Beatmaker’s Corner: Nyge

Words: Yemi Abiade
Photography: Hyperfrank

Much like their rapper and singer counterparts, producers are hungry for the exposure and success that comes with crafting hits. For some, it’s a longer road to walk down than others, but the taste of the blow-up isn’t any less sweet. If anything, it’s even sweeter. Despite becoming a household name in and around UK rap music, Nyge is on the hunt for substantial staying power. A game-changing debut with Smoke Boys (fka Section Boyz), “Lock Arf” placed untold expectations—at least on the surface—on a beatmaker finding his feet in the game, with no connects or real knowledge of how to conduct himself in the industry, but he has stayed the course over the last four years since, crafting bangers with AJ Tracey, Lancey Foux, Yxng Bane, Suspect and more.

Finding parity by fusing the best of Afrobeats, rap and pop, Nyge’s mellow, sometimes dark style, made iconic by the Foux’s It Sounds Like Nyge tag, ensures a smooth-as-silk banger, steeped in club culture and the hunt for ultimate vibes, is on the cards. As I speak to him, I get to know a humble but driven young man unfazed by his previous wins, only looking forward to pushing himself to his goal of wider exposure. “I don’t care about finances as much as I used to,” the South Londoner says. “But I just want to be able to drop a song and know it’s going to do well rather than just hoping for the best. I was doing this for almost two years for no money, so it was never about that; it was more liking what I’m doing, so I stuck at it. I never had a Plan B.”

With his music on the rise, Nyge has little to worry about in that department, though it’s difficult to quell the desire of an artist to make it bigger doing something they love. He was not brought up in music, taking his fate into his own hands in school, where he first started rapping. Soon enough, the transition to making beats was made as Nyge found something to do that kept him true to himself. “In college, when the Sneakbo, Political Peak song ‘Wave With Us’ came out, everyone wanted the beat,” he remembers. “So I took it, looped it using Camtasia (a music software program) and that was my first beat, I guess. Then I found actual producing software and went from there. I didn’t know what to rap about—I could rap, but my life wasn’t hard: I don’t shot, I’ve got nothing to talk about—so I made beats instead. When Lex Luger and Southside were about from 2012-13, I knew I wanted to make beats from then. I always wondered how they made beats like that from their computer, so I tried to copy them and took it from there.”

For someone influenced by the maximalist, majestic sounds of two renowned beatmakers from the United States, Nyge has gone on to develop a style that is understated in comparison. I would describe his beats as ‘lowkey fire’, in that the subtleness and musicality of his production are almost incognito but hard-hitting to drive an artist to the finish line that makes a banger. It is perhaps most evident in his co-production credit for J Hus’ official comeback via GRM’s Daily Duppy last month—a telling sign of what his style might possibly develop into in the future. Nyge has played his style to his advantage, despite people around wanting him to soften the tone of his beats. “It’s rare that I compromise,” he explains. “Back in the day, people would tell me my beats were too dark or too slow, but I just carried on doing the same thing and it got me here.”

“Back in the day, people would tell me my beats were too dark or too slow, but I just carried on doing the same thing and it got me here.”

In hindsight, playing to his instincts is as good a move as Nyge could have made, but his path was never guaranteed, particularly in 2015 when he was only making beats for his friends in his Balham ends, yet to secure a big break. Eventually, after finally obtaining a contact for the Smoke Boys, arguably one of the hardest tunes this decade, “Lock Arf”, was born. The now-timeless moody instrumental, barred to death by each rapper, cemented Nyge’s name, even if no one knew who made the beat, yet this breakthrough was welcomed by the producer himself. “I had no pressure to top ‘Lock Arf’ because no one really knew I made it,” he says. “I had a tag, but it was covered up by their engineer’s tag. The average fan doesn’t care who produced a song—well, back then, at least, in 2015, because producing wasn’t as big as it is now. It took a year and a half for people to actually realise I made it, so I had no pressure. It wasn’t like people were like, ‘We need that again!’ I think that would’ve been bad for me in hindsight.”

Not much needs to be said about the impact of “Lock Arf” on modern UK rap, but its trajectory could have gone a different way, had Nyge’s friends released their own vocalled versions of the beat. “I gave it to one of my friends at first,” Nyge remembers. “I had made it about a year before and people had vocalled it, but they weren’t serious; I tried to pressure them to put it out, but they didn’t, and now I’m glad they didn’t because it made my life easier. They missed out.” Since “Lock Arf”, Nyge has consolidated his position in the game, finding more success with AJ Tracey, particularly on the Ladbroke Grove MC’s summer smash “Pasta” and extended work on his 2017 Secure The Bag EP. Juggling that, he linked up with Lancey Foux for a joint tape, 2017’s First Day In Nursery, and it became clear that Nyge had untold talent and craft. While he classifies his music as “something for the club”, crafting the would-be beats that get the rave shaking seems a relatively easy process. “It’s always the melody to start with,” he says. “Some people can start with drums, but I personally can’t do it; I think the melody sets the tone for the song because you know instantly whether it will be a sad song or one for the clubs. The drums come after.” Again proving that producers make the unexplainable sound so simple.

His ascendancy comes at the right time, a period in UK music when producers are placing more value in themselves, becoming artists and personalities in their right, and placing themselves at the forefront of their music and the scene at large. The rise of Steel Banglez, JAE5 and more has aided a shift in psyche for producers used to the background to seize their spot in the limelight. “The music is getting better and [producers] have a lot more power,” Nyge says. “Back in the day, people just wanted exposure, but now producing is a business transaction. I’m not slaving away on a beat just for you to take it for free—you either pay me or it won’t happen, and you will pay me because the quality is good. If you get it off YouTube, it’s not going to be tailored to you as best as it could be, so you’re paying for a service and the type of producer you use is starting to get really important.”

“You might get a No. 1 today, but you won’t know the value of it if you haven’t worked hard for it.”

Knowing the value of hard work and the toiling that brought him to this position, Nyge credits the darker days of no nights off to his growth and, despite not being in a place he wants to be currently, he wouldn’t have his journey any other way. As a producer, equally as much as being a human being, how you adapt to the hard times is the true measure of your strive for greatness, and Nyge is no stranger to the musician’s plight.

“You have to do the hard work,” he explains. “I’ve given away beats for free, I’ve done the sessions I didn’t want to, had a makeshift studio in my house, I’ve travelled late nights, night buses home, gone days without eating properly, not seeing my mum. There’s no escaping it. You have to do that. The easier it comes, the easier it goes. You might get a No. 1 today, but you won’t know the value of it if you haven’t worked hard for it. So, you have to be prepared for the hard shit. For me, it’s only a matter of time [before I gain more popularity] and I know what I need to do, I’m just not doing it for the moment.” And his definition of wider popularity? “When I say I need to be bigger, I mean my value has to be the same as the artist. I don’t want to have an artist putting me on if I make the song mine. I’ve given people some of their biggest songs... I just have to take it into my own hands now.

Now aware of his destiny, the marathon continues as normal for Nyge but with added purpose, and he has laid his powers into new production on a six-track EP with the House Of Pharoahs, Seasons, out now. Since his debut, his ascent has been almost parallel to the acts with which he’s worked and, as they have established themselves, so has he. The innate hunger for more will remain, as is the inclination for endless wins, but the building blocks are in place for Nyge to reach the ascendancy, secure in and of himself, his beats, and his powers.

Posted on May 31, 2019