Jamie Broad Interview: “Count how many rappers were on locally, cos there weren’t many”
A veteran of the Liverpool hip hop scene, Jamie Broad talks to Shaun Ponsonby about his new album with Slim Guesh, hip hop in Liverpool and his mysterious alias.
Jamie Broad released his first mix tape, The Caped Crusader, eight years ago. He has been a regular and ever-popular face on the Liverpool hip hop scene ever since.
Laid back and charming, he is instantly likeable, humble and an intelligent storyteller who possesses a typically scouse wit.
Over the years, he has worked often with French producer Slim Guesh. But now the two men have produced an entire album under the alias Mersey and Seine – a reference to each of their homelands.
The album is called Rivers. Though politically charged, Broad’s lyrics often seem to focus more on the human aspect of politics, which makes it all the more relatable – and he doesn’t lose his charm throughout it.
As he prepares to play The Reed’s sixth Boom Bap night this coming Friday (6th July), we spoke to him about his new album, hip hop in Liverpool and Agent Alias, the pseudonym he used to record a diss track…about himself.
Planet Slop: Listening to the new album, it feels much more political than what we’ve heard from you in the past. I’m guessing recent world events has played into that, but was there anything specific that inspired you to go down that route?
Jamie Broad: Yes, I’d agree that it is more political than stuff I’ve previously released, although my older albums definitely did have political tracks. I’ve always been politically minded and while I was writing the album a lot was going on and I couldn’t really help but write about what was on my mind.
PS: How did you initially hook up with Slim Guesh?
JB: He contacted me after seeing a track of mine on SBTV called Uh Oh. He hit me up with some beats and I liked his sound so worked on a few songs with him. We’ve been working together now for about four years.
PS: This is the first time you’ve made a whole album, though. What led to you doing this project?
JB: It’s something I’ve always been really keen to do. The norm for hip hop is using multiple producers over the course of a project. I don’t make beats myself so always wanted to work on something start to finish with one producer so it was a collaboration rather than me just using someone else’s beats. Slim sat down during the mixing process and worked on making each song transition into the next with some outros and breakdowns with the beats in between songs. He’s really talented and I’m made up with how it came out.
PS: What is the significance of rivers?
JB: Basically, with everything going on politically at the moment, I feel like divisions are becoming wider, or more likely just more obvious and open than they were before. We took the aliases Seine and Mersey for the project to represent two iconic images of where we come from. Even though we can both be proud of the things that make us unique, all rivers run to the same seas and oceans. There is more that unites us as humans than separates us. This album represents a hip hop community and unity across borders and language barriers. Rivers have also been used historically for trade so Rivers seemed the perfect name to reflect the albums feel.
PS: There’s a track on the album called The Beatles, and you recently also released a track called L100 History about hip hop in Liverpool, and bringing this together with the name Mersey and Seine, are you feeling particularly close to local history right now?
JB: Yes, I’m always really interested in history. The Beatles is a song about the way everything musically in Liverpool seems to come back to The Beatles. I’m not upset about that and the tourism it brings obviously brings a lot of money and interest to the city, but it can be annoying. I wanted to play with idea in a tongue in cheek way by actually just calling a song The Beatles. The hook says, “I don’t need to put my city on the map, nah the Beatles already done that…let me show you some scouse rap“. Just a way of saying to people outside, and a few inside Liverpool too, that there’s more to Liverpool music than The Beatles.
PS: L100 History felt pretty poignant. Why do you think it was important to put that song out?
JB: Again that just links back to the idea that there hasn’t been enough of a focus on hip hop or grime music in the city in my opinion. There is a rich history of it, going back well before I started, or the people I grew up listening to even started. It’s not intended to be a history of all of Liverpool urban music cos I’m not the guy to ask. History can’t be accurately told from just one person’s experience. There’s also way too many names to mention and too much history to cover. But it is, as I say in the track – “the L100 History from my perspective“. I called it L100 History out of respect for DJ 2Kind and what he’s doing on KCC Live with a two hour regular show every Thursday playing exclusively Merseyside urban music called the L100 Show.
PS: 2Kind is doing incredible things! Just to talk a bit more about hip hop in Liverpool for a sec, how difficult do you think it has been for MC’s to make a name in the city, especially when compared to guitar bands?
JB: Yes, definitely it’s been harder traditionally. I think some of that is that people from outside Liverpool wanna see bands cos that’s what Liverpool’s been known for largely. But in the age of social media and YouTube it’s pretty clear to see that actually the rappers are getting a lot of attention. It might be switching up a bit.
PS: It’s funny because in the past, I’ve seen you perform with an acoustic guitar player – I’m guessing this was a conscious effort to get gigs in the city?
JB: Yeah, that was conscious. Going back five or six years ago, there were certain gigs I just wouldn’t have booked were it not for an alternative kind of set. Look back on any flyers you want from the town and count how many rappers were on locally cos there weren’t many. I enjoyed doing the acoustic gigs though. Some of my favourite gigs I’ve done are acoustic ones.
PS: Do you think it is getting better?
JB: I do. I saw that a music mag in Liverpool recently had three rap artists covered in their latest issue. Also now when I see Liverpool music events and festivals there are rappers names on the flyers and more opportunities to play live now than when I started out. There’s strides being made definitely.
PS: More needs to be done, though.
JB: Yes, always.
PS: I need to ask you about Agent Alias! How did you end up writing a diss track about yourself?!
JB: [Laughs]I’m always trying to push the boundaries with concepts and I was coming off the back of a nearly two year sabbatical. I wanted to remind people of what I’d done in the past. If you listen to the track back I mention so many of my older songs and albums. I thought it was a good way of reminding people who I was and getting some interest drummed up in my new work.
PS: It caused a bit of a stir in the local hip hop scene! It really was a stroke of genius. Were you surprised that people believed it?!
JB: I was very happy that so many people were so nice when they heard it was coming out and leapt to my defence. That was really special to me cos music can be kinda disheartening just putting out your creativity to the world and often being really insecure about how it’s received. You have to have thick skin so for people to be backing me against this “Agent Alias” was nice. Once the track came out most people guessed it was me anyway – even with a vocal effect added to disguise the voice!
PS: Do you have any plans to perform with Slim around the new album?
JB: I hope so! It’d be like one of them exchange trips French teachers tried to get going, not in my school like! But nah for real, hopefully one day.
PS: You’re playing Boom Bap at The Reeds on Friday. What can we expect from that show?
JB: Good vibes! It’s a local, Hip Hop residency at the start of every month. I’ve been out to so many shows there and they are always a fun, welcoming environment. I’d encourage anyone to come.
PS: Do you have anything else in the pipeline at the moment?
JB: Yes! I’ve got some music videos planned for some tracks off the Rivers album. Some unreleased songs to put out. A new album I’m working on for January. Also a little surprise, a rap based mini comedy series in the works. Plenty to look out for!
Mersey and Seine’s Rivers album is out now.
You can catch Jamie Broad playing Boom Bap at The Reeds on Friday 6th July 2018.