AFTER MEETING AT A UNI HOUSE PARTY, ROSS STANDALOFT AND LEON RHYMES FORMED THE UK HIP-HOP DUO TOO MANY T’S. NOW THEY HAVE OPENED FOR BIG DADDY KANE AT LONDON’S JAZZ CAFE, PERFORMED WITH PUBLIC ENEMY AND CRAFTED SOME INCREDIBLE RECORDS. THE BOYS SAT DOWN WITH JOURNALIST JOE LAFLIN TO TALK ABOUT THE GENESIS OF TOO MANY T‘S,, PERFORMING WITH PUBLIC ENEMY, AND THE GOLDEN AGE OF HIP-HOP. NOT TO MENTION THEIR TAKE ON THE ALL IMPORTANT QUESTION: HOW MANY T‘S IS TOO MANY.
So let‘s start at the beginning. how did Too Many T’s come about?
Ross: So you’re talking about Bt, before T’s? We were both part of the same Litter of T’s. we hatched out of this big mother EGG and we couldn’t believe it. alright brother good to see you, someone give us some mics!
aCTUALLY WE HAD KNOWN EACH OTHER FOR A FEW YEARS AND FINALLY MET UP IN LEEDS WHERE LEON WENT TO UNIVERSITY. I’M FROM WAKEFIELD WHICH IS CLOSE BY SO WE BUMPED INTO EACH OTHER A FEW TIMES. WE HAD MUTUAL FRIENDS IN THE AREA AND LEON WAS ALSO IN A GROUP AT THE TIME. WE SORT OF DID A LIttle BIT OF RAPPING HERE AND THERE. NOT MANY PEOPLE RAPPED IN WAKEFIELD AND LEEDS SO WE REALLY GO INTRODUCED THROUGH THAT AND THEN JUST STARTED HANGING OUT.
Leon: Every three or four months we’d try and have a weekend together. We’d usually just get drunk and try to write a song.
ROSS: Yeah, I mean we wrote this series of pretty stupid songs. It was all made purely for our own enjoyment. there wasn’t any desire to put any of it out. After LIVING IN Bristol I moved to London. Leon had already been in London for a few years AT THAT STAGE and his old band had broken up.
Leon: Yeah that happened around the same time Ross moved to London. I’d started doing a solo project but Ross and me started hanging out more. writing more tracks together. We then found these cheap flights to Morocco & thought why not? The next thing we thought was why not do a music video whilst we’re there? The only problem was we didn’t have a song. what are we going to do a music video about? Well, let’s write song about things we might find in Morocco. We had no idea what we’d find in Morocco so we did what anyone would do… a Google image search and then wrote a song based on it.
Ross: It was actually shot with our tour manager PhILL, who is an absolute don AND an amazing videographer. So that’s where it started. That video came out and it was like “oh this is pretty cool”. We started doing a few gigs and people LIKed it. For the first time I thought MAYbe I should put some time into music. Maybe END UP WITH A whole career and everything!
So you guys were already making music before you formed TMT’s?
Ross: Yeah we were making stuff separately and that’s where the cross over sort of caME… we kind of fused together, OUR different music and backgrounds came together as one. I was making underground, old school, sort of fast rappy kind of stuff.
Leon: I was listening to 112, JodecI, Usher.
I have to ask how the name came about?
Ross: We need to come up with some better answers for this one…
Leon: We’ve just got loads of t-shirts and drink loads of tea.
Hah i quite fancy a cup of tea now actually
Ross: ha We’ll make you one afterwards. We travel around with our own little tea-making facilities.
So how many T’s is too many T’s?
Leon: Well that’s the irony you can’t have enough.
ROSS: It’s just an infinite loop…
So did you make the video and then put out the first EP?
Ross: Yeah that was 2013 and was our first little studio thing. And then we did another EP in 2014 but didn’t do anything until 2017 when we released the first album. At this point the barman decided to start stocking up for the night, selfishly just doing his job. This caused much commotion and noise but we decided to stick it out.
