Gabzy is a talented Afro-fusion singer/songwriter hailing from South London. Following the release of his EP, Malone, the smooth and soulful crooner sat down with F Word contributing writer, Gracey Mae, to talk heartbreak, honesty and honing his craft. Read on as Gabzy walks us through his journey, touching on starting off as a rapper, relocating to America and rising to the top of the Charts.
Gracey Mae: Hi Gabzy! Welcome to F Word.
Gabzy: Hey, how's it going Gracey Mae.
G.M: It's nice to have you. Happy new month.
G: Happy new month. Happy New Year.
G.M: Happy New Year. Merry Christmas. It's been a minute since we've caught up.
G: It’s been a minute; this Covid-19 messing us up.
G.M: Honestly, honestly. Congratulations on The Malone EP. It dropped on 18 December. I am so excited. I love the project. It's been a couple of weeks since it’s been out, how has it been received?
G: I think it's probably been my best received. From day one, the response has just been crazy. Yeah; a lot of good feedback on it.
G.M: Mr. Malone is your alter ego! In the past you’ve said that it's been birthed from heartbreak, so talk us through that story.
G: So you can go as far back as Summers… if you've listened to Summers; it’s pretty much the short term effects of heartbreak. So you know 4 Nothin’ then I Still Think Of You… that's like, let's say a couple months after the heartbreak. Then Malone is more like the long term… like we're talking like a year… if you don't deal with or get over that previous heartbreak. So we go into As Friends which is pretty much, if you listen close[ly], it's someone who’s scared… kinda…to fall in love. Then we go into Must Be Sprung which is like… I'm still, you know, that sweet boy Gabzy, but still you know that bit of I'm still cautious. Then there's Brazil which is forget all that love stuff. Let’s have fun, let’s vibe. Then we go into Malone which is like… that side is like creeping in… the effects of, you know, the heartbreak is creeping in. And then, Toxic is like looking in the mirror and I'm actually realising or come to terms with what the heartbreak has done, if that makes sense.
G.M: You really took us on a journey. I'm definitely feeling it! Talk me through the decision to have this gold aesthetic for the Malone cover. Is Malone a hard like metal Alter Ego? Is he a flashy like gold Alter Ego?
G: Malone is a bit of all of those things. He's cautious, he's hard, he's fly. Yeah, he likes to have fun. I feel like it's like another side but in terms of the artwork, at first we was gonna go for black but it was a bit too dark. I feel like the gold just had that perfect balance.
G: We’re forgetting Damson Idris. The actor.
G.M: Oh! How could we forget?
G: There's more legends. Not just you know the music industry.
G.M: True, true. There’s John Boyega too! How do you feel like growing up in Peckham, and being Yoruba [Nigerian] has affected the type of music that you make?
G: I feel like you can hear the African elements in my music. I feel like Peckham is just, you know, so multicultural and you can hear that in my sound.
G.M: Stepping away from music - take me back to your younger years… wanting to play for Arsenal. Going Semi Pro for Chessington and Hook FC. Tell me about that time in your life.
G: That time was a time where majority of people just wanted to be footballers. I actually wanted to be... Music was my first love but then football just took me away. And yeah, I actually love football. This was a long time ago. I guess it’s been 8 years… since I was Semi Pro and just having fun playing football.
G.M: Now was this before or after Muizz heard you freestyling in secondary school?
G: This was actually around the same time! So while I was playing football, this is secondary school time. We just used to, you know, freestyle. It was more banter. Muizz was like, “you actually have something here!” but I was just playing around. And then we just, set up sessions in my other friend Joshua's house, and you know, we would just make music. This was over the holidays because you're fresh out of secondary school and it was just boring. We didn't have jobs. We didn’t have nothing. Just went with the verbs.
G.M: If I say the name, Jemima, what does that mean to you?
G: In terms of…?
G.M: How important was she to your career?
G: Oh… Jemima. Okay!
G.M: Hold on a second. Clearly, there's a few Jemima's.
G: [laughs] I’ve met a few Jemima's over the years, but yeah. This was while I was rapping… so I used to send her music and she used to give me honest feedback. I remember there was a song where I was, you know, rapping and singing. She was like, the rapping is cool but the singing though!! *lovestruck face* I felt like that the moment where I said, “Okay, I'm gonna sing more”. And then I feel like, that's where, my sound was kind of birthed.
G.M: Shout out to Jemima. Do you know where she is right now?
G: I actually don't. I do know she has a child though.
G.M: Well, thank you, Jemima wherever you are! When I did a cheeky Google, I found a freestyle of yours from 9 years ago. Are your rap skills coming back anytime soon?
G: I don't think it will ever ever ever come back. I can try a little one, two, but I feel like I’ve grown so much musically but as far as you know, making an actual rap song, that side is gone! [laughs]
G.M: The rapper in you clearly evolved from the fact that you used to write poems when you were younger. Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
G: No, I don't but I do kinda remember the one that got published in the primary school newspaper. I forget how it goes but I do remember what it was kind of about.
G.M: When you think back to that time in your life, where everyone was carefree, pre the Rona, did you feel like this is where you would be at this point in your life?
