Mafia movies at meal times, Rye Shabby and Forrest Moon are a rapper/producer duo set to shake-up the UK’s hip hop scene. The Ipswich boys have just released Esta, their first full EP together, but the project sounds much more like a short film. Peppered with movie samples and personal, narrative rhymes, the seven-track project is the latest offering from Verb T‘s In The Balance Records. When we spoke, they both revealed the veteran’s great impact on their lives, making them better musicians and men.
“THE WHOLE PROJECT PLAYS OUT AS A SONG.”
They gave us exclusive news about an upcoming group venture, and let us delve into their opinions on visual media’s take-over of music, as well as film’s influence on theirs. We got to know two charismatic characters and find out their favourite rapper/producer double-acts. Press play from track one and read on from question one below.
Where’s the most important place in Ipswich for you?
R: “Here man, the HQ. The most important place man, this is where we get creative, this is where we have fun, messy times, this is where I’ve been sleeping on the floor. It means a lot man.”
F: “Yeah I’d say the same too man. I didn’t leave the house for a little while because I was just busy being here making music, so this is the place for me. Ipswich is cool but home is where the heart is innit.”
How have you both changed as artists since releasing your first tunes together on 2018’s Die Shabby?
F: “Big step-up is I hadn’t been making music that long when me and Rye started making music together, it had been like a year? I was just learning how to use Ableton and stuff and they were my first couple of beats on Ableton. Then I went to a machine and then to an MPC. So in that whole time, I was developing my sound per se. A lot of hit-and-miss and deciding where I wanted to go with it. With that, came the more jazzier stuff and that brought him out of his shell a bit I think. So I’d say the technology and also the time. I spent a long time making beats. Every day for like two years solid. These guys would try to drag me out and stuff.”
R: “Yeah, I’ve always had faith in him, like he said he’d only been making beats for a year but I saw a shine in him, not that I’m working with fucking Timberland and shit like that, but there was good producers around me that I was working with but I just saw more faith in him and I went with it. He got better and better, just determination. He was sitting in front of me rotting in front of his Mac all the time. Then the friendship builds, sometimes the connection is realer than anything else man. There was a spark every time we worked together, something new happened. [Buzz buzz] We’ve just gotta let our photographer in quickly… That’s pretty much it, as the connection grew the talent grew and the process built more natural. That’s what makes it so easy now. Literally, we bang out three or four tunes in a couple hours just because the process is so natural, its fucking scary. Then I’ll go work with someone else and it doesn’t really fit as smoothly, you know what I’m saying?”
What have you learnt under Verb T’s wings?
F: “A lot man, that’s Uncle Swerve. Honestly, I could hit him up to ask anything, like ‘Does this sound good?’ or ‘What should we do with this?’ He’s sorta made me believe in myself a lot more as well so that’s always good, if someone’s telling you ‘Yeah you’ve got this,’ it makes you think ‘That’s T telling me that, gotta keep going.’ He’s taught me a lot to be honest man.”
R: “With me, I didn’t really know anything about the industry side of things. I knew I could chuck a few bars together and shit, and I understood why he was approaching me, but I didn’t really know how to present myself. I was the same as Marcus [Forrest] like I was a bit star-struck at the start. I was loving The Four Owls for ages and then I got the opportunity to support him at a local show. The first time I ever met him I got too fucked and stood him up pretty much. As I got more friendly with him and I met him and we shot a video, he taught me how to present myself properly and how to address situations. I owe all that to him. Basically, he taught me how to be a man in the industry and not just a jumped-up little drunk kid that’s running around like a nutter.”
Esta frequently samples the 1991 movie Bugsy with its title even being a character’s name. What made you reference that movie and how does film influence your music?
