INTERVIEW: “Swagga Dem” Stylo G Speaks On Style

Reshma B Reasons With Stylo G: Part 1 of 3

Last summer when “Call Me A Yardie” seemed to blasting out of every passing car in London, we caught up with Stylo G for an in-depth interview. Since that time, the song has only gotten bigger, and Stylo’s continued to solidify his position as the next big breakout star from the UK. Most recently he released a video for “Dash Out,” his hot collabo with Chip. In this first part of a three-part series, Stylo talks about how he got his name, how he made the adjustment from Jamaica to England, and why you ain’t saying nothing if you don’t have your Air Force One trainers.

Good to speak with you, Stylo. You’re a hard man to get hold of.

It’s just that I’ve been so busy, running up and down, you understand me. In the studio making sure I’m making them hit. You done know, We say Swagga dem. So we have to keep it busy. But obviously you’re here with me now. Yeah, the interview ah pop off. So ah your time.

So Stylo G—firstly, tell me what that name is all about.

Basically the name came from just me being stylish. And as people hear the name Stylo G you have to expect a lot of style from me, like appearance-wise, music-wise. You understand me? When I’m out there. I get the name from, honestly, there’s a footballer in Jamaica called Stylo Ebanks in Spanish Town where I’m from. And I used to play like him. You get me? They used to call me Stylo but I never really like it much. You get me?

You never really liked being called Stylo?

It was Stylo Ebanks. And true me had the style already. I used to dye my hair black. I used to mad just like my dad, you get me? So me come England now. And one of my bredren from school come and said “Stylo.” And me said “dog, remember that name deh?” And man ah say, “You should keep that name ray-ray.” And I was around few of my bredren them time. Me and Mr. Flex was working on the music at the same time. You get me? And everybody used to call me Bagga Bagga—so I got an aka Bagga. That’s why sometime inna my song dem, I say “people used to call me Bagga” and dem supm deh. So from there, it just stick and me bredda say Style ah yuh name. As a matter of fact, put the G. Stylo G. And then it just naturally adds on to my name. That was like 2002.

Just for the record I can see you’re styling today. You got your hat. What are you wearing? A jewelry T-shirt. It’s tie-dyed. Oh my God! I’m not gonna ask what’s under that belt. I can already see some stripy shorts. Cavalli shoes. And is this chain real?

Of course it’s real. It have to be real. We no wear nutting else.

Can I ask your permission to touch it?

Of course you can touch it.

Holy beep! [laughs]

You dun know man. As an artist you have to have the appearance as well. So Stylo G appearance plays a main part. You have to have the image to step outta them rides. So yeah, that’s how my name kinda come about. And I’m gonna live up to my name.

You don’t have to answer this question, but I’m gonna be cheeky and ask you. How much did that cost?

Uh, the chain? No comment. But you dun know….

OK, describe to the listener what it’s made of.

Basically it’s made out of white gold with yellow gold crusted with some more Stylo gold. [laughs]

And some more of this and some serious that. [laughs]

Yeah and some little—you know what I’m saying. But you done know, as we said, it’s a part of the style. But I’ll leave it as no comment cause the ting vulnerable right now.

It’s all good. Don’t worry; you’re in my hood—I’ll protect you.

Me like it. Me have whole heap of protection man.

So you don’t need mine?

Of course. We can use some help. Some Charlie’s Angels action would definitely work.

OK well while you’re in West London, I’ll put my magic out. Now, you entered the music industry at a young age and you’re recognized throughout London’s underground grime scnee. This interview is for a US audience, so let’s break it down to ABC level. In your own words, tell us what grime exactly is.

Well grime music is an uptempo blend of like hip hop and bashment. So it’s more like an uptempo version. Most grime tempos are like 140, so it’s like [taps table and sings] toom-toom, toom-toom, toom-toom. When you have a riddim like that you have to kinda get with the riddim. When I first came to the UK it was just mostly grime music that was selling—you get me? There was Wylie, there was Tinie Tempah, there was Dizzee Rascal. So at the time, I had to get in with that. You undestand me? I had to show them I’m versatile and I can do this. So I just step into the grime ting. I got a song, um… “You don’t wanna get rushed—my youth. Better if you just dust. Alright then, my youth. Flip the script, my youth. Have the girl a pull down me zip, my youth.” You see me?

So it’s all about, just, I use my dancehall style, put it on a Grime riddim, and then that was appealing to the whole entire UK at the time cause Grime was so big. Everyone loved that “My Yute” song. So that was in 2007.

