Words: Adam Scotland, Alex Synamatix & Jamie Szulc
Photography: Adam Scotland
We caught up with the UK’s hottest act right now, the one and only Professor Green. Pro has traveled a long road since his days battling on stage at the Jump-Off, getting signed to Mike Skinner’s label, The Beats, which then went bust a short time later, leaving Pro with a tough choice: give up and get a real job, or carry on pushing for his dream.
His music presents a blend of hip-hop, grime, pop, rock and electro and as a result, Professor Green has an arsenal of huge tracks, from heavy hitting grime anthems like ‘Upper Clapton Dance’ to top 10 pop smashes like his last single ‘I Need You Tonight’. One thing that holds true about Professor Green is his honesty, as no matter how conflicting his musical repertoire might seem, each tune reflects a different side of his personality, something which you’ll find in abundance on his debut album ‘Alive Till I’m Dead’. We sat down with Pro to discuss his recent success, the highs and lows of his career so far, and of course, his views on style and the UK scene.
So, how does it feel to have your first top 10 single under your belt? Could you have imagined this feeling before?
Really, really good man. Really, really, really, really fucking good. To be honest it hasn’t sunk in yet, I haven’t really had time to sit down and enjoy it, but you know, I’m happy about it. It’s been a long hard struggle so it feels good to finally be up there.
When you wrote ‘I Need You Tonight’, did you know it was gonna blow up?
I wrote the song a year ago. Everyone kinda thought it had legs, but you can never know. The industry’s fickle, look what happened with Pass Out, you know, that was Tinie [Tempah]’s throw away single, and what song has done that in this country … ever, you know. It’s fucking crazy so you can never tell.
When everything went wrong with The Beats, and you realised you had to keep going on your own, was it tough to get into that mindset?
At the time it was hard because of money, so I ended up back doing things that I shouldn’t really have been doing. I didn’t get the rest of my advance from The Beats, I wasn’t making any money from music, I didn’t really want to go back and get a job, so I was doing things I shouldn’t, to support myself so that I could carry on making the music. It did kinda deflate me a little bit because you think, ok, it’s gonna happen now, but it was a blessing in disguise. In the long run it was much better that my album didn’t come out then, because now, the music’s much better, and I’m much more confident as an artist.
How did the Pro Green / Lily Allen relationship come around?
We’d been introduced by a mutual friend and were chatting on facebook when I mentioned that I’d cleared the sample usage for the lyrics from ‘Dub Be Good To Me’. She was like “What? That’s my favourite song ever! Let me here what you did with it”. So I sent it over and she said, Why don’t you let me sing the hook, and we can perform it live at Bestival”. That was it. 2 weeks later, we were in the studio recording it, she didn’t have to twist my arm.
Tell us a little about the video?
Lots of T & A. It’s a really sparse background, and all of the scantily clad ladies are pretty much the furniture, they pretty much make up the background … But they’re all very faceless. Despite the fact you’ve got all these beautiful women, the only woman you actually end up looking at is Lily, her personality separates her, by miles. That’s what we wanted to achieve, and we have so I’m really happy with it.
What about the album then?
It’s pretty honest; there’s some really, really, really, really personal stuff on there. There’s the upbeat stuff as well, there’s a track featuring Emeli Sandé, produced by Naughty Boy called ‘Kids That Love to Dance’, which is me going back to my roots and just chatting shit and being really funny. That’s one of my favourites at the moment actually, it works really well live aswell. It’s really funky and upbeat, not UK funky, funky as in … funky. The last song on the album, ‘Goodnight’, is produced by Cores. He’s my best friend, I’ve known him since I was like 11. That’s probably the most meaningful track to me. We’ve got a full orchestra on it; it’s a really, really powerful end to the album. And in the middle is everything else, there’s ‘Crying Game’ with Mike Skinner and the track with Labyrinth, ‘Oh My God’, is … a monster. The vibe when I get in the studio with him is really good so we’re gonna carry on working even after the album deadline.
Has your current success made you more conscious about the tunes you chose for the album?
No, I actually haven’t started working on anything past the success of ‘I Need You Tonight’. The label have been really good, I haven’t even been asked to make a song that I don’t fully believe in. We’ve got loads of tracks, probably nearly 30, but whatever tracks end up on the album I’m happy with, because they’re all songs that I wanted to make. I haven’t gone out of my way to make people happy, people think I did that with ‘I Need You Tonight’ and with ‘Just Be Good To Green’, but the truth of it is, ‘Just Be Good To Green’ I did years ago, just because I loved the original. It was originally gonna be a mixtape track, I never thought I’d clear it. ‘I Need You Tonight’ was just a no-brainer. The riffs infectious, it’s marmite, some people love it, some people hate it and I loved it as soon as I heard it.
Is style important to you when you’re on stage performing?
I guess so, it’s probably more important to the label though, haha. I’ve definitely changed, I mean, I wear clothes that fit me now which is probably for the best. It’s just what we did, Avirex’s and stuff. I’ve actually still got a really nice Avirex, which does fit me … it just didn’t fit me back then. Now I just prefer to keep it plain and simple. When I first started with the label, they worked out very quickly that styling me doesn’t work. I just need to be left pretty much to my own devices. The jacket in the ‘I Need You Tonight’ video is A.P.C – I’ve got about 8 – I spend a lot of money on A.P.C.
We’ve got to ask about the teeth…when did you decide to make the upgrade?
Before I die. I’ve wanted it for fucking years. I took the jump just before christmas, but they’re not finished yet, but I need 10 days off to have the implants put in, and I can’t have that till christmas. So I will be, again, blending my christmas dinner and drinking it through a straw … but I’ll be on codeine so it’ll be fine.
In the ‘I Need You Tonight’ video you’re cleaning up a pair of purple Air Max 90’s: do you have a lot of sneakers? What’s your favourite pair in your collection?
I’ve got 42 pairs – I got rid of a lot. i’ve got a whole cupboard in my flat dedicated to trainers, but it’s getting very sticky in there – I need to buy a house. I just bought a pair of [Maison Martin] Margiela pumps that I spent way too much money on.
What are your thoughts on the UK street wear scene in particular?
It’s very cliquey. You’ve got your East and your West, you’ve got your Brick Lane and your YoYo’s. I’m not that cliquey, I’ve got a lot of friends in different circles.
Despite that, are there any particular brands in the UK that you’re feeling at the moment?
Yeah. Second Son and the new Maharishi stuff that’s coming out is really nice, they’ve got some swag varsity jackets.
What about outside of the UK?
Alife, A.P.C, Edwin, Stüssy are pretty cool. Norse Projects have got some wicked stuff, I’ve already put my order in for next season. I got a pre-order … I have to pay though.
Big thanks to Professor Green for taking time out of his hectic schedule to sit down and chat with us, it was a pleasure. The new single ‘Just Be Good To Green’ featuring Lily Allen is out now. Click here to buy it on iTunes and while you’re there, put down your pre-order for Pro’s debut album, ‘Alive Till I’m Dead’ out July 19th.