Charging onto the scene via pirate radio, Bruza released “Get Me” back in 2004; a self-defining grime track that placed itself firmly at the centre of the scene. More releases followed, including “Doin Me”, a cultural timestamp outlining not only what it meant to be Bruza, but also what it meant to navigate being black, British and genre-defying.
Following these noughties releases, Bruza’s published output largely paused with the exception of an unreleased album, Tales of the Underdog, in 2010. In the meantime, Bruza appeared at raves and on radio to MC, collaborating with the likes of D Double E, Tinie Tempah, Kano and The Streets.
Fifteen years on, Bruza’s comeback comes in the form of a collaborative EP, featuring the fitting track “Pick it Up” (from where I left off) with a video that directly references the beginning, and “Deal Wiv It”, a new but familiar assertion on self reflection. From way down this timeline, in a new era for Bruza, his music and the wider grime genre, we sit down to uncover where he’s been, who he is today and what it means to be firmly back in the game.
Hey Bruza. How has everything been with the new releases?
Yeah, it’s been good, man. It’s been a while since I put out music, so it was good to actually give people something to listen to.
I bet. What was the process of making the EP?
So, I think the first tune that I did on the EP was “Man or Mouse”, but I wasn’t actually planning on doing an EP. I was just in the studio recording, keeping the engine oiled up. I was playing them to people and getting good reactions from them. So I said, ‘why not just put them out for the masses to hear?’.
With “Pick It Up”, you address the big question of where you’ve been to your fans.
I was conscious of actually talking to the fans and telling them, because I get asked that question all the time, like, ‘where’ve you been?’, ‘what you doing?’, ‘you still doing music?’. So I feel like this is me talking to them and making an announcement that I’m here.
“Get Me” came out in 2004. You’ve been in the grime scene long enough to see it really change. How different is it to be making grime music today?
In terms of the actual form of the music, nothing was digital at all, it was CDs, vinyl and tapes. The whole digital thing has really made the music change, before you would buy 500 vinyl and put them in various shops. To counter that though, I do have a collectors edition USB available now, which you can get via the label. We also used to go on pirate radio and test your new beat out. We’d be expressing ourselves that way, as a stage for the local community to hear what’s going on.
Obviously pirate radio is such a big thing for grime and its beginnings, and it fostered a massive community as well. Do you think that social media is able to achieve the same things that pirate radio did?
There’s not really any platforms for grime. There’s no radio, or even dances, raves, clubs. For example, we’ve only really got the Spyro Show today who play grime on BBC One Extra. Other than that, there’s not really anywhere for it to be heard. So I think in that way, people ain’t feeling it as much.
I guess social media has replaced that, and it’s so much more expansive that there isn’t a specific home for grime as much now.
You’re absolutely right. But I mean, the diehard fans will always find where it is, even on the social media side of things, which is people individually promoting their own music. Whereas with pirate radio, it was a community of people who all shared in and promoted each other’s music.
So, where could the pirate radio community exist today? Or is it gone forever?
First of all, it can be fixed if we actually got to start owning our own clubs, venues and radio stations, because there’s not really grime artists who own their own platforms. So if that was to change, then yeah, we could – not necessarily go back to those days, because you don’t want to go back, you want to move forward – but we could be better.
I guess it’s about bringing back ownership.
Ownership, exactly. In the old days, we actually had our own pirate stations and people would climb up on the roof so they could hear it. Whereas now we ain’t got nothing.
“Deal Wiv It” addresses your identity and niche that you’ve carried through your career. Do you think you’re more comfortable with your angle in the industry now?
Yeah, a hundred percent. I think when you’ve done it for so long, you become more aware of who you are as a person. You don’t worry over people.
And where did the concept come from for the video?
D.O.K. produced the track. He made “Get Me” too, so we’ve known each other for years. He got it straight away. We were trying to pay homage to the people, actors and musicians before us, with a little bit of ska and reggae in there. There’s also a film called Babylon about sound system culture, and I feel like we’ve got the same story to tell. They weren’t allowed to go in some clubs because of what they look like. So, the whole thing was to address the problem that we had all that time ago and just know that it’s still about now.
Not only can that track cross reference, but it’s also able to take the piss out of itself, which isn’t always easy to do with grime.
Yeah. So, this is what we wanted to do. I mean, when you make music, you want it to make people feel good.
So, what don’t people know about you?
Well, I don’t think no one knows I’m a roofer by day. You don’t get many MC roofers. Maybe I should change my name to MC Roofa.
Nice. A special track dedicated to roofing. Have you considered that?
Yeah, actually I should because Deja VU, the pirate radio station, was actually on the roof as well.
There’s an angle. What’s next, after the EP comes out?
I’m going to keep putting out music, there’s loads to come. I’m going to try and keep the levels up, getting better and better and better.
Bruza’s new EP, ‘Deal Wiv It’ is out now, alongside the collectors edition USB available to buy.