So I move on from there and I’m just thinking “Yeah, I need to do my ting. I need to do the bashment.” Shaggy was doing it big at the time. Sean Paul was just coming out. I was thinking, “Yep—we can do this. We can actually go Billboard singing dancehall music.” So from there I just start doing my thing properly. Start recording on most of the dancehall beats that was out. I just get them, Coolie Dance riddim was out at the time. Egyptian riddim. I just jump on them. Cause Dancehall changed… There was a time when there was loads of dancing songs with Elephant Man, like “Log On” and “Pon Di River.” So at that time I had to get with it. So I was just recording on them type of riddims until I start developing, start learning how to produce. Then my brother Cody Star came in, cause he’s a part of Crazy Cousins in the UK. They build Funky House. So he came in and start making beats. We started creating our own sounds. We started making our own riddims. And that’s why the journey’s been so successful right up till this day.

Cause you’re moving with the times. Now you’re a south London boy…

South London man. You done know South London is the heart… You know we ah Yardie and as we reach London the first place they’re gonna send you is Brixton. Everyone knows Brixton, even if you haven’t been to England you know Brixton. And the next place from Brixton is Peckham. So when I first came I moved straight into Peckham. Boom. I was just five minutes, ten minutes from Brixton. I was like “Wow. South London. I’m in the heart. Feel like I’m still in yard.” So you get me, I’m in London. Get to know the people dem, get to know what London is all about. So yeah I’m from South London still.

We already discussed your origins are from Jamaica. You called your EP “Call me a Yardie.”

Yeah, and “Call Mi A Yardie” is a very powerful phrase.

The whole EP has a very strong dancehall flavor. Are you trying to reassert your Jamaican identity? Are we gonna see you come back into grime?

Basically the reason why, I’m just trying to let them know, this is Stylo G. So anything that comes after is gonna be featuring Stylo G’s sound. So if I’m going to do a song with anybody, I’m giving them an idea of what kind of sound I want. You understand me? Like if you had a collabo with Rihanna and Shaggy—Rihanna know what Shaggy music is all about; Shaggy know what Rihanna music is all about. So coming together doing something they would know what it’s all about. So this is what Stylo G’s all about.

So where did the phrase “Call Me A Yardie” come from?

The phrase “Call me a Yardie” came from when I had a song on the Gigs riddim. “Don’t make the Yardie dem start this / Stylo G the latest / Dancehall artist.” And we done the yardie thing and people was like “Real man… caw you done know weh deh a England and dem call we yardie.” So I was like, “Wow—imagine if I take this yardie thing and make it more stronger. Tell them what we’re all about. You understand me? Jamaicans, we like to party. We like nice stuff, we like nice clothes. We’re just outgoing…

Nice girls.

Nice girls. Blackberry phone—if there’s a new iPhone we will get it and show them that we boasy. So I kinda break down the term yardie to them, like “This is us.”

The EP is full of patois and cockney words. It’s a perfect marrying of Jamaican and English culture. We talked about Jamaican culture. How has English culture influenced you?

The English culture has influenced me a lot cause I’ve been here like 10 years. So “Swagga dem, if ah Air Force One me have a bag ah them.” So you get me—Air Force One. Most of my English friends wear Air Force Ones. Every man have a Air Force One. They wear them until they get old then they get a new one.

What’s an Air Force?

Air Force One—it’s a Nike trainer. But since I been in this country, in England, every one of my English friend dem have one. They would save their last to get one. If you ain’t got a Air Force One or a 110…

You ain’t no one.

You could wear a Gucci every day and you still ain’t no one. You need to get an Air Force One, wear your tracksuit, and your ting deh deh. That’s a standard British swag.

Is this a little bit like the whole Clarks thing in Jamaica?

Yeah, you know… If you don’t have a Clarks in your cupboard, you’re not really a yard man. You nah really say nutting. Like Kartel says, if you nah have a Clarks you don’t make sense. Which is true. And my British friends love Air Force One.

So do I have to get Air Force One in order to be accepted?

Yeah you need to get one or else they ain’t gonna be looking at you and they’ll be thinking “she ain’t saying nothing.”

Oh my God! I think I paid like 200 pounds for these boots. But they ain’t saying nothing?

You know what? The boots ah shot for the winter, but you still ah go need a Air Force One.

OK when I come down to see you in South London, I’m gonna wear some Air Force Ones.

And we’ll Air Force it out. You see me ah say? No Air Force Twos or Air Force Three. Air Force One ah dweet.

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