As we pointed out in my last article about women in hip-hop, in which we dove into the female side of hip-hop history, it is time to let women in hip-hop themselves actually be heard about the subject. But we should not forget about their music of course, because they are first and most importantly musicians. So, let’s give one great grime mc a platform!
Chey is an up-and-coming grime rapper from East-London. In recent months, she has been dropped a couple of singles, was featured in the book ‘Women in Grime’ by Ellie Ramsden, has been building her channel by rockin’ hard and has numerous collaborations coming out soon. We open this conversation with Chey about her journey in music, her work and perspective on grime.
Could you tell us a little bit about your music? You dropped a couple of singles on YouTube so far, take us on your journey!
“I started as a Gospel rapper. My dad is a musician and when I was ten years old my mom joined the church. The church was predominantly where it all started. From young I have always been interested in music and instruments and stuff like that, so as soon as I was off age I started writing my own lyrics. As a teen, I left the church and went dabbling in the music scene. I started to roll with a crew for a couple of years but, unfortunately, that didn’t work out too much. Thus I started rolling and just punch lines on my own. The last couple of years I’ve been trying to build up my own YouTube channel. I’ve had a couple of features on SB. TV. Just trying to build up my own platform, really. I think that’s the most important thing as an artist, to create a platform.”
Do you have a clear message that you want to put out there through your music?
“I just want my music to be relatable. I want to be one of those artists, that when people listen to me, they feel better. You know; sometimes you can listen to music and you get the music and it’s a vibe and stuff, but I like music that makes you feel. When I myself, was going through my hardest times, I used to listen to J. Cole. His albums would always inspire me and make me feel good. It made me feel like someone else has been through something as well, and managed to come out on top. I want my music to do the same for other people.”
How do you relate to grime music and to grime as a scene?
“Grime has always been a big part of my life. Like I said, about my teenage years, when I was in school everyone was spitting bars in the playground. And it is mad; because I grew up in church, I was not really allowed to rap lyrics that were about sinful things or that weren’t about god. So I would rap my bars at school, but I took that experience into church. I remember after the song ‘Pow’ from Lethal Bizzle first came out, I was in love. I went straight to my friends in church and said; ‘we’ve got to do our own version. Every man: write your bars and we are all going to perform it in church!”
“Grime is just British culture, you know? Before that, we didn’t really have anything to call our own. That I could relate to, personally. Obviously, you’ve got UK hip-hop and stuff but UK hip-hop is kind of a break-off of an American culture, whereas Grime is something that’s ours. So I will always have that influence in my music. How can it not? It is in the blood, it is in the culture.”
I want to raise the subject of women in grime. You’ve been added to a recently released photography book about women in grime: ‘Too Many Man: Women of Grime V2’. I was wondering how femininity in grime got to be a topic for you?
“About the book, I want to first and foremost say big up Ellie Ramsden! For me, to be a part of that book was an honour. She’s showcasing women in the industry that don’t really get the spotlight that they need. It’s nice that someone did create that platform to tell your story. For me, it’s something that I want to be part of because I think it’s important to tell your story. Women don’t really get as much spotlight as they should in the industry. It’s great to be part of that and also to read about other females and connect with other females. It’s amazing how you can connect by just being part of such a project.”
Do you yourself experience a difference in recognition by either fans or the industry based on your gender identity?
“I will be honest: I have never really seen myself as a female artist. I carry myself as an artist. I have always just put it down to: ‘if I haven’t gotten where I need to be, I’m just not working hard enough’. Do you know what I mean? Or: ‘maybe it’s just not my turn yet’, and: ‘my time will come, it’s just progress’. I never sat down and thought: ‘is anything biased because I’m a female?’.
“I guess I am either naïve, or I just do not care, but I just want to be perceived as being myself. I hate that there are ‘artists’ and that there are ‘female artists’. I have never heard someone asking this to a male artist, and I feel like we need to kill such questions because it kind of boxes us in. So yeah, I just wanna be perceived as an artist altogether. I do not want to show my femininity in any way. I mean; obviously, I am a woman, so I do not feel like I need to go the extra mile.”
So, what would your overall opinion be on being both female and an artist?
“It shouldn’t make a difference and I don’t feel like we should allow it to make a difference. With things like ‘all-female shows’ and ‘all-female platforms’ or ‘all-female tracks’, we kind of box ourselves in. Obviously, when you feel like you’re on a side that doesn’t get as much recognition, it’s the natural thing for us to all stick together. Instead, we should just be in the mix. So I’m trying to reframe; instead of just asking questions about femininity. I’m just trying to be myself and I’m not trying to reframe gender. I don’t feel like my gender has anything to do with my talent, and that’s the energy that I walk with. For me, it shouldn’t be a topic at all.”
What role do you as a woman have in grime music?
“It’s not my role as a woman, it’s just my role as an artist. That’s to produce good music, give the people what they want to hear, stay true to myself, make music that makes me and the world happy. Make music that is long-lasting. As an artist, that’s what we are all out to do. It’s our role to produce good music. Music is something that helps people, it’s a de-stress, it’s something that we need. On a good day, music makes you happier and on a bad day music makes things relatable, and it can take you out of your mood. So we make music that keeps the world going and makes the world happy.
“And from the female perspective; as a woman, I would like to make sure that other girls growing up feel that they can rap too. I hope they feel that they can make moves and that they can take part in a male-dominated industry and still flourish. For young girls, it would be nice for them to see me and think; ‘that’s the type of person I aspire to be’. Not just for females, but for every young person growing up.”
What can we expect to see from you this year?
“Listen, this year you can expect to see work, man! Make sure you subscribe to my channel, Cheyofficial on YouTube. Make sure you follow up on the socials @ch3y_. I’ve got some tunes coming up for the summer and, man, I’ve got some cool features coming up. This year, I am trying to reach out to more artists and work with them. I’ve always been someone that liked working alone, and just kinda did my own thing. I worked with ‘Female Allstars’, which is cool. That feature made me realise that I needed to bounce off of other artists, as well. So, many good features and solo gigs are coming up. Keep your eyes tuned! Subscribe! Let’s take over!”