For every great rapper, there’s a producer in the background working tirelessly to supply them with an endless stream of killer beats. For Jay-Z’s iconic ‘Blueprint’ album it was Kanye West, while early Missy Elliot had Timbaland supplying the goods. And for rising South London rapper Octavian, J Rick is the producer providing the tunes that have taken him to the brink of stardom.
Now, J Rick is ready to share music of his own. Before last year, his was a relatively unknown name outside of very specific circles. Part of Essie Gang, the collective responsible for Octavian, the Tottenham-raised producer was the mastermind behind his friend’s breakout hit, ‘Party Here’, which won praise from the likes of Drake and became something of a UK underground anthem. “I always had plans to make a living from music, but it was when ‘Party Here’ came out that I took things further,” he says.
Like Octavian, for whom J Rick also acts as tour DJ, there’s no one pocket of sound that the producer sits in. His music falls under the umbrella of ‘electronic’, but his own release, ‘Short’, sounds like a chopped-up baile funk riddim compared to ‘Hands,’ a slow-crawling, Bon Iver-esque drawl that crescendos into a bass-heavy dance vibe. “It’s been a mad year touring all over, but the best part about it has been spinning for Octavian and seeing him level up in the way that he has,” he tells us. “Especially seeing where he was before all this, and now doing fashion shows with Virgil [Abloh]. Essie Gang is really just getting started, and I’m up next.”
Christie comes from a high-achieving family: his cousin Cyrus currently plays for Fulham, while his late uncle Errol Christie was a middleweight fighter who was an amateur champion in his early years; the mixtape’s title ‘No Retreat No Surrender’ is a reference to him. “Everything I’ve written in the past year is about him. He was such an important person in my life, and that’s before him being known as a boxer,” J Rick says. “Everyone respected him and that really showed in the way people spoke about him. It was difficult trying to articulate how I felt at the time because I’m still going through it, but more than anything, this mixtape is a dedication to him.”
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The mixtape, which drops this month, has shades of grime, garage and hip hop and suggests Christie’s trademark spacious productions could come to dominate UK rap for years to come. “I was speaking to a friend and saying how most people passively listen to music but the idea behind my music is that you’ll want to actively listen to it,” he tells us. Get ready.
‘No Retreat No Surrender’ by J Rick is out now
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