01.09.22

Words by: Pinty & Billy Ward

The 10 Best Tracks With Stories, according to Pinty

"The meaning could pass you by if you didn’t pay close attention..."

Pinty’s prominence in the South London music landscape is undeniable. Since officially arriving onto the scene in 2015 with his self-released ‘Midnight Moods’ project, the MC’s sound has continued to pull influence from his experiences growing up in and around Peckham, incorporating jazz-inflicted dance-floor flavours with introspective stories of inner-city life. With his new mixtape ‘Pinty’s House’ around the corner, and to mark the release of his latest single ‘Up In The Mist’, the rapper sat down with Dummy to tell a few tales of his own…

“Stories and songs go hand in hand. Everybody can remember the first time they heard at least one song,” he says. “When I was helping out in SEN class years ago, I was explaining a lyric that I heard to a friend, before I was abruptly interrupted by a teaching assistant. They said, ‘If you have to explain a lyric, it’s not a good lyric’. I replied, ‘Then why have I just been in an English class listening to a teacher explain a WW2 poem for two hours…?’ You get complex stories, you get short, sweet, straight-to-the-point stories. They both have their place. Here is a short selection of some of my favourites.”

1. Johnny Cash – ‘A Boy Named Sue’

“A true gem. This is about a grim tale of a young boy being raised by his mum. He’s forced to fight his way through life, mostly because of the ‘girl’s’ name he was given by his long lost dad. What makes this song so interesting is the juxtaposition between the happy-go-lucky sound and the harsh lyrics. One of those tracks where the meaning could pass you by if you didn’t pay close attention to the lyrics… ‘Life’s not easy for a boy named sue…’.”

2. Mobb Deep – ‘Temperature’s Rising’

“Another song that takes me straight back to where I first heard it: at a big rave in north London, when I was about 16, filled with friends and love. The song has such a sweet vocal hook, by Crystal Johnson, that you forget the song is really about their boy being on the run for a shooting, and this is possibly the last time they’ll talk before he goes to prison. Another one that sounds so nice on the ear, it’s easy to miss the story.”

3. Ian Dury – ‘My Old Man’

“This one reminds me so much of my childhood. My dad, his dad, and his dad before him all being cockneys, I can imagine them all singing along to this in a pub in Bethnal Green. One listen to this tune conjures up an image of Ian Dury’s dad so clear you can smell his flat cap.”

4. Rupert Holmes –  ‘Escape (The Piña Colada Song)’

“Everybody knows this song, but the first time I was told to actually listen to the lyrics, I was blown away. The simple twist, the romance, the innocence in it! Maybe I’m speaking for myself, but I feel like everybody loves a simple rom-com. You know what’s going to happen, but you still have to find out for yourself.”

5. The Streets – ‘Empty Cans’

“I first heard this when I was about ten. It’s the last song off Mike’s second album, and I only heard it because I was on a plane and had time to listen to the album from head to toe. Just like a good film, the protagonist has been down on their luck throughout, and you believe they’ve reached their last straw. This track starts off all grouchy, with drums like dustbins and a very angry Mike Skinner, but as the story unfolds he reveals a change of mood and a happy ending worthy of the Oscars. To learn that he actually studied film in between his first album and this one came as no surprise – to this day my favourite album of his… ‘No one gives a crap about mike that’s why I’m acting nasty’.”

6. Kenny Rogers – ‘The Gambler’

“This doesn’t have a massive plot twist or a grim undertone. It’s just a sweet tale about two men meeting. In exchange for some whiskey, the elder of the two guys gives the younger gambling man some advice on how to help turn his losing streak around. Could there possibly be another metaphor in here somewhere? God knows. Just another really enjoyable song. You can imagine this one being sung in a dusty desert scene.”

7. Dolly Parton – ‘Jolene’

“Another classic country song in the list! A wee tale about one women stealing another woman’s man. This poor woman begs, ‘Jolene! Please don’t steal my man’. I could’ve picked ‘9 to 5’, or any other song that everybody knows, but at its heart this is great, simple story telling. A common theme in country music is placing uplifting music behind what’s really quite a sad state of affairs. Could this be this is what makes it such easy listening?”

8. Archy Marshall – ‘Buffed Sky’

“I’ve had the privilege of hearing Archy’s lyrics explained to me by the man himself, most often in his living room after a few too many. There’s always so much meaning hiding between the lines, especially on this album. There are so many short stories from that point in his life. Another one from this album which has a great story and has always made me laugh is ‘Sex with Nobody’. ‘Some men are dogs to be specific’ – great line, great track.”

9. Durrty Goodz – ‘Childhood’

“He was always a stand-out star in the grime scene for me and unfortunately been over-shadowed by the industry. At a time when loads of grime acts were getting snapped up by majors, he went in a different direction. This song is a conversation with a young kid from the ends, making his way through life but struggling to break out of the system he was born into. The twist in this story is that Durrty was actually talking to himself. When I was about 15, this blew my socks off, and it has stood the test of time.”

10. Pinty – ‘Another Lost Soul’

“The line from this, ‘I feel like Christopher I feel like Wallace’ is a reference to Christopher from The Sopranos and Wallace from The Wire. Both characters were born into a world they couldn’t escape from, and both took comfort drugs. I’m not claiming to be from the harsh streets of Baltimore or to have been born into a mad Mafia family but there are parts of their stories that I could relate to for sure. ‘Another Lost Soul’ is about this, tied in with a story I heard about a young girl who could never escape the loveless dream she found her self in.”

“You’re going to hear a lot more stories from me in the future, especially with the Pinty album in the works…

“I hope you enjoy my selections, and please feel free to hit me up with any story songs I should know.”

Stream Pinty’s latest single ‘Up In The Mist’ below:

Read next: Pinty and Jadasea pay homage to South London on woozy house anthem ‘Afters, Lively’

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