Not3s is the golden boy of UK music

28.03.18 Words by: Nicola Davies

From ‘Addison Lee’ onwards, Not3s has ridden the wave between hit singles and a successful EP, Take Not3s, released late last year, all while becoming a feature king and travelling the world. But for someone this successful, at this pace, and at such a young age, he couldn’t be more of a sweetheart.

This year the UK scene was representing heavily at SXSW. With a crew including Not3s, AJ Tracey, Yxng Bane, Jaykae, Avelino, and the G.O.A.T. himself, Wretch 32, it was quite a sight to see these artists be leisurely after their shows. It’s like being in a TV show crossover episode where everyone looks equally in and out of place. As a Brit in the U.S. who understands the footprint of these artists on the UK scene, how often they get played on the radio, and what a live show in the UK feels like, it is a very different vibe seeing them at SXSW.

Not3s performed four sets, and I was lucky enough to attend two in one night. The first was at the British Music Embassy (the venue used by the BBC) where the ‘Aladdin’ singer commanded a wholeheartedly engaged although smallish crowd, singing every word and trying to touch his purple tracksuit at any opportunity. The second set was at a much larger venue, 800 Congress, where the Sounds from Africa and the Caribbean showcase was being held. Patoranking was headlining, after which Not3s performed a medley of his bangers, which was much appreciated by the excitable crowd. After both shows, you can only imagine the number of the fans asking for pictures, to which he obliged them all.

Not3s is most definitely going to be on our radios for a while longer; with a faultless work ethic, a solid team and a smiley temperament, he’s at the forefront of British music at home, and now abroad. After concluding a live radio interview with DJ Target for BBC 1Xtra, and shooting part of a new video (‘M3 Not You’, which you can view below) we met in a free slot before his two sets that evening.

You’re obviously one of the biggest artists in the UK right now, so I just noted down a few of your streaming numbers. I don’t know how up to date you are but here it goes. My Lover has almost 9 million YouTube plays, and 19 million Spotify streams.

Not3s: Oh. Sick.

I don’t even know how you can compute that. Addison Lee has about nine million views on YouTube, and over 23 million on Spotify. Aladdin has 19 million on YouTube, and 21 million on Spotify. Fine Line, which is obviously newer, but that still has 7 million on YouTube and almost 15 million on Spotify. This has all happened so quickly for you!

So, so quickly.

Just hit after hit. I remember when you first started coming out, I was like, ‘This is a banger, this is a banger – oh these are all Not3s.’  How does the pace feel for you?

I always say this feels like a blessing. For everybody in my team and me, I just feel sick. It’s actually a phenomenal feeling to say, ‘Okay, cool, there’s that song that people know about, and then there’s that song, and then there’s that one and that one and that one.’ That is proper, proper sick. So now there’s options to what people’s favourite Not3s song is to them, and that’s what I want to keep doing. I keep saying I want to do it for 15 years. You know what I’m saying? 15 years plus, so hopefully I can.

You must have a very strong work ethic because you keep putting out new music, including loads of features. How do you keep yourself together, and at the same time, not rest on your laurels and think, ‘My Lover is doing this well, Addison Lee is doing that well, I can chill for a bit’?

I don’t know. I don’t even know how I do it, or how we do it, should I say. Me, and my team, and my manager, and my family as well: my mum, my little brothers, everyone. Just seeing them happy and seeing smiles on their faces, that’s what keeps me sane. I just need to keep doing what I’m doing to make them as happy as they are.  I’ve put my mum through stuff, I put the people around me through things, and I don’t want to do that ever again. So yeah, that’s the best way of doing it. Just keep doing what I’m doing and keep people sane, and keep myself sane. Literally.

Sounds like a good plan! You have been on British radio consistently, with multiple tracks on playlists, on all of the stations. What did it feel like when you first heard one of your tracks on the radio?

Shit, I tell you what. The first time I heard one of my tracks on the radio was on Reprezent Radio, but this was before Addison Lee. Then when I heard my track on a national radio station, when it dropped, that was through Charlie Sloth, he played it on ‘Gas or Trash’.

Did he?!

Yeah, yeah, ‘Addison Lee’.

Oh, wow. That’s hilarious!

He said, ‘Alright cool, what do you guys think, Gas or Trash?’ Then he’s listening to it and he’s wheeled it up himself, like three times. Saying like, ‘Yeah, this one’s an absolute smash!’ From there it’s just been buzzing on radio. Sian Anderson was like, ‘Charlie what track is this?’ I couldn’t believe it.  I was just running up my corridor over to my mum’s house saying, ‘Mum, I made it! I made it!’ (This was when I was still over there). She was just like, ‘Stop shouting! What happened? What happened?’ And I let her know, and then she was happy also. It’s been a journey, man.

