In these, the high times of the UK’s grime scene, poeticism often comes second to a smart punchline and a heavy beat. The best MCs tend to disguise their intelligent one liners in double entendre, and take care not to let artistic flair get the better of their underground roots. This is where a young rapper from South London steps in.
Che Lingo, revolutionary like his first name, utilises his enormous spectrum of influences to create genre-defying music that calls on his awesome arsenal of wordplay and metaphor – as hinted by his second name. His music, heavily inspired by the original grime of the mid 2000’s, has an air of intellectualism that comes without any pretension whatsoever, reconciling underground freestyles with poet elements. What’s most impressive is that at 25, he’s yet to realise his full potential.
Early into our conversation, style, is a word that we can’t help but return to. You only need to search for his freestyles and music videos to see that every aspect of Che’s performing persona is a considered ensemble of identity and artistry; and I’m not just talking about him donning shorts in a Berlin winter.
‘People are always trying to describe my music style’ he says, as I quiz him on the diversity of instrumentation in his music – which regularly fuses jazz saxophone with trap 808’s or breakbeats, ‘it’s music that I like and that’s it. There’s no plan to be this sort of, mysterious, multi-genre artist that you can’t put in a box. I just make music that I like the sound of.’
“I JUST MAKE MUSIC THAT I LIKE THE SOUND OF.”
His fiery COLORS performance of ‘Zuko’ demonstrates exactly this (WATCH HERE!). The piano-lead RnB introduction of the Jordan Elgie & Smitherz produced beat draws you into a false sense of smooth security, before apart under the assault of a trap-heavy baseline.
“Young Wizard, Harry ain’t got nothing on me,” is a light-hearted prelude to a devastating display of lyrical dexterity and flawless technique, that can’t be explained in usual terms. His bars are dense and intricate, but are elevated by the originality of his chosen instrumental.
‘I lived with my Nan and so grew up on reggae and some jazz, but it was mostly just about the vibe.’ He recollects as I ask him to take me back to his youth. ‘The singing, the melody and the essence of the music was the most important thing to me. I guess I didn’t start thinking about bars until I started listening to people like Chip, Ghetts and Dot Rotten in my early teens.’
“THE SINGING, THE MELODY AND THE ESSENCE OF THE MUSIC WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO ME.”
Last year’s outstanding Better Version’s EP brings together his collective influences in an electronically-inspired project, but ‘ZUKO,’ Che says, is what comes out of him when he want’s to rap, when he wants to ‘remind people of the raps.’ The stream of consciousness flow is built around a single concept of fire, but the overall message is bigger than that: something explosive is coming from Che Lingo, so don’t sleep on this man’s wordplay.