UK boom-bap maestro Strizzy Strauss is back with a new cinematic release airing exclusively on Complex UK . His new track ‘Driven’ featuring SunSun comes of is latest album Trust The Process. We sat down with Strizzy to talk about the making of Trust The Process, his love of Jazz and dream festival lineups.
Who are some of your musical inspirations?
My main musical influences I would say are 2pac, DMX and Nas. Those 3 are my top 3 rappers of all time. I feel they all brought a spiritual aspect to the genre of Hip Hop with their music. There is also a spiritual/uplifting undertone. I am also heavily inspired by J.Cole, Griselda, Planet Asia, Verbz, Coops and Loyle Carner to name a few, I feel like we all share a similar sound in terms of content and the dusty boom bap beats.
Above all my main influence is the mid to late 90s/early 00s Hip Hop
scene, maybe a bit earlier. I feel that was when the art form was at its
purest and there was a wider variety of styles in Hip Hop.
What was the inspiration behind the title Trust the process?
The title from the project came from the book called ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho. It’s such an amazing book. It’s basically about a shepherd who is told he has a treasure waiting for him at the Pyramids in Egypt – he just has to travel from Santiago to get there. The thing that resonated with me was the fact the shepherd needed to trust ‘the omens’ in his journey in order to reach his treasure.
I really feel that the whole process of writing, recording and even releasing the album, I had to trust ‘the omens’. I originally planned to release the album back in August 2019 but due to a few setbacks and our commitment to releasing the highest quality project, we decided to push it back. I really didn’t want to delay the project any longer, but we simply weren’t ready (myself and the label ), so I had to trust the project, trust the team, I essentially had to TRUST THE PROCESS.
This was also my debut album – I had never released a full length project before so I didn’t know if I was doing it right. In hindsight, the trust was well placed and the album received a great reception from the fans and my peers as well as support from numerous media outlets.
How did you decide who to feature on the project?
The features on the project came together very organically as I have a relationship with everyone that featured on the project. I also wanted to work with artists I had on my bucket list.
I treated this album like it was the only album I was ever going to make, so I went all out trying to get the right people on there. I think we smashed it with the features as they all brought something different to the album and added to the feel of it.
Vandal Savage is from Nottingham, UK, basically up the road from Leicester (where I’m from). He’s been doing this Hip Hop thing from back when it wasn’t cool to do it in the UK and to me personally, is one of the key pioneers of UK Hip Hop.
Siddeeq Matthew, he is like a legend in my city. Again, he is another artist that was making UK Hip Hop when it wasn’t cool, with his crew Speech Ferapy and later on with Yard 26, a pioneering recording studio that supported many of Leicester’s earliest hip-hop and grime acts. He’s always been a massive inspiration and supporter of what I do, so for him to jump on the album was absolutely crazy and definitely one off the bucket list.
Rabbs & SunSun, they’re my brothers, man!! So it was natural to have them on the project and I feel the tracks they are on are real stand outs for me personally – Hard Times (Rabbs), Speed of Life & Driven (SunSun).
Astrixx is one of the youngers from the ends I grew up in, so it was nice to bridge the gap between eras. Proper cool guy, Astrixx is! Ash Styles is ‘The Talented Human’, I love this guy, man! He’s so in tune with everything spiritually, he’s like my personal Shaman! He’s got such an amazing voice and I needed that for the album. The track with him and Logic of People’s Army has got a real gospel feel to it!
Do you work with the same producer consistently or do you prefer to
work with lots of different producers?
I currently work with a close network of producers, but I am open to working with new beat makers as long as the vibe’s there. I often find I need to be inspired to write to the beat on first listen, or something I’ve written previously will organically feel right for the song.
I work with Sik Sense, DirtySweet and Rabbs consistently as I feel they have a sound that really works for me, and we have built a relationship over the years to where they know my style inside and out.
LRD and Feeniks are also really dope too! Feeniks is from my ends – part of the same crew as Astrixx Hoodlumz Ent (who featured on Gems) – so again it was great bridging the gap. He has a really nice Lo-Fi sound on Concrete Jungle and a soulful sound on Gems. LRD came with that 70s, Blaxploitation sound, like Superfly on Speed of Life!
Rabbs being my business partner and best friend, knows me inside out and is boombap/jazz hip hop to the core. His drums are so dope. But being honest, I really wanna meet some Lo-Fi hip hop producers because I feel it draws some real deep lyrics from me and I just love the rawness of the sound, so if you know any send them my way!
Where does your love of Jazz influenced beats come from? The whole album is very cinematic and really well orchestrated, do you get influenced by a broad range of other genres other than hip-hop?
My love for jazz comes from just a natural attraction to it. I love the
melodies and the way the instruments are like lyrics in the compositions. I also listen to alot of LoFi and Jazz playlists on Spotify, and the feeling is something special to me, I can’t put my finger on it. Jazzy beats enable me to speak about grittier concepts with a pleasant back drop, which makes my music easier to digest.
I really love FloFilz, Psalm Trees, xPanda and Tom Misch beats, I could listen to them for hours. I just feel so inspired by the Jazz sound. I feel it’s a great combination for my style, keeps it ‘Soul Hop’, you feel me? Keeps it clean and pure. I am inspired by any music with a ‘feel’. I really love jazz, 90s R&B, Afro beats (Fela Kuti), Hip Hop, Motown and Northern Soul. I try to incorporate all influences into my music.
What do you think about when approaching a track, the beat or the lyrics you want to write ?
For me it goes hand in hand, preferably. But then there are other times when I may have 4 – 6 bars written already and I finish it when I hear the right beat. I stay open to however the ‘banger’ comes. I try to fill in the gaps other artists miss out.
My whole thing is to create an audiobook for my 3 children, so as they grow they don’t need to follow or listen to anyone else when they get stuck in life. They can always listen to my music and feel inspired. So when I’m writing I am creating parables from my life experiences to inspire and help someone else in a similar position.
Also, I try to stay as vulnerable as possible with my content. I think it’s important to maintain a human element at all times in order to connect with my audience as a real person and I am not afraid of that, I believe that makes me the artist I am. I also see beats in colours, like for example my song Driven is shades of blue and Hieroglyphics is shades of green, it’s mad. The colour helps me to
create the vibe.
If you could go to any 3 concerts in history, who would you go see ?
2pac at the House of Blues back in the mid 90s, Def Jam Survival of the Illest Tour, DMX at Woodstock.
Lastly, Who are you listening to during this quarantine? And what are you plans once we can all start partying again?
I have been listening to Johnny Jazz Mattazz Records playlist ‘Jazz Hip Hop’ on Spotify. Alot of Griselda, 38 Spesh and Planet Asia. Lots and lots of Lofi and Jazz Playlists.
Verbz, Loyle Carner, Joker Starr and Coops from the UK have been holding me down too. A lot of instrumentals, just trying to keep sharp in terms of writing. I really enjoyed Benny The Butcher’s project ‘Burden of Proof’ and Joker Starr’s ‘Poor Traits of a King’.
More often than not I listen to my own Spotify playlist that I regularly update because my day job involves a lot of driving. People can check that out on my page to get a feel of the type of sounds that I’m into.
I’m hoping to get out and tour the album as we haven’t had a chance to get out there and touch the people, so that’s what I’m gearing for when we get back on line. I really want to travel and push this project as much as possible, so I really can’t wait until we are back to normal – whatever that is?