Perfect. I didn’t know that it started on Gas or Trash, that’s so funny. Have you ever been in an Addison Lee and heard ‘Addison Lee’?

Yeah I have, a couple times.

Do the drivers know who you are?

Some of them will see the name and say, “Oh yeah.” They’ve seen it before, with their kids and what not. Some of them just don’t, until they’re asking me what I do, and it’ll just come up in conversation. I’ve had drivers pick me up multiple times and they’ll be so happy to see you. It’s so funny, it’s actually different.

That’s amazing.  I was watching the video again, and I don’t think I ever clocked the ending [Not3s and Maddison are chilling on his sofa, about to take a selfie, and then she gets a call from ‘Bae’]. Has that actually happened to you?

I tell you what, it’s something I just felt like everybody’s been through. There are great times, but then there’s that time it’s just awkward, like, ‘What the hell? Why is that happening?’ When we’re having so much fun, and we’re just having a vibe and then out of nowhere something just goes completely wrong. That was just the concept of it, literally.  It hasn’t happened to me specifically, however things happen. That kind of thing has happened.

You and Mabel have the cracking tune ‘Fine Line’ together. What does it feel like to be working and performing with someone who’s kind of on the level, in the sense that you’re a similar age, and she’s smashing it as well? You’ve also worked with legends like Tinie Tempah and Shakka. Is there a difference working with someone like Mabel who’s at a more similar stage in their career to you?

There have been many features where I’ve done tunes with artists that may not be discovered yet. For example, there’s a song that the artist put out, his name’s Knucks, called Hooper. He’s more underground, he’s not on mainstream, masses level. But I like his style of music, and I just thought, yeah, let’s work together.  I’ve always liked his music ever since I heard him, which is like over a year ago. So, it was a great opportunity for me to work with him. I just like working with people that I think are actually sick. Young Adz as well, he’s on the come up in the UK, and he’s somebody that I’ve worked with and I’m still working with, on different, different songs. Mabel was just…dope. She had a track out with Kojo Funds, Finders Keepers, and she had tracks out before then, she had an EP out, and I just thought, ‘This girl’s sick.’ She hit me up saying, ‘Yo, I find you sick. Could we do work?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, definitely. I think you’re sick as well.’ And since then, there’s just been a bond in terms of friendship. We’re proper cool, and we can make music together.

Speaking about people like Tinie, and those who have been in the game for a long time, how do those collabs come about? Are you like, ‘Hey I wanna work with these people, let’s make it happen’?

Tinie’s been supporting me since I started this thing, even before Addison Lee. He was around my management and he’s helped them understand what’s going on in the music game. ‘Cause when we all came in, apart from me studying music, we didn’t know anything at all. We started from fresh, my manager’s starting from fresh.  They just like what I’m doing and they’re passionate about what I’m doing. So Tinie was there for us, and he’s helped us a lot. Plus, fam when I was in school, and even to this day, he’s still a mega-star. He’s actually one of the biggest things that have come out of the UK. Facts. The opportunity to work with him was just a mad ting. I used to know all of his lyrics, word-for-word, tunes he used to make with DJ Ironik and Chip. I don’t know how that even happened. It felt great working with them, and getting them on my projects. We got another song together, that’s just sick. Shakka as well, bruv, Shakka is legendary. He’s amazing. I think he deserves way more credit than he gets. The opportunity to work with him was sick as well.

Are you working on an album, as you already put out an EP last year?

‘Cause I put out an EP last year, I want to put out another one. So I’m going to put out another one in May.

Nice, soon!

I just want to keep getting music out there. An album will probably come next year. That’s if I’m not just releasing another random project, but I think the album will come next year by God’s grace. Get an EP out in May, get a little project out in November-time, September-time, October-time, and album next year. There’s more collaborations with different artists, and actually, the same artists that I’ve always worked with as well. So like, MoStack, I’ve got some with him again. Fredo, I’ve just dropped a track [Haters] with him on his new tape, Tables Turn. And Mist as well. There’s just a lot of things that are happening, and I just want to continue that. I just want to keep working with the people that I’ve worked with already as well. I think long term collaborations are essential.

UK music is doing so well right now, it’s peaking, or just doing really well. For want of a better word, it’s a ‘friendly’ time, in a sense that everyone’s working together and everyone is supporting each other.

I just hope that everybody stays working together. That they’re not just working together for people who have hype. I just want people to work with each other in terms of like, they actually have a friendship with these people and that’s going to be the way for a long time and we’re all building together. We’re building an empire for the whole of the UK and anybody else that wants to come out from the ground up. That’s what’s most important; everyone can work together but what reason are you working with us for? I don’t want there to ever be a ‘peak’ is all. Never ever stopping, there’s no such thing as the ‘peak’ to me. I hate that concept. I hope that I never have a peak in my career, I just want to keep elevating.

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