House Of Pharaohs Are Building A Dynasty ✨

Words: Yemi Abiade

More than two decades after the Wu-Tang Clan swarmed the rap game like the Killa Bees they became, London’s House Of Pharaohs have begun their slow ascent to do the same in UK music. Artistic, youthful and ultimately driven to make a unique impact, the six-man rap collective have been bubbling for the last four years, building an audience based on their expansive, energetic and unpredictable music. With content deeper than a millionaire’s pockets, each member has a collection of records on their respective SoundCloud accounts to last a lifetime, but when they band together as HOP, the vibes accelerate.

Sam Wise, Bandanna, Danny Stern, AJ, Kevin Taylor and BlazeYL are coming off the back of an exceptional 2019. Dropping Seasons, a collaborative EP with producer Nyge, and its follow-up, Seasons II, in quick succession, both projects saw the collective building on the distinctive sound established on previous projects Real Faces and The Fix. They then shelled down an edition of Kenny Allstar’s Mad About Bars and embarked on their first nationwide tour, where they reached a new level of recognition for the work they’ve put in, finally able to ascertain an understanding of their growing impact. Group member Bandanna also turned heads in a role on the revamped series of Top Boy on Netflix, proving the tentacles of HOP are preparing to run deep throughout the creative industry. This is after Frank Ocean gave them the ultimate co-sign by featuring one of their tracks, “RWM [Run With Me]”, on an episode of his blonded RADIO show in 2018, and their 2017 partnership with Nike on their single “London’s Finest”.

Like many of their peers, House Of Pharaohs transcend genres, carrying the frenetic nature of trap, grime and drill into a frantic catalogue that leaves no room for a breather. The result is euphoric, alternative rap music that captures the free-flowing creative spark that represents the group and their contemporaries throughout the country. You’re almost guaranteed to feel something listening to their music. The success is much sweeter knowing the group of childhood friends are indeed a family, keeping each other grounded and celebrating every win with each other. With ventures in music, acting, fashion, graphic design and more, nothing is out of sight for the boys from South London. TRENCH caught up with some of the crew to get the 411.

“We’re always about that forward movement.”—Danny Stern

How did you guys become House Of Pharaohs?

Bandanna: We were all friends at first, and then we decided to form a collective. After that, we just put a name to it.

What do HOP ultimately represent as a collective?

Bandanna: Young black kings; that’s why we put the Pharaohs in our name.

Danny Stern: We’re a family, first and foremost, and Pharaohs had a better ring to it than Kings [laughs].

I feel like you guys are at the pulse of what it means to be young creatives in the UK. What does each of you bring to the group?

Danny Stern: With the group dynamics, we definitely delve into different spaces and bring in different experiences, but a lot of the time I’m just facing new experiences with my guys. We’re all about growth and expanding so, with that, there isn’t anything specific any one person brings to the group—we’re just about coming together and growing together. Every week it’s something new that someone brings to the table, so it’s always changing. We really move like a family.

How would you describe each other’s rapping styles?

Bandanna: I wouldn’t say there’s a type of style we’re pinning ourselves to because it depends on our mood on any given day. We could switch it up at any time.

Danny Stern: One day, Bandanna could be feeling hype and have a lot of energy and put that into a track. There’s no cap on mood or genre when it comes to us, just as long as everyone’s chatting that real stuff!

I’ve always said that you lot remind me of Wu-Tang Clan, but who are some of the more direct influences that you pull from?

Sam Wise: The Wu-Tang reference makes a lot of sense, and I think everyone has their own individual favourites right now. As a collective, we’re pretty much up to date with what everybody else is. We very much have a trap home, and we can carry grime energy into our songs and our shows, but we honestly pull from so much.

Danny Stern: As a music maker, it’s so important to be tapped into different genres and sounds and we try to explore as much as possible, without going too far away from what makes us who we are sonically.

Who got into music first?

Bandanna: I was doing music from a while back, from when I was young, but it wasn’t too serious until I met AJ and Danny, and AJ and Sam met at the same school so it made sense to move with it. I don’t know if I was the first, but I was definitely doing it from an early age.

How much does being a part of London/UK culture influence your music?

Danny Stern: It probably goes into the music a lot more than we even know. We’ve had to grow and develop in a certain environment and it definitely shows in the music.

Bandanna: Sometimes we don’t know how much we actually influence the culture, because we’re always moving onto the next best thing for us in terms of work and music. I don’t think we ever take time to clock it. We definitely know that we influence the culture, but maybe it’s more than we think—who’s to know?

Do things like working with Nike, doing a Mad About Bars and getting co-signed by Frank Ocean confirm that you’re doing something right?

Danny Stern: 100%! Anyone can make music, but what we’ve done and the looks we’ve got kind of show us that what we’re doing has purpose and meaning. And how you stay grounded after that is remembering where you’re coming from, having the right people around you to keep you grounded, and going through troubles that will make you look at yourself in a different way.

Do you think being from South London has shaped you in any way?

Bandanna: Being in London as a whole is a blessing, because a lot of things go on here, and the culture is really big here in terms of making music and being a creative. For me, personally, a lot of people would die to be from here, so to be brought up here with the people that we had around us is a blessing. We’re making an impact—we’re not just here working regular jobs—we’re really touching people.

What was the one moment you guys realised that you were on to something?

Danny Stern: Probably the first ever headline show we had and seeing the amount of people that came through. To put on any kind of show is kind of crazy, but the headline tour was an amazing feeling. It was the most perfect first nationwide tour—every city showed us love, and everything was lit. I shared that moment with my guys, and that’s something no one can take away from me.

How do you guys work in the studio?

Sam Wise: It varies: sometimes, one or two of us could be working on a song, then another person will have an idea for that song and jump on it. Other times, we all record verses and decide which ones best fit the song. We just try to have as much fun as possible with the music.

You recently dropped Seasons 1 and 2. What was the thinking behind splitting it into two EPs?

Danny Stern: We were working on a lot of tracks anyway. Seasons was a collaborative project with Nyge, and while we were working with him, we were also working with a few other producers. So, we wanted to group together the songs we’d made with Nyge separately to the other songs we were making with the other producers, so that’s why the divide happened. When you listen to both projects, hopefully you get a feel of how we felt when we were making them.

You guys dropped Seasons on Parlophone, right? As an independent-minded group now having to do business with a major label, what was that process like?

Bandanna: It was definitely a good experience and a good insight into how that side of the music game works and operates. However, as of now, we’re always going to be independent, but that’s not to rule any opportunities that might come later.

Looking to the future after Seasons 1 and 2, is a bigger House Of Pharaohs project on the way?

Danny Stern: 100%. We’re always about that forward movement, stepping into new boundaries every single time. From Real Faces to now, I can definitely feel the growth and I see it every day. We’re definitely growing into making music more and as we get older, we’re becoming more open to trying new things musically—whether that’s deliveries or flows or melodies—and that can’t be anything but growth.

Ultimately, what does success mean to you?

Bandanna: Being free. We want to feel like anything we want to do in life is possible and we’re able to do it. Everyone’s creating something for themselves so their time will come when it comes.

Danny Stern: Pure happiness. Being happy with every aspect of our lives; financially, musically, in terms of business, making the right moves each and every time. You don’t want to have all of the success in the world and not be happy with life. By this time next year, we want to be better than where we are right now. We understand we need to work hard to achieve that, and we’re definitely gonna be applying that moving forward.

Posted on January 22, 2020