Nando’s is keeping things spicy this summer with its Mix It Up project, seeing four UK artists join forces with South African amapiano producers on a brand new, Extra Extra Hot track. Bru-C, BERWYN, M1llionz and Miraa May are all on the menu and their creations will feature on an EP released via non-profit organisation Bridges For Music. We swear on no-one’s life we didn’t ask any of them for a Black Card. For starters? Bru-C.
From growing up in Long Eaton to settling in Nottingham, Bru-C has made a name for himself across England as an outrageously enthusiastic rapper and bassline innovator. Known for his time as part of the drum ‘n’ bass collective, CruCast, he's climbed his way up festival line-ups and is nowadays releasing singles such as ‘No Excuses’ that can be heard at all the best house parties to a skanking crowd.
His standout track is his 2019 release ‘You & I’ featuring Simula. Since its drop it’s been one of those tracks that's not stopped circulating the bass world with remix after remix dropping and soundtracking TikTok after TikTok, cementing it as an immortal tune. The walking, talking one-person party that is Bru-C has also signed to legendary label 0207 Def Jam and is expanding the drum ‘n’ bass world with his artistry.
Working with Nando's Mix It Up, Bru-C has had the opportunity to dive into a new musical sphere. He was lucky enough to be flown out to Soshanguve, South Africa to work alongside rising star artists BL Zero and Aymos. He speaks to Mixmag about his first interaction with amapiano and how pain can produce the best work.
What did you make of the music scene in South Africa?
Unbelievable. I didn't realise how much of, not only British culture, in terms of music and street fashion, comes from Africa, but I think the whole world is a lot more influenced by Africa than a lot of people realise. Everything is grassroots, you can just feel it. Everything is so authentic, from the music to even just food; there's nothing artificial about it. You know what I'm saying? I found it really refreshing.
What was it like visiting Soshanguve and being immersed in the focal point of amapiano?
Yeah, it was sick. It was a mad experience. The building used to be a prison. Nelson Mandela was in this building right next to where we recorded. You could feel there was a lot of history there and it's also cool to see like a place that has had a lot of pain and a lot of suffering, a lot of discrimination over the years and that it is now used for a creative purpose. For people like me and people of all backgrounds can come to this place and use it creatively, which is great. So yeah, it was a great experience.
What do you like about the amapiano sound?
See, for me, every time I listen to it, I still feel like I'm still trying to get my head around it. Because it's so slowed down, but all the sounds are sounds that you'd hear in drum 'n' bass and dance music. Your kicks and your snares and the bass sounds, they're the sounds that I would use, but at a faster tempo. So when I hear it so slow, it shouldn't make sense, but it just makes sense, especially when you go and you see the way people dance. It's a movement. It's not just a sound, it's a whole lifestyle, isn't it. I love it.
How do you think it combines with your rapping style?
Every music comes from the underground and then it becomes more clean and polished. The more that the amapiano sound progresses, you're hearing heavier dance sounds, and obviously I like dance music. When we got in the studio and I was hearing all these tunes, I was like, yeah, this makes sense. So I don't really feel too uncomfortable making this kind of music, which is really good.
How did it feel to be asked to be involved in the Nando’s Mix It Up project and what are the highlights of taking part in it?
It was an honour, man. So you see them little chickens that you used to get when you sit at the table in Nando's ? I dunno if they still do 'em. Anyway, I used to steal them all the time when I was younger. So Nando's, I apologise. I used to steal from you, but here we are. I used to have all of them and I've been a big Nando's eater for years. So its an honour to work with Nando's. They're wicked people, a great team. It's been incredible to go to South Africa for the first time.
What did you find most impressive about exploring South Africa?
Probably the fact that we had an armed guard with us at all times, strapped up ready. We were in the ghettos, some of the most dangerous ghettos in the world, so we had an armed security guy with us at all times, that was mad. But I didn't really feel intimidated at any time. I've spent a lot of time in the Caribbean; you know when you're in trouble and you know when you're not. You have to watch your back in South Africa, that always made it interesting. But I think if you keep your wits about you in life, the streets will look after you.
How did you find collaborating with BL Zero and Aymos?
Talented guys. You can see the youth in music in someone's eyes, no matter what their age is, you can see it. And it's such a strange thing to say, but I think if you get it, you get it. And these guys, they just look like babies in their eyes: in a sense of, they're just ready to take in the surroundings and just put it out in the music so perfectly. I felt like listening to their music was like a soundtrack to the trip. Like, this is it; this is what we are; this is who we are; this is the music we make. You either like it or you don't, you know what I'm saying? So I've got nothing but respect for those guys. They've come from humble beginnings and now they are getting on the map in South Africa.
How did you find working in Flame Studios?
It's the best. Like, we're in a restaurant. we're in Nandos right now. You wanna eat some chicken, record your verse? No problem. This is a cool spot, I think. They need to get one of these in the Nottingham Nando's.
What are you most excited about in regards to the music you made?
Probably seeing what some of my African friends think of it, and seeing what people in South Africa think of it, because I have a distinctive voice. I think my flow's quite unorthodox in places on the record and I switch it up quite a lot throughout. I kind of want to show a few different sides of me. I’m interested to see how the people who are involved in this music, listen to this music and love this music find it.
How important is the work Bridges For Music is doing for young people from underserved communities to fulfil their potential in music?
It's massively important. But I think it's funny because it's also important and not important at the same time — because the reason that these things haven't been in place is the reason that people like me, and people like BL Zero and Aymos, have no choice but to do whatever you can... That's what makes the best stories. That's what makes the best artists. You respect an artist more at the end of the day.
In 2022 people don't just want to hear the songs, they want to know your story. They wanna know where you're from, where you come from and the situation that seems impossible to get out of. The references you can take from your own life to make your music, you would not get that if there was an abundance of opportunity for people. So you need to struggle in life, I think, especially in art. The best art comes from struggle as far as I'm concerned. Whether it's acting, whether it's painting, whether it's fashion, whether it's music, production, singing, playing an instrument, I think the best art comes from struggle and pain. So I'm not really against it. I think we should definitely do more to support people on the way up. But I think that we should kind of get this out of our head, that we need these opportunities to make it. It's been proven otherwise time and time again.
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Have you got any other upcoming plans you can share with us?
It's a secret. Just watch this space.
Would you delve into amapiano again?
A hundred percent. I'm always open to making different genres. and I have in the past. The start of my music journey I was in like a reggae-ska band years ago. I've really been about. I'd definitely go back out to South Africa and get back into the studio.
Pre-order the Nando's Mix It Up Amapiano EP here