Written by: Lauren Demir
Photos: David Franco
Collages: Annie Mcgill
For the past 4 years, Blackbox has provided a platform for anyone to showcase their bars. Literally anyone is allowed a chance. It doesn’t matter about fans, social media followers or hype anyone who wants to do a freestyle just has to reach out to them. This hasn't reduced the quality of artists either, with many blessing the Blackbox booth on their way to popularity, (J Hus, Potter Payper, AJ Tracey, Bonkaz, to name a few.) Abra Cadabra’ Blackbox freestyle gained him so much it attention it lead to a Remix with Krept and Konan, a Rated award and even MOBO nomination. We were lucky enough to visit their studio when they were recording the latest season. Despite it being a long hot day recording, the team appeared comfortable and at ease. “Give me one million pound tomorrow, I’ll be doing exactly the same thing but in a nicer environment.” Lotes explained. We were fortunate enough to sit down with two of the team, Python “I’m a cameraman. I just bring energy, you know hype man.” and Lotes “Yeah and I do everything else” to ask about Blackbox’s journey so far.
Lotes: I dj’ed since I was about 11/ 12. My auntie was a dj, my uncle a producer so I was always around it [music]. I tried to do a million and one jobs and nothing really worked out, ended up going college when I was 21. Thats how I met Python, we bucked in college about 7 years ago. I was an engineer, he was singing, rapping.
Python: I was already doing music and then we bucked. You[Lotes] were a sick producer, so obviously straight away I stuck to him like glue. I can make beats, but I couldn’t be bothered to try. His beats will all be epic.
Then we lost touch, I can’t even remember what happened. I think I lost my job. Thats when I broke my hard drive as well, that’s when I ended up buying the camera. I thought, “Nah I need to find Python.” I told everyone I know, “Find Python for me” and they found him.
I don’t know how they found me but they found me, still. He put out the word on road and people found me. Our circle, we’ve got proper people. Josh, Smurks, Lotes, Remz, Crooks, Brett, Deandre, Roy, Big Watch. And then we started filming. We did the freestyle in his shed.
Its like a big shed.
(Laughing) He calls it a shed, but if thats a shed back home in Africa thats a yard. So lets be real its like a cabin. So these times we’re filming in there, its quite dark.
We had a little spot light, even if you wanted to skin up you had to have the spot light round where you are rolling everything else will be black. Who come up with the name? Smurks?
Yeah, Smurks come up with the name Blackbox.
We were proper having an argument. I’m going “I’m not going to put it on the internet if it hasn’t got a name” and he was like “Oh it’s easy, Blackbox.” and it just clicked. I was like yeah change the a to an @ and we ran with it.
Then around a week after they took me to this studio. This bloody brand spanking fresh, like 1xtra studio. I was adamant, I didn’t want us to do anymore shed recordings if you got things like that. So he thought about it and then who did we bring afterwards, was it Mover?
The 2nd season is when we started filming here.
We want to make it an even playing field. There’s a lot of favouritism in the scene and very few of these media companies actually offer a service. They do when they feel like it. If you haven't got a name, got a following its hard. Jamal for example, must get thousands of emails every day. And if you’re emailing with no name have they got time to go through all of that? Don’t get me wrong we have favouritism as well. A bigger name we’ll invite them, they haven’t got to pay the full prices. But we do make it available to everybody. You don’t need music, you don’t need a following you don’t even need a Twitter.
We’re from the ends so we're not going to say no to the ends are we. The worst thing is some people are so so rubbish but there is no such thing as negative press. You might be getting so much hate but you’re still getting talked about. Just stick at it. You’ll get good and people will still talk about you.
People use to always get onto me like “Lotes, you need to quality control these people.” Who am I to quality control these people? Certain people I don’t personally feel, have got twenty/thirty thousand views. Certain people I think are sick, for example Teks Sinatra, he’s got 3,500 views, its been up for like 2 years. So I let the people decide that.
currently listening to
The only mixtape other then the projects I’ve been working on this year I’ve actually taken in, and I haven’t even properly, I've listened to most of it. Cee Majors new 10,000 Hours and thats because I know him personally. There is a lot of artists in the UK. I like a lot of up North artists as well, Birmingham, Manchester artists. Mist is good
Mist, he’s hard. His beats, one song, the beat, I fell in love with it. His producers fam.
I haven’t listened to anyones project this year. Not even on a I don’t rate anybody. I rate a lot of artists. I like what 410 man are doing, I’m feeling LD. I rate Section Boyz for how they’ve come up and what they’ve done. I think Bonkaz is sick as an artist, very talented. Lowkey is a personal favourite for man
Low-key is amazing still
(Training Day II) going to be huge, thats going to be epic. I’m excited I’ve been listening to it everyday.
Yeah the tracks I’ve heard I like. Training Day was always going to be a classic because it did what its supposed to do, It done its job. Training Day II though, because its on a different level it’s exciting man.
Where they[artists] are young and are going to come into a bit of fame and a lot of attention they’ve got to say focused. Some people can deal with it and some can’t. Thats a hard thing they’ll have to deal with, not to get lost in the sauce. You can get so carried away with the industry, you start to get carried away with yourself and then you lose your roots. As long as that doesn't happen. Just stay focused and stay off the roads.
Its the kids that are going to take over the whole thing, they are blowing right now. We’re doing a competition with year 11’s. Whoever wins online audition they’ll get a free Blackbox.
Thats where the future is. We’re trying to do a knife crime anti gun crime thing at the moment which we are in the planning stages of. Four Blackbox artists passed away since we’ve been filming. We’ve lost friends to both sides. We’ve got friends that are in jail for 30 years and we’ve got friends that aren't here anymore. So its us trying to do our part. Where we’ve got a bit of an influence and we do put out a lot of street music which could potentially have a negative influence.
We’re not going to censors peoples art. We’re not going to censor their expression and that but we’re also going to show that we’re not going to condone or tolerate behaviours.
Focus on music, turn your back on that kind of stuff, don’t let anyone draw you out and just look after your family. Make money and look after your people.
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