Natty Wylah

Selected by: James Keith
Photography: Ivan Bliminse

Name: Natty Wylah

Where He’s From: North West London

Genre: UK Rap

File Next To: Manik MC, Jeshi, Louis Culture

When He Started: “First time making music was for piss-take reasons with my darg, Sholay, back in 2007. We pretty much recorded a whole mixtape using an eye-toy on a PlayStation, playing Eski riddims and freestyling nonsensical rhymes. Shame it got deleted, man, that was gold dust! But I’d say I properly started maybe more like 2012.”

Sounds Like: Free-wheeling, laid-back rap set against crunchy beats with a touch of soul.

First Music That Inspired Him: “I wouldn’t say there was a particular track that made me start making music, but I remember fondly fuckin’ with a 7” copy of ‘Spanish Flea’ by Herb Alpert. I’d be messing with the pitch dial and slapping it on 33rpm then 45rpm and really messing with it for the absurdity and joy of the sounds. I must have been what, like 5, so this was some early turntablism/sonic experimentation! Precursor to my now-similar exploration in production, playing with the sounds.”

North West London’s Natty Wylah has been immersed in art and creativity pretty much since birth. He credits his parents as huge inspirations: his father hooked him on dub, reggae and rocksteady, while his mother—an abstract painter—introduced him to a vast array of music from punk to jazz (Thelonius Monk was particular favourite). “There was some seriously good stuff going on at high volumes,” Natty tells TRENCH. “My mama was a punk, painter and general boss woman. She would play all sorts, from the Pogues to Keith Jarrett. My pops really went in with the early reggae, rocksteady and dub—Upsetter, Studio One, Matador... Many of the massive amounts of amazing Jamaican musical output from 1967 to 1975, but Lee Perry takes the top spot.”

The first rumblings of creativity came in his friends’ bedrooms—one of whom was Manik MC—passing the mic back and forth, trying things out, seeing what worked and what didn’t, until they began to find their voices. “The first track I remember recording properly was at my mate Busters’ house with El Cee and Manik MC. I bust a freestyle over one ‘Suicide’ instrumental and it’s funny: listening back, I can remember the moment, the nerves of performing in front of my pals and hearing the innocence and pureness of being younger and also being new to the whole thing. It’s like when you first start anything, you have a real enamour for it before anything taints it… A pure passion.”

Now a fully-fledged artist who’s long since outgrown those early furtive experiments, Natty now has a stack of singles and, as of March 5, a mixtape. Today, he uses his music to make sense of the world and explore ideas and concepts that are important to him. Debut single “WHOAMI”, for example, was a heavy-hitting dissection of cultural identity and the assumptions often made of him. “Put me in a box, get boxed,” he warned, before adding, “I ain’t from England, I ain’t from China / So fuck off with your labels.”

The tape, he says, stands out as his proudest achievement to date: “I’ve had friends, fans and general people come to me and tell me that it really resonates. I think that’s more important to me than any numbers or idea of success within this industry.” This is just the beginning, though, and his creative seal has been broken. “BRUCE, the mixtape, is truly just the tip of the ‘berg.” Ultimately, he hopes to be able to get out and tour as soon as possible, but beyond that, he wants to broaden his horizons and explore different creative outlets. “Now that I’ve started producing, I’m due to release some stuff under different monikers, because it’s fun innit! Multiple streams, different masks, different channels for certain expression.”

For Natty, the BRUCE tape represents defiance. “It’s an affirmation of my own body and the skin I’m in.” It’s also a reference to some of the artistic and philosophical concepts his mother introduced him to at an early age; ideas like “dream imagery and the realms of myth and magic are something that I live through and are inextricably linked to my day to day, so painting these scenes, entering these worlds and telling these stories of the more ethereal and metaphoric are just as important, or more so than accounts of my ‘waking life’, but moretime they’re entwined anyway. They both feed into each other. Sun and moon shit; ying and yang.”

BRUCE drops on March 5.

TRENCH Highlight...

Posted on March 04, 2021