You don’t have to look far to find Georgie Roots on a flyer. He’s grafted a name for himself as a rapper and promotor, recently rising rapidly through the ranks of UK battle rap. Determined to put on for Colchester, his TLO and Beast Anglia movements are providing the parties and opportunities people need. We had an in-depth chat about what it takes to throw events, manifest your dreams, and feature with Wiley. From Don’t Flop to spinning tapestries, we get into it all…
“If that’s not a trail by fire then I don’t know what is.”
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What are your roots?
“My actual roots, I grew up in East London, in Stratford and Canning Town. But the name comes from reggae roots music. I’m a very big fan of reggae, roots, dancehall, jungle, anything with that island flavour, I love calypso music. I was raised listening to Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer so I’ve always had that little connection to that island music. To be honest with you, I don’t really listen to rap a lot, so when I was choosing a name for my presence on stage it was just natural to go with Georgie Roots. My mum always said ‘Georgie you’ve got the roots’ and that’s what she called me. It’s from reggae music and it’s from growing up in East London with a mum who used to listen to lovers rock, reggae and Motown.”
Why have you decided to write a verse every day?
“I see writing as an exercise for creativity. It’s like lifting weights if you’re tryna get bigger. There’s a difference between battle rap and live performances: live performances you can rehearse tracks that you know all year, but with a battle, if I book a battle a month, I need five minutes of completely new material that’s very specific against someone. So it’s not just a catch-all thing that I can throw away bars to, I have to actually craft it and I want to be proud of what I’m doing. This battle rap thing to me is a sport. If I was a boxer with a fight in four weeks’ time there’s not a single moment where I would be sat in front of the telly doing nothing. So, every night now in my little three hour when my boy’s in bed I’ll sit there and write a verse to keep them muscles working. To keep myself match-fit an fighting-fit for my next battle. It’s worked so far to be honest with you dude. Even if I don’t have the inspiration I’ll just find a random topic and I’ll try write as much as I can about it or rap about an object. I refuse to get stuck and stagnate. I refuse to ever think that I’m doing enough.”
You’re a new name in mainstream battle rap, but your skill suggests you’re seasoned?
“I don’t know if my skills do suggest I’m seasoned, but I’m definitely a student of the sport and have been since a kid. I used to watch Don’t Flop battles, as I’m sure most of the people who read this do, everyone kind of knows Don’t Flop even if you don’t know battling. For me as a kid I was with my mates watching all the classics as a fifteen year old, we grew up on it. Me and my mates used to roast each other all the time. I was that kid in the playground who would just fire shots at everyone. I used to catch hands for it and everything! But that was my element, I was king of that and I always loved rapping as well. I feel like it’s just roasting and rapping, you blend the two in battle rap. Having watched a lot of it I realised it’s about the concoction: you have to have the performance, delivery and bars. I already had the bars, I just needed to adapt my performance for that audience. Watching it is all I really needed to do to see how crowds responded to certain things.
“It’s just a different arena now.”
My skills suggest I’m seasoned because I’m there to rap and I’ve been writing my own tracks and verses since school. I’m seasoned at what I’ve been doing, it’s just a different arena now. It’s not in the playground with your mates anymore, it’s stood in front of another rapper and it’s like ‘I’m gunna take your head off now.’ It’s been quite easy to adapt. I’m just a rapper, dude. I think the newcomers in the scene over the past year and a half just haven’t been up to scratch. There are only a handful of new battlers that I actually rate and most of them came in quite weak at the beginning and had to get stronger over quite a few battles. I think my skills suggest I’m seasoned just because I’m a seasoned rapper stepping in to that arena with well crafted material already.”
What have you learnt from battling on Don’t Flop?
“Don’t Flop has helped me endlessly just by throwing me in at the deep end. They recognised I had something to offer the scene, Hulk and Eurgh giving me those first few opportunities was a trial by fire. I had a try-out then Hulk booked me for a two-on-two at a headline show in Coventry for my next battle, against two hometown rappers as well. That was a challenge, then my battle after that was against Frost who was on form and on a win streak. If that’s not a trail by fire then I don’t know what is man. By doing that, by getting me to really prove myself and hold my own against these people who are already established and in a bit of an intimidating environment, it really served to harden me for the same kind of challenges. I don’t want to battle people I know I’m gunna beat. I don’t wanna stand in front of someone and waste all that time writing when they’re gunna choke, mess up or not give a performance. I’m grateful to Don’t Flop for recognising that talent initially and not just giving me whoever. Hulk and Eurgh really do consider who they want me to battle and give me good matchups. So yeah, I’ve learned that battle rap is not gunna be easy all the time and that was the most valuable lesson I could have learned in those first three months.”
