Selected by: Sam Davies
Photography: @graceecat

Name: Prem

Where He’s From: Brockley, South East London

Genre: Hip-Hop

File Next To: Larry June, Raj Forever, Novelist

When He Started: Summer 2017

Sounds Like: “A fully sensory listening experience. I wouldn’t say it’s hype but I wouldn’t say it’s chilled. It’s music that triggers the emotions and very nostalgic, with a very classic essence to it.”

First Music That Inspired Him: “I know when I was younger, top of that list would have been gangster rap, from both coasts of America. So of the time that would be stuff like Tha Dogg Pound or Snoop Dogg or Nate Dogg or Mobb Deep or Nas.”

“You see that there, blud? That’s grime, blud. You see that one there? Euuurghhh, blud. Are you nuts?” That was Prem’s first vocal appearance on record, a voice note featured on Reload King, a 2019 grime EP by Novelist, 23-year-old Lewisham MC and one-time prince of the genre. Prem sent the message to Novelist, his younger brother, after hearing the tracks for the first time. Since then, his influence on Nov has grown and grown, with production credits on his Heat, Rain Fire and Inferno EPs this year.

Yet Prem is no grime artist. “I love grime,” he says. “I always will love grime, but I don’t see myself as part of it. My music is not really grimey enough to really be categorised as grime.” Instead, Prem’s sound is a syrupy gloop of influences, nodding to classic West Coast rappers like Young Ed and modern perpetrators of the sound like Larry June. He also lists film scores as key to his musical interests, mentioning Harold Faltermeyer (who made the Beverley Hills Cop theme) and Vince DiCola (who made the music for the 1980s version of Transformers), as well as Cauby Peixoto, a 1950s singer once described as the Brazilian Elvis.

This web of obscurity makes sense when you listen to Prem’s music, like recent single “Legit”, where the 25-year-old drags his bars lazily over a stepping funk beat. His EP The Major Move follows suit, all horror movie textures and lethargic rhythms. Its most sluggishly thrilling moment is “The Standard (Interlude)”, which slopes along at and almost DJ Screw-esque 70bpm. It’s weird music, unlike anything being made in the UK at the moment. Novelist’s recent releases (see: “Stay With Me”) bear a similar vibe. “I’m his older brother,” says Prem. “I’m his business partner, I’m an advisor, I’m a friend. I’m everything.” Together with collaborators Raj Forever, Kabuto and a rotating cabal of others, Nov and Prem form a collective calling themselves The Navy. They’re named after their home, Lewisham—the Blue Borough—but also after their strategic approach. “This is about regiments,” says Prem. “This is about order, and brotherhood.”

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Posted on November 12, 2020