Interview Written & Conducted By: KXVU
Photography: TrueMendous & High Focus
UK hip hop as a genre is most definitely undergoing a period of substantial transition. We are seeing this in numerous ways, from the old guard really starting to alternate and morph their sound into something very new and exciting, alongside a plethora of new, fresh artists pushing their way to the front of the queue with incredibly new musical creations. The sound in general is being modernized, now leaning towards crispier, more electronic 130-150BPM ranged beats over 90BPM boom-bap influenced slaps.
One artist that is stating to pull away from the vibrant pack of newcomers is none other than TrueMendous, a serious breath of fresh air whose unique vocal ability, style and performance factor give her a real edge. Being the first woman to be signed to the infamous High Focus imprint also lays out a sense of gravitas, making history with her individuality and relentless approach.
As an MC her sound is constantly in flux, flitting between the full spectrum of UK hip hop, handling it all with a real touch of class. Her latest project ‘Huh?’ is a pretty groundbreaking piece of work, perfectly summarizing her versatility and prowess with the pen, without boxing her into a single corner of sound. We were thrilled to sit down with her for an extended conversation about the new project, managing her versatility and more!
An Interview With TrueMendous
First of all, the EP run has been fantastic, what has the response been like and how do you feel now its complete and out in the world?
The response for ‘Huh?’ was overwhelming to be honest. Since High focus announced the signing prior to anything being released, I was very surprised and somewhat unprepared for the response from their following. I reckon it was more so because of the amount of responses as opposed to what they were actually saying, though that too plays a big part. I’ve been small and independent forever so to transition to a label with a large and solid core fanbase brings a lot more eyes and attention on you especially being the ‘newbie’ on the label. So many supportive comments and a lot of positive feedback came from the release and I’m grateful for the acknowledgement of so many people. I know the projects nearly at 100,000 streams currently and its only been out for just over a month so I really can’t complain.
The EP itself was a really powerful and well-rounded introduction to your incredible lyricism and your unique blend of hip hop and grime flavours. How would you describe your sound to a new listener & who are your biggest stylistic influences?
Though the EP is my first project for the label, it’s the 7th project I’ve released overall. I have a mixtape and 5 other EP’s out which I created independently from 2014-2019 however ‘Huh?’ Definitely has been released through the biggest platform. I’d describe my sound as unique, diverse and fairly complex in regards to vocal deliverance. I like challenging myself to display weird and intricate rhymes schemes alongside unpredictable patterns. I don’t enjoy simplified raps. As far as production it doesn’t really matter what genre I am given … I just have to like it!
In regards to influences, Andre 3000 is one my favourites as I’ve never heard a weak verse in his entire portfolio of music. I appreciate the detail he incorporates into his work and the poetical elements also intertwined along with humour and bizarre punchlines. He’s a brilliant and creative storyteller and has always stayed true to himself, his sound and his style while never adjusting it to be current with whatever trend was buzzing at that time.
Lauryn Hill is someone else who has cemented herself as one of my favourites. Her outstanding versatility as both a vocalist and rapper while upholding both sides exceptionally well. Usually when artists do both, they’re a lot stronger at one but she managed to balance and intertwine the two to a top tier standard. Going against the grain and speaking on a lot of meaningful topics such as: equality, injustice, freedom, peace and love etc.
Since your last EP you have joined the ranks of High Focus. How are you settling in and what’s it been like having access to the legends that run it, it must feel like a dream come true?
So far in person I’ve only met: Fliptrix, Verb T and Pitch 92 but a lot of the guys do speak to me through Instagram and email. Prior to signing I would get a few messages here and there from different people connected to the label complimenting the work I was putting out which I appreciated. Fliptrix, Verb and Pitch have all been very welcoming and supportive since the beginning and I know I’ll meet the rest of them soon after quarantine ends, ha.
Following on from this thought, you jumped on a track with Verb T & Pitch 92, what was the experience like and how challenging was it writing your verse for your first big High Focus feature.
Verb reached out on Instagram talking about the album he was working on, which later turned out to be ‘A Question Of Time’ and proposed one of his leading singles to me. He asked if I wanted to feature on it with a lengthy verse to complement his as there was no hook in that track. I was definitely up for it, he sent over the rough guide and when I heard it I knew it was something I’d happily want to be a part of. He explained the concept of his verse and then I wrote mine personifying music as my partner and the love hate relationship we have. The single was well received from the High Focus audience.
Let’s talk about the single of Huh?, OTYL.2 takes us back to a more old school hip hop structure. This one feels a lot more rawcus than the previous singles, any reason in particular you chose this as the single for the album?
Yeah, well I released O.T.Y.L part 1 a few years ago in 2017 on one of my older projects ‘P.S. This Is Your Mother Calling.’ The visual came out in 2016 on a hip hop channel on youtube called Sektion Red. Out of my entire back-catalogue of music O.T.Y.L was the most successful track independently so to say thank you to myself ha, I thought why not revisit it and create a part 2, so that’s what I did. Yes, it is definitely the most ‘normal’ old-school hip-hop style of track on the project. I tried to incorporate a few different elements and genres on the project to cater to a wider audience.
Is there a tempo you prefer working to or do you like to jump around genres? Do you prefer to challenge yourself with the type of beat you jump on or with the complexity of the wordplay?
Personally, I do prefer slower tempos however I am able to write to any beat. Sometimes I do ask producers to slow it down as Ideally I do like the 85-95bpm range as my rhymes schemes can be quite lengthy and a lot of words are In each sentence so depending on the approach I want to go for the slower tempos work better for me as they fit better. This being said however in my portfolio of music I rap over various speeds and a lot of them are over 95bpm as I know people like the skippy flows which are executed better on quicker tempos. It’s cool but when you have to do it back to back in a live performance you do regret not having slower shit to help you catch your breath, ha.
You always seem to be rocking a fresh snapback, bucket hat or bandana in your videos, have you got a favourite hat or designer you keep top of the list?
I’ve definitely been wearing the Kangol Bermuda bucket hats in a lot of my visuals as aesthetically they’re dope and I like the overall shape of them. They’re quite comfortable in both cold and warm weather, so if Kangol ever want to sponsor me or collaborate on one later down the line … I wouldn’t say no!
Finally, what can we look forward to post-lockdown from yourself?
After lockdown I’ll be releasing my next project for High Focus records which will be a lot longer than ‘Huh?’ And will have a few features on. I’ll be shooting new music videos as well as getting back to live performances. Overall, I’ll be continuing to build ‘TrueMendous.’ I’m looking forward to what is still to come so let’s see how far I can take it!
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