Suspect OTB Is… Still Loading. Get Ready.

Words: Yemi Abiade
Photography: Hyperfrank

Suspect OTB doesn’t simply enter Rinse FM’s headquarters on a chilly Wednesday afternoon, he bursts in with exuberance and a restless energy that instantly endears me to him. From then on, it becomes a mission to keep up with his levels and he rocks on his chair, fidgeting with his phone as he releases an endless, fascinating stream of consciousness about his life and career, which has brought him to this point. Even mid-interview, he hops off his chair to greet Rinse presenters Emerald Rose Lewis and Joelah Noble, exchanging pleasantries before rapidly returning and retaining his train of thought. It’s an aura I couldn’t have expected, but when you couple it with his music, I realised it all makes sense.

Something of an underground king since at least early 2012, when his banging “Rage” hit the streets of his Walworth Road ends, Suspect has delivered vivid tales of the trap with real craft, injecting some much-needed lyricism to the somewhat saturated arena. His Loading EP, released earlier this year and exclusively produced by frequent collaborator Flyo, was a well-calculated and cinematic first chapter of his progression, and he laid out his eccentric personality on highlights such as the bubbling “FBG” and the remix to “Wonder What”, with his (non-literal) big brother Giggs. 

There is no off switch with the 25-year-old and what you hear on record is definitely what he projects of himself at all times. It might be hard to keep up, but it isn’t without pure unpredictability and excitement. Currently working alongside Rinse, the label—who will release his next project, Still Loading, later this year—Suspect is gassed to enter the next phase of greatness, living by the progression that his OTB acronym represents: Ounces To Boxes.

“I’m trying to be international...”

I want to start with your previous project, Loading. It was such a cohesive and enjoyable listen. What was the process like creating it?

I haven’t done enough projects to say how they differ from each other, or how I’m going to approach each one, but I just love music. It’s got to be organised and there has to be a flow to it—it’s got to sound, sonically, like all the way there. Loading was my first ever project and I was careful with not having too many features on it; trying to give people the best me, trying to show people what I can bring to the table, trying to pattern that straight away. Loading is just, like, hooks on every song like “FBG”, but it’s structured hooks, whereas Still Loading is more original. Even on the intro, it’s not no little hook. When you hear it, you’re gonna know exactly what I’m talking about and how it feels—it’s just way more original. It’s still gonna be violent, though.

More violent than Loading?

Way more violent! I just feel like Loading was more music, as in someone trying to prove themselves or find themselves. Now, there’s more bangers I’m giving them—more tracks than Loading.

How many songs did you make around the time?

There’s probably 3-4 songs on there that I had before, and then maybe six more. When I made the intro, that’s when I knew we had the Still Loading tape coming. I always knew in my head when I made Loading that I’m going to have my next project called Still Loading or Reloaded. I didn’t know how I was gonna do it, but I always knew that it would have four parts to it so that at the end there would be Loaded. But we used to say that all parts have to run at the same time, so it would be Loading, Still Loading, FBG, the album, then Reloading. Then, after that, the game is mine! [Laughs]

So, this is part of a long-drawn out process then?

Literally, we just crack on. I’ll be real: we just make bare tunes. I’ll be in the studio every day and I leave with at least one banger. You can’t write this shit—it’s crazy, and I can’t make music if I’m not in the studio. It’s weird because you walk into the studio without a concept and a half-made beat, and you’re rapping on it, and by the time the beat’s made, you’ve got the gist of where you’re trying to take this.

Do you formulate your lyrics based on the beat as it’s being made?

Yeah. Or even if it’s been made and I’ve walked in there, every bar you hear has been formulated for that beat. I don’t write anything outside of the studio environment. Sometimes I might have a sick one-liner when I’m in the whip and I’m like, “Rah! Let me voice note this.” Or, I could be in the middle of making a beat and I know what I’m going to say or what I want but it’s not time for me to record, so I slap it on a voice note just because writing is the longest thing for me. I can’t be bothered to do that.

How long have you actually been making music for?

Back in the day, there was this guy in my ends who was making moves and I jumped on his project. I blessed him with a verse and it was the biggest track on his project. After that, I knew. My niggas were on me like, “Come on, Sus! Drop one then”—and I did a mad one called “Rage”. Them times there, there was no Rap City or Link Up TV and we were so gully with it and super independent, we opened a YouTube account and just uploaded it [laughs]. Even with however many thousand views, it was wild because the streets knew about it. When I listen to my music, I see where I was at every single point in time. “Rage”, I know exactly where I was when I was spitting all those bars. I’ve seen my evolution, I’ve seen myself be like these hood niggas, and then I’ve seen myself getting an apartment and getting a Bentley, showing money in the video and now I don’t need to do that. I look like money—it’s funny.

How do you feel about the term ‘road rapper’?

I definitely don’t look at myself as that; I’d like to bring it back to ‘rapper’. I’m trying to be international! [Laughs] Some of these people are getting called rappers and they’re definitely not rappers and they are part of the problem. You just need to come out and address people—let them know you’re an artist.

‘Rapper’ sounds cooler…

I know it sounds cooler, but you’re dirtying the name. Niggas are fighting for rap and grime to be separated and people are coming through pushing pop into rap, you know what I’m saying? Man are out here warring to be called grime and not rappers and pop is out here calling people rappers.

Who would you say are the artists who influenced your lyrical style?

I don’t know if anyone influenced my lyrical style—I don’t think anyone has. I listen to my big bro, Giggs; I listen to the whole of that SN1 crew, like Fix Dot Em, Buck, Swift, all of that shit I took in, as well as taking in 50 Cent, Mobb Deep, D-Block... I can’t listen to too much music, though, because it affects you and I hear that in other people but by being aware of it, you can’t lose. If you’re aware you listen to a lot of music, you just have to be careful; rather than take inspiration from it, just enjoy it, enjoy music and don’t feel like you have to take things from it.

You’ve collaborated with artists like Giggs, Lancey Foux and Omo Frenchie in the past. Is it your intention to take a number of different sonic routes when making music?

Yeah, like a musician—an artist! The other day I saw my Instagram and it said ‘Artist’ or ‘Musician’ and wondered if I should change it, and then I thought: “Bro, you are a musician.” You know when you set up your Facebook or Instagram and it says stuff like ‘Public Figure’, I was thinking to myself: “Fuck that! You’re the only one who can own this shit! I’m a musician!” That’s really how I wanna do this thing. I know what I’m promoting but, when it comes to music, I want to be limitless. Just because I might be on a drill track doesn’t mean I’m gonna just stay on that. Buck once told me, “Bro, be yourself fam.” He’s never had to say it to me again because I say it to myself now. There are no beats that I can’t jump on and, even when it’s hard, I spend time with it. It might not be the hardest Suspect, but I feel like I can do anything.

With Still Loading on the way, what kind of impact do you want it to make on the game?

I want it to reach new heights, new levels, new devils, bringing in the bad bitches! [Laughs] I want to see some new shit—I want to level up! Any level up is good. Any progress is good.