G: No, I didn't. I feel like I plan but I still take things like a day at a time. I have my long term plans and what not but I don't really look as far as that. I just, you know, take one day at a time.
G.M: In saying that then, we make a plan and God laughs but where do you see yourself in five years?
G: Where I would like to see myself? I would like to have won a Grammy. I would like to have released at least two albums.
G.M: When it happens, I'm gonna pull up the archives and be like, “bro, you did it! You manifested it right here”
G.M: Now talking about projects, we can't talk about future albums without talking about the previous projects you’ve put out. You touched on Summers earlier with Melvitto. You two, are like, two sides of the same coin. Anytime you link up it’s an absolute vibe. Take me back to 2015 when you met for the first time on the life changing that trip to the US
G: So yeah, me and Melvitto, we was signed to the same label, which is One Nation Records. We just used to work a lot. He was producing more for Ayo Jay at the time but being in America, as a London boy, I had a lot of free time to work and just, you know, record and perfect my sound. I used to go to his house a lot. And I feel like we just worked a lot until I knew would work for me with him, and what would work for him with me. It’s now gotten to a point where I can just send Melvitto vocals and he will make a beat around my vocals, and you know, it will be exactly how I want it or how I envisioned it.
G.M: You two have the synergy like Missy and Timberland, or Niniola and Sarz. You mentioned being signed to One Nation Records… is it true that you recorded your first song Take Time and sent it to them via email.
G.M: Look at the strength! How did you know that was the home that you wanted and what was the process of getting signed from there?
G: So these times I was very heavy [into Afrobeats]. I was listening to Ayo Jay a lot cos this guy is sick, so I just used to play his music a lot. This is like the beginning for me… I'm proper taking that step into music. And yeah, I just saw their email, and I had recorded the song so… These times I just wanted feedback! I wanted to know their thoughts on my music [so I] send it to them. They liked it. To wanted to hear more. Sent them more, and before you knew it, they were they were flying me out to New York.
G.M: Do you know how crazy that is? The fact that they even saw the track! God works in mysterious ways. Do you think it's important for rising stars to have the backing of a label? And in hindsight, would you have stayed independent?
G: In this day and age, not really because you know, everybody is at your fingertips. With all these social media apps, it is very easy now be heard. I feel like the labels do help but I feel like labels, as well now, don't really want to work an artist. They want an already made artist, you know. Artists coming up now should just work themselves and get to a point where they have leverage and can leverage a good deal for themselves.
G.M: 100%! I completely agree. You've had organic support from everyone from Saweetie, Maya Jama, Chip, Tion Wayne, Reekado Banks, and that's just on the celeb side. On Spotify, you're currently sitting on 313,000 monthly listeners. When you kind of see the support, how does that make you feel?
G: I mean, it makes me feel good because I feel like I've been doing this for so many years. It didn’t just happen overnight. It's [been] almost 10 years. The work I've put in is slowly starting to pay off.
G.M: The numbers are very healthy, you've also been featured on the Official Afrobeats Top 20 Charts for the UK, does charting matters you?
G: Erm… not really. I don't feel like I'm doing it for the charts, I just do it because I love it. The charts stuff is a pat on the back… like okay, we’re going somewhere, but it's not something that's majorly important to me… or I place high importance on. I'm just about impact and making good music.
G.M: I hear that. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, panorama, Panasonic, pain au chocolat, Pakurumo. What can we expect over the next couple of months? What does 2021 have in store?
G: Videos, features… maybe a remix of one of the songs on the tape… soon. And, you know, more singles, more singles. Maybe another project! Yeah, you know, yeah, more music, more music, definitely more music.
G.M: Talking of the tape, one of the tracks on the project is called Brazil. Name your top three places that you would like to perform.
G: I’d say Mauritius, just because of how beautiful that place is. Oh! Hmm... New York because while I was over there, I built a lot of love for them. And can I say, London?
G.M: Of course, I’m trying to see you at the 02 Sir!
G: [laughs] Definitely London. I feel like that where I get the most love.
G.M: Now your heritage is Nigerian. When was the last time you were back? And do you have any plans to connect with your fans over there in person?
G: So the last time was like 2017, and definitely! We was actually, before this, you know whole Pakurumo, planning to do a show in December . Me and Melvitto, but Corona had other plans. Hopefully, if not this year, next year, we'll be able to do the show there.
G.M: Exciting times! If you need a tour guide, I’m volunteering my services now! Do you have a favourite track on the project?
G.M: I like the whole project but it's Toxic fah me cos I can relate! Thank you so much for your time Gabzy. If we want to find you online, where can we go?
G.M: Man came through with the Snapchat. I’m screaming and shouting. Are you on Tik Tok or Triller?
G: I'm on Tik Tok. I believe. So that's the same as Instagram. And clubhouse is the same as Instagram.
G.M: Thank you for your time, Sir. What is your favourite F word?
G: I'll say flavour. That's what I put into my music… I like flavour in my food. And I just feel like I’ve got a lot of flavour.
Gabzy wears jacket PUMA