President T

President T

‘Grime will be here forever’ - We discover how UK grime pioneer President T is back in the musical ring and sounding stronger than ever…

Jim Ottewill
  • By Jim Ottewill
  • 25 Jan 2017
  • min read
As a member of Tottenham’s Meridian Crew, alongside Skepta and JME, President T is one of the founding fathers of UK grime, a genre, sound and attitude that enters 2017 in its best ever shape.

Skepta won last year’s Mercury Prize and the likes of Lady Leshurr, Stormzy and AJ Tracey are expected to unleash killer records this year. Wiley already has in the shape of his latest, The Godfather. Add to that list President T, an MC and producer who has been prolific and on point since his return to music in 2015.

The surprise LP, T On The Wing, conceived while behind bars and released late last year, featuring Ghetts, P Money and JME, did serious damage without any promo. It all points to an even more successful 2017 with the release of his next album proper, Strange Returns, expected at some time in the spring. We caught up President T to find out more about his return and this new record...

How did you first get into music?

As a young kid, I used to listen to a lot of rap and dancehall but I didn't have a scene to call my own or to get involved with so I could express my talents. So I basically started MCing on drum'n'bass as that was a scene I was into early. When garage and two-step appeared then I moved onto that side of the sound.

Who inspired you to start making your own music?

Well people like So Solid or Pay As You Go gave me the incentive and drive to know that you could do it in the UK, as we didn’t really have too much of an urban scene back then. Musically I was taking inspiration from just life in general.

How important was pirate radio in your musical upbringing?

It was crucial. It made me practise my skills and perfect my craft.

How did you get involved with the Meridian Crew? That’s where you first cut your musical teeth?

We’re from the same area - and with me, Skepta, JME, my younger brother H and my cousin Bossman, we formed the crew – which gave us something – as North London never really had a crew to represent it. It was all really East London, they ran the game back then. We were the only crew to make a stance from our area.

How important is joining a crew?

Yeah you get to collaborate and make music outside of being a solo artist. You find yourself a group as the way the scene was back then, it was crew-based.

At what point did you realise music was going well for you?

Yeah man it was after I got back into music full time and realised the cult following I have. I thought to myself that I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t come back with some new music.

You’ve been away – what’s inspired you to come back harder than ever?

I just couldn’t sit back no more and watch all this gimmick stuff that’s going on, untalented people making music in this field. The birth of this genre, there was nothing but talent and skill. People aren’t putting in the effort and this isn’t fair on fans.

How did the time away impact the kind of music you were making?

It’s hard for other artists to get to this stage. I’ve been maturing grime like this for more than ten years, it’d be hard for most MCs to match unless they’ve put the same time in as I have. You can’t just walk across the grass no more. People in the industry are trying to cut corners and walk across the grass.

Stranger Returns is the forthcoming record – what’s it all about?

I’m trying to get the message across that Stranger Returns is only a stranger to the fans that don’t know what the top level of grime is. It’s introducing you to the top level of grime in the short time I’ve been away.

How do you approach the creative process?

I’m still just as creative as I used to be – but I try to finish things in world record timing. You could spend hours trying to get a track perfect but it might not go where you want it to go. So I concentrate on getting work done rather than trying to polish up that one track.

Grime is in the spotlight in the big way in 2017 - what are your thoughts on it?

I think the scene is in great shape as people aren’t just doing riddims or freestyles. It’s more about putting this music into songs, people are trying to present themselves as artists with real songs, proper performers. And it’s here forever. Grime artists are trying to make sure their music gets heard by the masses.

Any tips for new producers?

Keep the passion - don’t lose it and don’t let anyone’s negativity drag it away from you. If you do, then you will prevail. It’s inevitable.


Listen to Lay Off The Rocks below. Look out for Stranger Things in the spring.

T On The Wing is available now.