Selected by: James Keith
Photography: Magdalena Siwicka

Name: SBK

Where He’s From: Stevenage

Genre: Grime

File Next To: Capo Lee, Maxsta, Eyez, Micofcourse

When He Started: 2015

Sounds Like: “It’s more evident in the newer, unreleased songs, but I would describe it as honest and deep. It’s also diverse; some tracks sound dreamy, like a child could’ve made the beat, and some have a darker, more evil vibe to them. Lyrically, though, honesty is the best policy. I’ve always been truthful with what I’ve been through, and it shows more than ever now.”

First Music That Inspired Him: “Though die-hard grime fans would rather me say some obscure grime track, but the first song that made me want to make music was ‘Shook Ones’ by Mobb Deep.”

SBK is a one-man army. Staggeringly, he made his first track, “I Win”, at just 14 years old, but that wasn’t even the beginning of his story as an artist. He’s understandably reluctant to share too many details of the track, which hasn’t made it to streaming services, but he calls it “a terribly-mixed rap song on audacity.” Raised on a steady diet of bashment and reggae from his parents and spurred on by Skepta’s “Shutdown”, SBK decided to take music seriously and put more of himself into his sound. [“Shutdown”] showed me UK MCs were successful whilst embracing their heritage,” he told TRENCH. “I was pretty late to the party, but growing up in Stevenage I wasn’t really exposed to grime at all.”

Tapping into grime’s DIY essence with the kind of laser-like precision and furious hunger of a teen growing up as an outsider from Stevenage, SBK found himself peering through the window, desperate for a way in. As all good grime stories go, it would be up to him to forge his own path from the outskirts into the epicentre. He’s barely into his 20s but he’s already a testament to the power of hard work and determination, mastering his on-mic skills and teaching himself the studio fundamentals. For a long time, he even handled the marketing side, painstakingly making contacts and pushing his music to the write people. Nowadays, he does have himself a trusted team to help him, but his story has a hint of the tales of the first generation. His wildest tour story, he says, was “sneaking into a pub underage, then somehow finding myself at the train station at 3am having to wait for the first train at 6. Then I had to bump the train from Leeds to Stevenage by hiding in a cupboard for two hours.”

One of the most pivotal moments in his story takes place at Lord Of The Mics 8. There, at just 17 years old, SBK stole the show, clashing against Birmingham MC T.Roadz and letting both his peers and his heroes he’d arrived. Even without that platform, it was only a matter of time before the world sat up and took notice. Away from the studio, SBK was also finding he had a natural gift for getting his music heard in live settings and he’s navigated the lockdown restrictions like a pro. “I put on an event last year called SBK & Friends,” he says. “It’s a digital event I put on completely by myself and it had a crazy line up. I am very proud of what I did there.”

SBK has learned a lot in a short amount of time, paying close attention to the successful strategies of the older generation, but also their mistakes, particularly on the business side. “I want to grow my brand name and business more,” he says. More than that, he wants to use those lessons to create something that lasts. “My biggest goal is to make people feel better about themselves through my pain. All of the lyrics mean something to people who have been hurt, too. That’s what I want. Money and fame are easy to get and easy to lose. Those sort of impressions on people aren’t.”

TRENCH Highlight...

Posted on February 10, 2021