F: [Laughs] “What I found from early was that I enjoyed putting vocal samples over beats. I found that it filled a gap. With Die Shabby I put all the samples in there (on our tunes anyway) to try and build to that storytelling-type-feel. Esta kinda came about because one day I got really bored and was going through all the stuff we’d been making day-in-day-out, tunestunestunestunes. We didn’t have a direction to start, but there was like fifty tunes there and I’m listening through them picking some out like ‘These could go together.’ And then I’m heavily influenced by mafia films, it’s just something I was brought up on, my mum always made us watch mafia films on a Sunday.”
R: “As you do!” [Laughs]
F: “Yeah it was just one of them ones man, we just had some dinner and watched a mafia movie – mad. But yeah, I’ve obviously known about that film for years and when you make music you go back and watch all these films. All of the sample choices were current at the time, be it for him or be it for me, so everything you hear in there is something related to our lives. I put that across the whole project, he didn’t have a choice in the matter really.”
R: “Yeah, but what it comes down to with me is that I just let you do your thing because I love the whole cinematic feel, that’s how I am with my rhymes and that’s how I write. I love the cinema, I want it to be more like you’re listening to a visual, more film-like. So it just fitted like a glove straight away, as soon as I heard those samples. Nine times out of ten he’ll show me something and it’ll be like ‘Fuck, I instantly wanna write to this.’ It’s peak because he’s got fifteen other beats to show me and the first one I’m stuck on, then he ends up having to send all of them to me so I’ll sit in a room and write. So yeah, his whole cinematic vision with the samples fitted with the way I write so it’s perfect.”
F: “Yeah, that’s another thing man. I wanna make my sound as if I’m making something that tells a story. I want you to hear that and think ‘Forrest Moon did that,’ cos there’s a whole piece-by-piece thing to it.”
You’re even filming a video tonight, do you think we’re at a stage where visuals can be more important than the music itself?
F: “Kind of, that’s the heavy reason—”
R: [10/10 burp]
F: “If I put beats out, I like to put in a lot of samples for that reason, it keeps you interested cos it’s constantly changing. With the visuals, I think at the moment because of the lockdown and everything, visual-wise you can kinda get away with doing whatever you want really. It’s a whole new kettle of fish cos you can grab a few clips of anything and make a music video from that.”
R: “I mean, I kinda agree and kinda not. I’d like to not agree but it opens a whole new door to the creative path innit. To me, writing and recording and performing is easy, it’s the shit you’re used to, the same as making beats for him, it’s what we do every day. But, the visual side of it is a whole different element and it’s a beautiful side of it cos it brings it all to life. I agree and I don’t agree, it’s hard to admit that the visual does take over, but for us as creatives, it keeps us more on our toes and we’ve gotta think more outside the box. Obviously you get directors and shit, but still, it’s your project innit.”
F: “Fun fact as well: if you play something with a visual, your brain takes in like 20% of the audio and takes most of the visual. So if you’re watching something you’re more focused on the picture than of the song itself. That’s why visuals are good for singles and stuff online in particular.”
R: “Forrest‘s fun fact of the day.”
F: “Uni fact that one.”
The EP is primarily made up of two minute tracks, was that intentional and what’s the thinking there?
R: “Yeah definitely intentional. We make something, we get the ideas down and are like ‘Boom, let’s not force it, let’s not try make it three minutes long or add another verse,’ cos then you can lose the love for it. We’ll just bang one tune out, get the vision in our head, create the art, then boom [7/10 burp]. It’s not necessarily short versions of songs for us, it’s just piecing together the puzzle of the project as a whole. Obviously you have to separate all the songs for listeners’ purposes, but it’s more for the cinematic effect. We create something, we like that piece of art and then we move on to the next one. That’s why they do work out short sometimes.”
“I LET HIM RUN WITH HIS ART.”