What’s the story behind your own Beast Anglia events?
“Beast Anglia, that is a bit of a mad one. I got contacted by Nick Kelly who runs Beast Anglia just for me and my guys to do a live show on one of their nights. There was a battle he was hosting between him and a local Cambridge guy. On that night I got chosen to be a judge. Me, another guy Sam and a few others we was all on stage. Watching this battle was unreal. It was grassroots, two people who clearly had a little bit of history, and they were giving it to it other and the whole place erupting. It was such a cool atmosphere. I was like ‘I want you to do that, but at one of the gigs that I run.’ So I booked him to do a battle against one of my mates in my hometown for one of my rap gigs. This one was called Rap Revival and him and my mate Caulzy battled in a beer garden surrounded by about fifty drunk people. It was electric honestly dude, I’ve never seen anything like it. I was bitten by that little bug there and I just want that in my hometown as much as possible. I want that to happen in this county and the surrounding areas and see who else wants to do it.”
“I don’t care about battle fans.”
“The crowd loved it so much and I had people coming up to me saying ‘You need to go in there and show them how it’s done.’ So it was like, if my hometown want to see me battle as well, and they wanna see battles, then let’s run something for them because it’s clear they wanted it. They wanted that comedy and that rap mixed together. So we set one up the month later, which was War At The Wall which just passed, and it was a massive success. So yeah, Beast Anglia was a bit of me realising that it’s a good sport, like I want to put my time into that because people want to see it. But not the battle community right now, I didn’t even know about the battle community, I don’t care about battle fans at the minute unfortunately, sorry guys. I love that community they’re very supportive to me, and as a battler of course I care about them, but as a promotor with Beast Anglia we’re tryna break into an audience that has never seen battle rap before: just locals that go to the pubs, or the uni students who’ve got no idea it exists.”
What do you think will attract fans and rappers to Beast Anglia?
“We’ve got that grassroots feel you know. That old skool vibe but with that professional attitude and enough knowledge of UK battle rap to put good matchups on. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jon and DubScandal and everything they do, I love watching DubScandal it looks like such a cool party and I’m actually going up in March, (that’s unannounced but I’ll let yous wait for that), I love them but it’s a little unprofessional dude. A bit messy and their matchups unfortunately sometimes feel like they’ve thrown two people together and just let it happen, but that’s not Beast Anglia. We try to make battles that people wanna see, or similar styles, or style clashes that are still good rappers – you’ll see that in the next few events that we put on. We pride ourselves in trying not to just do things because the card will look good or just to fill a spot. We try and curate battles for the people in the room and the people that are gunna be watching it. We just want to give an entertaining product with an old skool feel. Our first video got released last week and Matt Edwards on the UK Battle Rap Group said it looks like the old Blood In The Water videos. That is such a big compliment for us ‘cos that is exactly the kind of feel we’re tryna go for. It’s just removing all the politics from the feel of everything and getting it back to battling. Good battles on pub floors with people who want to be there – that’s what Beast Anglia is all about and I think that’s why it’s different. It’s just about battles man.”
What’s the best way to build a music scene in small towns?
“Work. Hard. Work hard at it. Don’t get defeated when it don’t happen first of all. A lot of people, promotors and musicians who are trying to build that scene, they do it for a couple months then get knocked back and think ‘Woe is me I’m not gunna fucking do it anymore, nobody wants to hear me.’ But I’m sorry, it’s a defeatist attitude and you need to suck it up. You need to work hard, find your demographic and become something that they didn’t know they needed. Hold events at local places that you and your friends already go to, that’s a big thing. Perform at open mics all over the town. Speak to people that speak to you after. If somebody comes up to you like ‘I really enjoyed that,’ sit and have a conversation with them for five minutes, tell them about what you’re trying to do. Inform anybody that will listen that you’re passionate about your music and the importance of it for you. Support local talent as well, go to gigs that are being run by locals, speak to local acts and bands even if they’re not in your genre. Just create that network, spin that fucking tapestry, you know? A lot of people have a single track mind and they try to promote themselves and do everything for their own benefits, whereas sometimes, you’ve got to do it for the sake of the town. Who do the town want? I’ve thrown gigs where me and my boys haven’t even performed. We was meant to, but we’ve got all these people that wanna see these local acts and OK we might do a little fifteen minutes at the end, but we don’t need an hour. Don’t be selfish with it.”
“Do it for the sake of the town.”
