The chameleonic rapper opens up about emotional vulnerability and shares his stories of “going to the studio at stupid o’clock” in this revealing (and fast-paced) interview.
“Talk to me, I’m so ready.” So begins my interview with Yxng Bane, the savvy Canning Town MC whose back catalogue flits from rap to Afro Swing to pop without missing a beat. The question is not whether he’s ready, but whether everyone else can keep up.
Back in 2017, he went viral with a remix of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” — injecting a sense of play and wordsmithery into a track that, for all its sing-along appeal, desperately needed it. Keeping up the momentum, the next few years saw Bane rack up hits with Yungen collab “Bestie”, solo hit “Rihanna” and a spot on Ella Eyre’s “Answerphone”. A workaholic by his own admission (“it’s only work when it stops being fun”) he then went onto release two full LPs in 2018, before taking a year-long break for a period of emotional reflection and, one can only presume, rest.
Now 24, he’s back with both his characteristic aplomb and new mixtape Quarantime: The Lost Files; a collection of B-sides and previously unreleased material to help tide fans over during the empty hours of lockdown. To celebrate the mixtape’s success, Bane dialled in to talk authenticity, his relationship with fans, and why he considers Mick Jagger his “grandad”.
Lovely to chat to you! How has lockdown treated you so far?
Lockdown is going fine, I’m a homebody anyways. I just go out when it’s time to be productive or have a bit of fun or whatever. I’ve set up my home studio, downloaded all the programmes to self-record on my little laptop. I’m loving the feedback on the Quarantime mixtape as well.
Can you tell me a bit about the process behind the mixtape?
Going to the studio at stupid o’clock when I didn’t need to and when I was tired. That was the process of the mixtape. Just passion, man. That’s the only way I can explain it, half of these songs weren’t even ever supposed to come out anyways. The fact that I was able to make them and that they’re out now is down to my love for music.
Lockdown’s probably not the best time, commercially, to be dropping a mixtape. What made you want to release Quarantime in the current market?
Like I said, these songs weren’t even going to come out. I had a little B-side listening party on Instagram Live and the fans were going crazy. My manager suggested I drop the songs as a mixtape and I really liked the idea. So there you go: Quarantime mixtape out now, available on all platforms, baby.
That’s a really responsive and adaptable way of working, an approach I can also see in the mix of genres and collaborators in your back catalogue. Are you consciously strategic about what you put out?
No. I put out different genres because that’s who I am as a person, it’s crazy to explain. The rap side, when you hear that rap side, it’s all facts. When you hear the singing, it’s all factual. I don’t go to the studio going “I want to make a rap song today” or “I want to sing today”. These are my real-life emotions.
So you’re not looking to respond to trends in the charts? It’s just an expression of how you feel, musically?
Yeah. One thing we all have in common is that we’re all human and we all have feelings. I know that as long as I’m honest with myself and keep it one hundred in the music, the more people are going to relate. That’s what I do this for, it’s like therapy to me. You can hear on the mixtape that I’ve gone through a lot. It’s real life, it’s not a game. It’s all shit — sorry, things — that I’m really going through.
Is it difficult being this emotionally open in your work?
It’s hard being emotional, but being emotionally open makes it easier. This is something I even speak to my friends about, there’s a lot of emotions we don’t understand ourselves. Coming from where I come from, a lot of us react a certain way or we’re accused of being a certain type or stereotyped. Now, I’ve come out of it and I kind of understand what all those emotions are. It’s trauma and paranoia, it’s actually serious health issues.
You mentioned wanting the people who listen to your music to relate to what you’re feeling; what would you say your relationship with your fans is like?
My relationship with fans is authentic. On Twitter, I only follow fans back. I’m interacting with the fans on my timeline and talking to them rather than tweeting nonsense. That’s who matters to me at the end of the day, my fans changed my life and made it better.
From what you’ve been saying, it seems like you’ve been going through a really vital period of working on your mental health. Is there anything you’re hoping to achieve at the end of all this emotional reflection?
There is no target and this isn’t just for me. If we all take part in bettering ourselves the world would be a better place. We’re all supposed to be indoors right now so it’s the perfect time for a bit of self-reflection and to emerge into the world again as a more loving person. And because nobody’s going to tell you what to do, you have to want to be better for yourself. That’s all it is for me, I don’t want to be a saint one day, I just want to wake up and try to be better.
And how else do you express yourself, besides music? You seem quite interested in fashion.
[Laughs] It’s good that you said that because I was thinking about this yesterday. I realised that I don’t care what people think of me, and you can see it in the way I dress. I will chuck on flares in 2020, just for me, just because I want to.
So, here’s my final question. I see your Twitter and Instagram names are “Baney Jagger”; why the Mick Jagger reference?
I’m Baney Jagger! Have you seen Mick Jagger perform? The dance moves, the sauce, the presence, all of that. That’s my grandad, it’s legendary. That’s where we want to be.
Quarantime: The Lost Files is out now.
11 June 2020