“People will probably think it’s us being lazy but if it’s not broken then you don’t need to fix it. He puts a sample in after my verse, whether it’s a 16-bar or 64-bar, if it works it works, I don’t need to push no more on it and I don’t want to take away the whole joint thing between me and him. He makes the beats, that’s his creative bit and I’ll write the bars and record the verses. It’s easy for producers and rappers to compete with each other man, like ‘Oh I’ll smash it on the second verse.’ But nah, I don’t wanna do that, I don’t wanna take away any of his art. I let him run with his art, that’s his show not mine. He’s putting in more work than I probably fuckin’ am. I just show up and shout words at people and it just happens to sound cool.”
F: “I think as well I like to move away from the stereotypical verse/chorus/verse/chorus. I like to make my music just how it’s meant to be – I guess it’s kinda selfish but it’s the best way I can actually say. I don’t think it needs to be longer, or a song that’s long I don’t think it needs to be shorter. Every time we put something out it’s got a purpose so it’s all for the puzzle, like this fits there and that fits there. I thought about this the other day: if people listen to Esta and just catch a single then they might be a bit confused if it’s just a one minute song. But if they go back and listen to it as a project, they’d be like ‘Ah OK, that makes sense.’ The whole project plays out as a song that just changes throughout.”
R: “That’s what we went for, we want people to listen to it as a whole.”
Who are your favourite rapper/producer duos?
R: “We could be here all day!”
F: “MF DOOM/Madlib – bang, that’s the first one. Freddie Gibbs/Madlib obviously. Alc—”
R: “And anyone! Alchemist and Earl Sweatshirt. Alc and Freddie Gibbs.”
F: “Alc can lock-in with anyone. Oh yeah Alc and Earl – Jesus. Lemme just keep thinking, obviously newer but the Griselda thing, Daringer/Griselda.”
R: “Fresh Prince/Jazzy Jeff! Nah I’m joking.”
F: “I feel bad sometimes because it’s just gunna be my production predominantly with Rye, but at the same time it can change so much that it just fits.”
R: “Innit, there’s different sides to every cube.”
F: “Exactly. But I believe heavily in the whole producer/rapper projects, they work better than loads of producers on a project.”
R: “We’re gunna form into one now, it’s not gunna be rapper and producer anymore. We’ve got a little duo-group-ting going on. It’s called Soundscape Green. That’s what the next thing’s gunna be man and we’re gunna go with that now. It won’t just be Rye Shabby/Forrest Moon, we’ll get Esta out the way and from then on it’s gunna be Soundscape Green shit. This is the first blog and interview that we’ve spoken about it.”
What’s next for Rye Shabby and Forrest Moon AKA Soundscape Green?
R: “We’re pretty much coming to the end of an EP.”
F: “That’s gunna scare Verb.”
R: “Yeah that’s gunna scare Verb, he’s not even heard it yet. Then we’ve got ideas for the album. We’re gunna do this four or five track EP and then an LP, so yeah man, next year is gunna be fun as fuck.”
F: “Esta is like an ease-in to the Soundscape Green stuff because it’s gunna be very similar by having samples throughout it, beats that change and the whole cinematic thing. So Esta is like that little ease-in before we open the floodgates.”
R: “To make people’s bum flap a little bit.”
I guess we should do the customary thing then, any shout-outs?
R: “Big up my son. Big up KP Captures in the building [Brap brap brap from the background]. Big up In The Balance Records, Verb T, big up Forrest Moon, I suppose I’ve gotta shout him out. Big up yourself my brudda James, yeah, shout out Potent Funk and shout out Heineken as well man – give me a sponsor.”
F: “I dunno if I have as many as him but yeah, big up KP that’s the main one. Him, Rye Shabby, he’s good, he’s alright at what he does. In The Balance is like family and yeah, Mills forever, Imma put that one in there. And big up yourself! You’ve got a good writing style, big up my actual brother because he researched you – put that in there, he’ll like that. He appreciates a good writer bruv.”
LISTEN TO ESTA NOW
Rye Shabby: Instagram
Forrest Moon: Instagram
Soundscape Green: Instagram
Interviewed by: James Wijesinghe