, don’t mind it the other way round.”
The music is characterised by B’s smooth, sultry, lyrical explorations of love and its many facets. Tuning into B Young can be a welcome break from the flamboyant struggle raps, and the boastful exposés about profiteering in the City’s booming black markets. The instrumentals are also divergent from the norm; ranging from upbeat afrobeat tinged guitar licks, to darker passages decorated by those all too familiar drums and hi-hats that are commonplace in drill. With a musical palette as diverse as B Young’s, it’s little surprise that he has no problem calling these vastly different soundscapes home.
B Young has achieved great success thus far in his music career. But like any ambitious person, he’s afflicted with the curse of always wanting more. I ask what being content looks like for B, as it can be a difficult state of mind for an ambitious person to reach: “You’re right, there is never like a content space, I think that is something we're gonna learn in time, I don’t know the answer to that right now. Until I get like a hit thats international, not saying that “Jumanji” wasn’t, but I mean like a HIT. I’m talking like 2 billion streams or whatever. When I'm at that point I'll let you know!” With an ever growing fan base, and a monumental stash of good music, I’m sure it wont be too long before B Young has an answer to my question.