MY breath has just come back from reviewing Signal’s latest…
single, Down. The combination of slick, sick vocals and exceptional production (Jay Picasso) brought the song to life. Collaborating with Eclipse (Picasso and his wife, Jamie Jooste) it is a bold and memorable declaration from one of Britain’s fastest-rising and most promising Hip-Hop/Rap stars. I have been following Signal since his last single, All Night. I am confident a wonderful future lays ahead and few deserve it more – always putting his all into music and throwing tonnes of passion into everything. After a busy last few months, I was eager to see how Signal has been; what inspired Down and what the Basingstoke (where he is based) scene is like – and a cheeky question about his football club, Liverpool.
Hey Signal. How has your week been? What have you been getting up to?
Hi Sam. The last couple of weeks has been hectic since the Down release. It’s like music is a twenty-four-seven thing for me: if I’m not writing I’m busy promoting, doing research or updating my social media. I went to Liverpool last weekend to see some family with my dad (which was nice to have a little break). Back on it now, though: no rest for the wicked!
For those who are new to your work: can you introduce yourself to us?
It’s 'Big Sig'…. ha! I’m a rapper from Basingstoke and I’ve been making music for ten years. I studied at the Academy of Contemporary Music (in Guildford) and graduated with a degree in Music Production.
All I’ve ever wanted to do is make music and perform.
I like to think my style is unique and I have featured heavily on B.B.C. Introducing this past year. I’m a telecoms giant during the day (big-up Peter from Dragons' Den) and artist at night.
You recently launched (new single) Down at Fever & Boutique in Basingstoke (with Eclipse). What was that night like and what was the crowd’s reaction like?
The whole night was a movie! It was such a sick experience and gave me a real taste of what’s to come. The support was overwhelming: lots of people grabbed up a C.D. that I was giving away. Big-up the team for passing through and Thom from Fever for the Making it Happen hashtag!
Speaking on the new single: can you tell us what inspired that song?
The inspiration came from a lot of things, to be honest. I wanted to be able to dance (you should see my hip-move) to the beat and after listening to my E.P. I couldn’t really hear any of those tunes in a nightclub as such. So I guess it was kinda (sic.) stepping out of my comfort zone but probably the best decision I’ve ever made. It goes down as my favourite and best material to date that’s for sure.
The session was organic; the beat and lyrics were written there and then within a five-hour studio session.
Jamie vocalised the chorus at a later date. I have just finished recording the next single which, again, is influenced by this sound (and is featuring Eclipse).
You join with Eclipse for this single. How long have you been a fan of them (Jamie Jooste and Jay Picasso)?
Since I knew about them! It wasn’t until a couple of months after I met Jay that he mentioned that he could rap (as well as produce) and showed me his E.P. It is sick by the way. Testament E.P. - check it out! I then discovered Jay and Jamie as Eclipse and became a fan instantly. We worked together on Leave This Girl Alone taken from the Make It Happen E.P. Jamie is ridiculously talented and her chemistry with Jay - being his wife and all - compliments any beat they work on together.
Down finds you re-join with Jay Picasso – who produces and provides backing vocal. What is he like to work with and how influential has he been with regards moulding your music?
I’ve got the utmost respect for Jay Picasso: not only as a producer and a musician but as a good friend.
Jay has been fundamental in my development and the quality of my music has stepped up significantly since I was introduced to him. He’s a pleasure to work with: we’re always on the same page and it’s got to the point where I’m reluctant to work with anyone else - unless it has Jay’s input in terms of the production. The guy is a machine!
All Night was your previous track and gained huge feedback and praise. Were you surprised by the reaction it accrued?
Big shout-out to Ryan Samuda and Nana on the visuals! It’s a typical ‘Signal’ song: witty lyrics full of innuendos and a bad-boy production from ‘Kenan’ (Sorry Jay: you mentioned ‘Big Sig’ in your interview). The most surprising thing was the support from the B.B.C. Introducing team at the time of release. I had two radio interviews; a freestyle and live session from B.B.C. in Brighton and Reading in less than three days. It certainly makes doing what I do worth it.
Can we expect to see a Signal E.P. in the coming months?
Definitely - after releasing the Make It Happen E.P. earlier this year. The focus has been on single releases and finding a sound that best suits my style. I believe I have found that sound through Down and a collaboration E.P. might be on the cards - even talks of a new group. I’m sure you know who I’m talking about - the new N-Dubz? :)
You hail from Basingstoke. What is the music like there and how much support have you received from the home crowds?
