Selected by: James Keith

Name: nineteen97

Where He’s From: Midlands

Genre: Grime/Alt-Rap

File Next To: Mayhem NODB, Kish!, KAM-BU

When He Started: “Mid-2020. It was the start of the pandemic, I had a great idea and thought, ‘Fuck it! What the hell do I have to lose? The world has stopped and all my other ideas went to shit due to it.’”

Sounds Like: “Imagine if Kano and Dizzee Rascal, in 2003-2005, crashed into Kanye West’s garden and Tyler, The Creator was the nosy neighbour. It’s refreshing, it’s unique, and there’s no rules to how it’s done.”

First Music That Inspired Him: “Wiley, Chipmunk and Ice Kid’s Westwood freestyle. They were the first set of young people rapping that sounded great to me. I was 10 years old when it came out and it was mind-blowing. Like, for real, how were man so young and so advanced?”

In a past life, Midlands-hailing MC nineteen97 was a graphic designer going by the name Devzallday. Then the pandemic hit and, as it did for a lot of us, he found his focus shifting and he felt like he needed to make a change. He didn’t waste any time either, and within months, he’d connected with Mayhem NODB and Jesse James Solomon for his debut single, “I Got”. Produced by Off Key, the get-money anthem was quickly picked up by Brum label BE83 and he’s been flying ever since.

The CHROME EP followed in 2021 and that’s also taken on a life of its own, spawning a live event (CHROME Birmingham) and a radio takeover (CHROME FM). Already on to the next chapter, nineteen97’s most recent outing saw him connect with SD9, a prodigiously talented MC playing a central role in nurturing Brazil’s homegrown grime scene. Again produced by Off Key, “Line Em Up” tapped into the veins of grime history with a sample from So Large’s 2016 joint of the same name, revving it up and bringing it into the ‘20s. As always, nineteen97’s eye is firmly set on the future; some big things are in the works, and he’s determined to stay focused and precise.

“I just want to finish my next project and do a massive festival circuit,” he tells TRENCH. “I think after people hear the new music and people see that I can make a banging project again—with new and stronger ideas and concepts—they’ll get it.” Although options have been limited recently, for obvious reasons, he’s still managed to test his mettle on the live circuit. “Before I made music I got to go to some dates on tour with a few of my friends and they shut shit down in Coventry,” he says. Seeing that instant connection between artist and crowd lit a fire in nineteen97 and, by all accounts, nearly destroyed the venue (“The air conditioning came through the ceiling. I aspire to do that for myself one day”). Judging by the “Keri Hilson” video back in October, it looks like that day’s coming sooner rather than later.

TRENCH Highlight...

Posted on February 18, 2022