words: Amara Barrett-Willett
photos: Kiing Arthur
In conversation with
I caught up with JD Cliffe on a very tired Tuesday after Notting Hill Carnival to talk music, Colors Berlin and where he fits in the current UK scene.
First things first, did you hit up Notting Hill Carnival this year?
JD: I’ve been every year since I was a yout. We’re talking like 13. It was a shout, nothing but love for carni man.
So what have you got for us? Any new music, new projects coming out?
JD: I’ve got a video coming out titled ‘Long Time’ , which is the first single from my upcoming EP ‘Neon Jungle’. The video which was shot and directed by Theo Blackledge and co-directed by me is centured around a neon themed, hallucinogenic fuelled trip around Chinatown. The Neon Jungle EP shows my ability to fuse slow melodic rnb influences into my own interpretation of dreamy trap whilst rapping about the personal hardships people go through day to day
Growing up what was young JD listening to?
JD: I feel like I had two lives. At school it was grime. It was everywhere, on the bus after school, walking with my friends, it was all we listened to. Then when I got home my mum was banging Whitney Houston and shit, my sister was into rock, at the time she was listening to Paramore and my brothers listening to old school rap. It was a lot, I guess that’s where I got my wide range of music influence. Now I listen to everyone but I really draw inspiration from the new wave of U.K artists.
Do you think there’s room for what you’re doing in scene right now?
JD: There are so many platforms right now for new artists but not too many for new alternative artists. If you want to be seen you have to make room for yourself without using the bait platforms, because they just wanna hear commercial stuff; they wanna hear drill, they wanna hear afro swing. Some of that I do, but honestly, a large part of my sound is stuff I can’t put a genre on. I’m making my own waves out here I guess. So you have to get yourself out there as much as you can. I feel like you have to make room. I’m definitely UK urban, but the main platforms wanna hear drill, they wanna hear afro swing. And some of that I do, but honestly, a large part of my sound is stuff I can’t put a genre on. I’m making my own waves out here I guess.
How much grind went into getting yourself on such a large platform like Colors Berlin?
JD: Its mad, it was a lot of work. Honestly, it was one of them things that God lined up for us. It was literally the only platform that catered for the sound we were making at the time. I guess we were trying to find our sound before, but after the Colors it made us understand this is the sound to go with. It’s a good one.
Since the Colors what have you been working on?
JD: I’ve got my own studio now. So I’ve been working on my next project. I’ve been working on that for the past month and a bit.
When you’re making R’n’B , is it for the ladies or are you making it for all the mandem out there?
there that have had their hearts broken?
JD: It’s 50/50 to be honest (laughs) literally when I write it’s about previous experiences, so it’s a bit of both I’ve had my heart broken but the ladies are still important too.
So are any of your songs out there that we’ve listened to about a particular heart break?
JD: There’s definitely aspects of stuff. I’ve got this one track called ‘So Long’ which is I guess a summary of everything in life I was going through at time. Not just girls, but people that you trust that snake you. So I was just like “So long, so long” in the song and in my life. I try to use real experiences in my work, makes it more authentic you know?
How does it work, collaborating on a project as a collective?
JD: I tend to work by myself; I write and produce by myself. But when I’m working with the collective, they’re my family. It’s actually just fun vibe. We go studio and literally just say what comes to mind. More times when we make trap and rap we just bounce off each other with the vibes. So it’s not really very “We have to get this next bit down” its organic energy. Organic energy can really change a sound. Yeah you’re not wrong. For us, being natural and trying not to over think or plan out our sessions means the sound is always evolving and that’s the goal.
Tell me more about Ova And Above?
JD: We’re a collective from North London. Individually were all doing our own bits and bobs. We’ve got Kiing Arthur, he’s got two visuals out right now. We’ve got Bam were working on his debut single, Doogie O’Fella already has visuals out. And I’m doing my solo thing as well, but we’ve got a project as a collective coming out too.
JD Cliffe can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and Instagram @jd.cliffe. He’s got some amazing things planned, a definite must watch.