“I started this because I wanna see my mates at gigs. Nobody booked rappers in my town but I wanted to see all my mates at gigs, so I just begged venues for weeks until somebody finally gave me a chance. It was four hours on a Sunday night in mid-November and nobody wanted to spend their money, but we packed the house. It was a wicked night, no dramas, no problems, it kind of shoved two fingers up at everyone else who looked down their noses at me before that. Then all of a sudden I had five different venues in my town sayin’ ‘Can we throw one of your rap nights?’. But it’s like, I might just stick to the people who gave me the chance originally and let you lick your wounds for a bit. It all boils down to being respectful and friendly when networking but also being ruthless and professional when doing your business. And being energetic when performing. Just work, there’s no formula. Become something that your people didn’t know they needed, become something they’d miss if it went.”
You’ve achieved lots in little time, what’s your bucket list for this year?
“I’ve got so many goals dude. I wanna see Beast Anglia grow, I really do. I wanna see people want to battle for it. I wanna throw events all over East Anglia and Essex that people are enjoying. I don’t necessarily wanna make any money off it as long as we breakeven, I just wanna provide that product for people. On a personal level, my bucket list for this year, I wanna feature with Wiley bruv. In the last four or five months my stuff has taken me to places that I never thought it ever would. I feel like I’m manifesting a lot right now, I’m putting that work in and I’m reaping the rewards for it. I’m putting myself in the right positions, so I feel like if I was to reach for anything this year then it would be to collab with the person that introduced grime to me. I was like twelve/thirteen when I started listening to Wiley, so he’s been the godfather for a long time. That’s always been a dream of mine, I’m a very big fan of grime, grime is my favourite type of rap music and I think Wiley is one of the best at it. Yeah, that would kind of be my career complete really. If I got a feature with Wiley I’d be like ‘OK I’m done for a minute now.’”
Do you think he beat Stormzy?
“Objectively… actually, yeah I fucking do, fuck it. Yeah I do believe Wiley beat Stormzy. Because first of all we can’t count Stormzy’s first round init ‘cos it was on a drill beat, so that’s not grime beef – see ya later Stormzy. The second round, I feel like Stormzy relied on that whole fuckin’ Twitter angle. Wiley just makes me laugh, the flows are just so skippy, it’s so impactful, everything that Wiley says I kind of believe it. Maybe I’m biased, but fuck Stormzy bro. C’mon man, it’s new skool vs old skool for me and I’m always gunna be a bit biased.”
What’s next for Georgie Roots?
“I’ve booked eight battles already this year. I’ve got lots of battles coming up. I think I’m gunna be in Amsterdam with Don’t Flop in July, that’s gunna be dope. I’m going to take Mikey C’s head in Cambridge on 8th February. Then 29th February I’m in Bristol on Don’t Flop’s One Of A Kind card, that’s their Unan vs Craft-D title match and Lefty vs Press1 on-beat title match, which is dope. I’m battling Tek there and if I’m honest with you it’s my strongest material ever. We came through in the same try-outs, he was also at the Coventry card I was on. Brilliant battler, very pacey and methodical with his delivery, good punchlines, and his schemes on movies and pop culture are really good. It’ll test my skills definitely but I think I’ve got the performance, cheekiness and energy on stage. I’m gunna bounce around him, he’s 6’3 and I’m a skinny little white boy but I’m gunna bounce around on stage like I’m twice his size, get in his face and tear his head off man. Nobody’s gunna be expecting it, I’m going there to impress that night, I’m really looking forward to that one.”
“I’m a skinny little white boy but…”
“Then at the end of March I’ve got two massive plates. Neither of them are announced yet but I can give a little hint: one of these battlers put a status up on Facebook sayin’ that in 2020 they only wanna battle people who make them want to battle, they don’t care about names or getting paid, they just wanna battle these four names, and I was one of them. This guy has represented UK battle rap in multiple countries, has been at the top of his game for a couple years, he’s got a very aggressive style and I can’t wait to stand in front of him and take a bollocking, but also show him up a little bit. On the music front I’ve got an EP releasing in March as well, which is my first professional body of work.”
Who do you want to shout out?
“Shout out the whole TLO lot, The Lifted Ones, that’s my set, they keep me strong through everything. They’re my guys from my hometown, they keep my head straight and get me to my gigs. That’s my team. And big shout out to my mum bruv. Shouts to Mumsy ‘cos if she didn’t put up with me for all this time then who knows where I’d be right now. If she didn’t put up with me when I was a little tearaway fuckin’ everything up, then I’d never be a rapper. So big up Mumsy, big up TLO, and big up to Reverb for the interview of course.”
Interviewed by: James Wijesinghe