To me, it just seems like you want to have fun in your music, which seems a good approach to take…
Ross: Everything’s alright if it’s fun! I think it just comes naturally. we don’t take ourselves too seriously. It makes me cringe trying to be cool. I definitely try to be a certain amount, like everyone does.
Ross: We’re pretty goofy guys which comes out in some of the music and on stage. But it’s all you can be really isn’t It- just be yourselves.
Leon: As it’s become more serious in terms of actually doing it as a career then with it comes a bit more pressure. You have to start thinking about it in a more serious way. We manage ourselves and the lines start to get a bit blurred. You want to have fun with it but things start needing to get done on a daily basis. boxes need to be ticked.
ROSS: You need to have quality control on your silliness. Rein it in a bit…
Leon: If it’s the live show- people come to see us for an escape and we want to make music that people will listen to and say ‘this is sick’ S0 we always want to have fun in that way.
You guys have supported big artists before, but who have you most enjoyed supporting?
Leon: For different reasons: the Big Daddy Kane show at the Jazz Cafe Was amazing. Touring with AbdoMInal and Format was amazing…
Ross: Yeah that was one of our faves. it went down so well because it was such a good crowd for our type of music.
Leon: The Brighton Public Enemy was a stand out because it was a real proper hip-hop crowd. We often play to more of a MIXED crowd, festival type so we were a bit ‘how’s this gonna go’, but it was wicked. Then Chuck D CAME and spoke to us and It was like (inner squeal of joy from Leon).
Ross: We played Hip Hop Kemp IN czechia … and again it’s like a proper hip-hop crowd. Because we’ve played s0 many festivals and you know old ladies like us so we tend to get fans across the board. We always think with hip-hop it’s so scrutinised and people write things off really easily so its good to play to that type of crowd and have them enjoy it. Hip Hop Kemp was epic. we blew the roof off and the reception was mental.
There are a lot of French artists on your latest album La Fam Ill. How did all those connections come about?
Leon: We released our first album “South City” worldwide on our own label and then the label in France wanted to put it out just over there. Then they put us forward for a show called ‘Trans-Musicales in Rennes’ which is Like a big industry event, KIND OF LIke a South by South West KIND OF thing.
We played this crazy show to three thousand people, loads of which were bookers for festivals in France. ALL of 2018 we played LOADS of festivals in France off the back of this one show. We met A lot of the artists that are on the “La FaM ILL” album on the way. BECause we got sO many people involved, the label reached out to more people who wanted to be part of the project…
… It wasn’t really a plan. It all just fell into place.
Ross: I think it (La FaM ILL) needed longer before it caMe out just because of how difficult it is to collaborate with that many people. The back end paperwork WAS just going on and on and it caused us problems with the release and stuff. It WAS a BIT annoying when you do such big projects every couple of years- you want everything to be lineD up properly but because they’re all with different artists we could’ve just done theM as singles. i love this CHAT … It’s like a therapy session of what we should’ve done HAHA.
There was bit of a debate recently on Twitter when Complex Magazine said this is ‘the first golden era for UK Hip-Hop. I think It’s a time and place thing. So for me, it was the albums “Asylum Speakers” and “Council Estate of Mind”. So what’s your golden era of Hip Hop??
Ross: Louis SLIpperz’ “£10 bag” and “Asylum Speakers” by Foreign Beggars. And then Dizzee’s first album. I think that’s it for me just because I was S0 into It. Just such a big fan.
Leon: MINE Might be a bit before. That era was when I first started rapping but I used to love Biggie, Big Pun, Ja Rule era when hip hop was almost pop really. It was big hooks and a sick rapper on the verse. That was the thing that I thought was wicked. And they were all good rappers too, people like MethodMan.
Ross: My favourite era is older though. Late 80’S/early 90s. Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, Eric B & RakIM. the storytelling stuFF. the big funky beats. Just MORE the approach to it WAS what made me fall in love with hip-hop. But on a personal level My golden era was that “£10 bag”, “Boy in Da Corner”, being 17 and rolling around in a little Fiesta banging it out thinking I’M cool as fUck!