The music scene is definitely growing.
The one thing that Basingstoke lacks is opportunities for local artists.
There used to be an event called Beats ‘n’ Bars (shouts to Patsy) which was essentially an Urban event - with local rappers/singers showcasing their talent and often opening up for a headline act. Kano and Chipmunk came down - this was like eight years ago.
Back then it was absolute madness: times of Channel U! The only thing us Urban acts have got to look forward to is Basingstoke Live every year on the Sunrise Stage - which is effectively continuing the Beats ‘n’ Bars tradition. In terms of the support, it has been amazing - especially within the last year. My social media is growing as a result and the Basingstoke Gazette has featured me in articles on numerous occasions. I’m sure you’ll get to see me perform at Fever & Boutique again with future releases.
I know you spend a lot of time performing in London. Is that a city you’d like to move to? What are your favourite venues/areas of London as a performer and music fan?
The dream is to be in the studio every day: making music and performing in London on a consistent basis.
I’ve performed in Camden a few times and it’s always a sick vibe and atmosphere. I’ve seen various artists perform at the 02 Arena and Wembley; so to headline/support in one of those locations would be a dream come true - when Em. (Eminem) brought out (Dr.) Dre at Wembley!
How did you first get into music and what attracted you to the genres of Hip-Hop and Grime?
Well, I just about missed out on the Garage scene but my bro. Pete ‘Danger’ used to D.J. and ‘chat’ over Garage. There is six years between us so I think that had a major part to play in my upbringing from a young age. I was about thirteen/fourteen when some new kids moved down my street in Popley. They were from Reading and the kids were my age. Funnily enough, all the brothers could rap. It was them that got me into it properly and even thought of the name ‘Signal’. It’s kinda stuck since then although I wish I used the name ‘Amps’. It went from spitting over Grime beats with my new pals against the wall; making videos for Bebo to linking up with my best mate Onias ‘Serva’ - where we recorded my first studio song Sexy Love (at my old school, The Vyne). F.Y.I.: do not try and look for it on Google. Ha, proper cringey!
I released a mixtape called You Ain’t Ready for This which was followed by Demons in Disguise with Kamikaze - who I met at college. It was only when I got to uni. where I started experimenting with flows and styles - which created the path for my first Hip-Hop mixtape (Alive) with fellow students Jay O-K, Joe Kane and Serva. When I left university, I was signed to a management company called Titans Entertainment who introduced me to Jay Picasso. Big respect to Inspekta and KO for making the connection. The rest is history!
Are there any upcoming artists you’d like to give a shout-out to?
Wayne Woodward: say no more, really. The whole Starcity movement is doing things at the moment. Exciting times ahead. Watch out for Wayne’s album.
I know you’re an ardent Liverpool F.C. fan. What have you made of their season so far? Do you get much chance to go to football?
Man like Klopp! I’ve been very impressed with Liverpool this season. We’ve finally managed to find a bit of consistency (barring the Burnley game). I truly believe Liverpool’s going to win the league under Klopp - doubt it will be this year but certainly within the next few seasons; providing we can keep hold of Coutinho! I’ve been to a couple of games in the past but tickets are so hard to get hold of. I went for my twenty-first which was the best experience - sitting next to the Kop singing Y.N.W.A. (You’ll Never Walk Alone). Goosebumps!
Which artists and albums have been most important to you – either now or when growing up?
I was brought up on nothing but Michael Jackson - he was my hero! Imagine: my dad managed to get hold of tickets when the last batch came through for the 02 Arena and Michael died a couple of weeks later - heartbreaking! Kanye West’s Late Registration was the first Hip-Hop album that I bought so that will always remain an important album as well as John Cena’s (Yes, the wrestler, haha). Believe it or not, he’s not a bad rapper.
My biggest inspiration, though, has to be Eminem. Eminem is arguably one of the greatest rappers of all time, and in my opinion, the best!
For those new artists looking to follow you into music: what advice and tips would you offer them?
Practice makes perfect! Be consistent; be prepared to make sacrifices and always take opportunities. Be as active as possible on social media and only put out material that you’re 100% happy with. Think of your music being a brand and a business. Marketing is essential!
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can select any song (other than your own as I’ll include one) and I’ll play it here…
Emile Sande – Hurts (Radio 1 Live Lounge version). Have you heard the passion in her vocals?!