Beatmaker’s Corner: Preditah

Words: Yemi Abiade
Photography: Hyperfrank

One thing that might be lost on the new generation of grime fans is the genre’s close musical proximity to UK garage, its distant cousin. Though the relationship has at times been frosty, the champagne-guzzling halcyon days of UKG and the aggressive, cypher atmosphere of grime are like two sides of the same coin of UK music.

In 2019, Preditah is bridging the gap between the two genres. The 30-year-old producer has been deep in the trenches of both sounds for the better part of a decade, cementing his status as a master of both, but with an incredibly musical touch. His productions are dominated by melodic, bass-driven elements that inject delicate care and attention to even the most rampant of beat. Stirring peak garage and peak grime in the same pot, the result would be a Preditah production. His imprint is particularly significant considering his body of work; including various remixes for the likes of Lethal Bizzle, Chase & Status, Donae’O and Rudimental, his magic can also be heard on “On My Mind”, his 2017 song-of-the-year contender with Jorja Smith.

Fast forward to 2019 and Predz has found new inspiration, having recently signed a record deal with Atlantic Records. It represents a new stage in what has been a fruitful career thus far, and as we get to talking, I start to understand the very real possibility that none of this could have come to pass. “I didn’t know I was going do music,” he explains. “I was planning to be an architect, so I feel like I’m catching up with myself. I didn’t have a set goal for where I was going to go with the music, so I was naïve and no one was around to give me that guidance; I just went with the flow, but you have to know why you do things.” Despite his outside ambitions, music has had his life in a vicegrip. Growing up in a church-going family in Birmingham, the producer’s initial exposure was to gospel music and R&B, before he took up the bass guitar. “Even before I started playing instruments, I would hear a tune on the radio and remix it in my head,” he remembers. “I felt like I always heard things differently; even as I’m talking now, I can hear that guitar in the background and thinking of ways to remix it [laughs].”

From early, Predz has been intuitive, but the music of his parents’ preference wasn’t inspiring. It wasn’t until the arrival of garage that he felt fully connected with music: “When I heard garage at my cousin’s house I was like, ‘What’s that? This is more me.’ I called myself a garage kid because that’s what was popping at the time, the first music I really gravitated to.” Though London was the prime location for all things UKG, Preditah remembers a burgeoning scene in Birmingham, much of which is now lost to history because, in his words, “there were no tape packs of us doing it—they came way after—but there was still Midlands Mafia and others playing garage on pirate radio at the time. Producer-wise, I was listening to Youngsta, Terror Danjah, DaVinChe, Wiley, and So Solid Crew at the time.”

“I’ve always had the skill, but ‘On My Mind’​ showed me that what I’m​ doing is the right thing.”

The arrival of garage and grime was all that Preditah needed, and soon enough he began making beats for local friends, including Tempa and his brother C4. By his own admission, the beats weren’t great but, as a young beatmaker finding his feet, his intrigue at the various sounds emanating from garage and grime, and the quest to better himself, drove his mission forward. “It was difficult back then trying to do what was in your head,” he says, “but it was mainly me who was keeping me going. You learn by doing it more; it’s like drawing a square or a circle when you were a kid—it might not look great to an adult, but the kids are looking at it like it’s sick.”

The advent of social media allowed Preditah’s beats more exposure, as he began cultivating a worldwide audience. 2012 brought with it his very first projects, the Circles and Red Bull EPs and with them, a modicum of respect from the prominent grime MCs of the day. Later work with Boy Better Know would follow. By then, his skills at merging garage and grime into a raucous but musical package had fully hit its stride, incorporating the musicality of his early influences, but retaining the white-hot energy of the pirate radio sets he grew up listening to. The man is the living definition of a workaholic, so much so that he divides work between his home and his studio.

“There was at a point where I was DJing a lot and I would come back to my home studio and be distracted,” he says. “So, I got another one with the focus of making music, so I’ve separated the two worlds. I’ll still make beats at home, but I’ll finish them in the studio, and the process is to be free at home and finish the beats at a place of work. I don’t really make beats in the studio because everything is kinda too perfect; the speakers, equipment. So you’re more focused on making it sound good. At home you don’t care about that—you have your headphones and you make a vibe.” Preditah is constantly after a vibe, something he tends to achieve more with singers than MCs. “I’m a musician first and foremost and rapping isn’t as much of an instrument as singing,” he explains. “It’s more monotone and not as musical and that’s why rappers are singing now; I can’t call them rappers anymore. So now I can work with someone like Yxng Bane—if they were just rapping, it would be more limiting in terms of what can be done.”

It is this formula that sparked the energy behind a breakout moment for Preditah: his 2017 collab with Jorja Smith, “On My Mind”. First linking up at the tail end of 2016, the two Birmingham natives got on like a house on fire to make the record, but as Smith’s star began to burn brighter and Preditah branched further out to DJing, the likelihood of its release was small. “When I was ready to drop [‘On My Mind’], Jorja was on tour after featuring on Drake’s More Life—and I was on my own tour in the States. But it came out at the right time, at a point where I’d already made a name for myself and she was blowing up. Any earlier and it wouldn’t have done what it did. My name was on ‘On My Mind’, and your average person knows me now because of it, so I’m getting the benefits of having my name on a song—it’s weird. I’ve always had the skill, but ‘On My Mind’ showed me that what I’m doing is the right thing. I made a million versions of that tune before it ever came out, but everyone liked the final cut—my church friends, the mandem on the block—so that gave me confidence.”

Which takes us to the present day, and the self-assurance instilled in Preditah by a career renaissance over the past couple of years. The same confidence prompting him to put into existence a dream collaboration with Rihanna and Ella Mai (“I’d give her another ‘Boo’d Up’,” he remarks). He also announces an upcoming EP for a 2019 release (and an upcoming album, though he remains tight-lipped about it) signifying that the future is most definitely exciting, as he charters unknown waters with the structural foundation of a label behind him and the same work ethic that has brought him to this point.

“I’ve waited my whole life for this new EP, because I’ve never dropped a vocal CD before—it’s only been instrumental EPs,” he says. “I’ve always been scared to jump in the deep end before my time, but when I drop it, it will be a relief because I’ve been working on this for ages.” And as he takes further steps towards artistic happiness, Preditah isn’t afraid to take on criticism, learn lessons and self-evaluate, the hallmark of great musicians past and present. His witty final anecdote is proof: “I never knew you could relight candles, so I would always buy them, burn them, blow it out and it’s done, till my friend told me you could relight them. I wasn’t offended by her telling me, so I’m always up for learning new things while keeping it G at the same time.”

Posted on April 09, 2019