Mystro: Comedic Spurts, Thesaurus Flow

As much as the no-nonsense, super lyrical rappers are applauded, what most Hip Hoppers love is someone who isn’t afraid to tickle one’s funny bones; someone who can also give us a good laugh amidst the breathless flows and Thesaurus referenced wordplay.

It’s these attributes which have indefinitely made Mystro one of the most admired UK spitters of today. With a career spanning over ten years, the microphone assassin has enough lyrical capabilities to wow all – yet it is his charismatic approach and effortless flow which distances him from the chasing pack.

As the release of his Digmund Freud EP approaches, Mystro sat down with SoulCulture to discuss the growth of UK Hip Hop and its general shift towards a more commercial sound, his views on the listeners’ individual roles in influencing which music becomes popular and flexing his presenting skills away from music on Spine TV.

SoulCulture: Can you identify one difference between UK Hip Hop now and when you first came out some years ago?

Mystro: When I first came out, I’d say there wasn’t very much of it [Hip Hop] as there is now. I really remember London Posse, Cookie Crew, Silver Bullet – all those kind of artists at the time were the big UK guys at the time. But even at the age of 13 or 14, I still remember it not being out in abundance in comparison to now; it seems like everyone’s doing music now – whether its singing, producing or rapping.

SoulCulture: You’ve got a core following outside of the UK. What do you feel their perceptions of UK Hip Hop are?

Mystro: [laughs] I don’t know to be honest. I go to Australia and New Zealand a lot and with the conversations I’ve had with fans there, I feel they believe the scene has gone silent; maybe there’s a perception that much isn’t being released or that the quality has dropped. But you can clearly see that fans outside of the UK still want to hear it – they still love to hear Jehst, Taskforce and so forth.

A lot of the artists are still around doing their thing, but there may be a few who are involved in other things beyond making music. I think it’s important that we use avenues such as the internet to get stuff out there for those outside, but again, it all depends on the artist’s situation.

SoulCulture: Many people have come to know of you due to your various impromptu ‘performances’ in street markets and on the tubes. What’s the reaction been like from passers by who have witnessed these performances?

Mystro: It’s funny because the track I performed (“Live & You Learn”) was a real ‘hood track, so I didn’t expect many people to understand what I was rapping about. I think it was just a surprise that someone was performing in the streets and because I was listening to the beat in my headphones, from the outside it looked like I was just rambling from the top of my head. Apart from the odd few who might have been shook, generally most people found it a laugh.

When I performed for the “Around My Way” video [above], it was a real test which proved successful. I guess I felt I could put it off and the whole purpose of it was to highlight the importance of performance – you can’t be a performer and worry about what people think of you. I’ve got some more ideas for live performances in store though!

SoulCulture: A lot of fans and critics have addressed the stale, formulaic music which is currently being produced. Is this an issue which you have an opinion on and is it an issue which would be addressed on any future material?

Mystro: For me, I’m strictly Hip Hop so that’s what I primarily stick to. I find it funny that people complain about music that they’re not into – if you’re not into it then you shouldn’t let it bother you. Unfortunately we’ve got artists out there who are maybe more concerned with the financial prospects of music or jumping onto whatever is deemed popular at the time. But that’s them. If they want to do it, I feel we should leave them to it.

SoulCulture: Do you feel the Hip Hop community are going to remain united to producing the organic Hip Hop sounds or do you think some artists are looking at the bigger picture and maybe considering altering their sound?

Mystro: I definitely think some artists are thinking of the bigger picture; it’s already been seen that some artists have changed up their style in order to appease a wider audience.

But at the same time, they may genuinely want to change their music to a particular style. I can’t knock them if they like the stuff they’re producing but I can’t help thinking whether the motive for the change is just to make money.

It seems a lot of artists are happy to make the change but it doesn’t have to be formulaic. Music is an art so you should be free to express yourself rather than fit a particular criteria in order to achieve some recognition.

SoulCulture: For all those people who complain about the lack of ‘good music’ being promoted or the staleness of the current product, what can be done to resolve this?

Mystro: I think the main thing should be to make your voice heard in any way.  People are vocal about the music which they don’t like – but what about the stuff which they do? If everyone just spoke on the music which they like and support, then the material they don’t like eventually gets pushed to the back.

Whoever you’re really feeling should be the people you should spend your time talking about, because that’s what will influence other people to check out the stuff you feel is quality. A lot of people actually don’t know what stuff is out there – even some DJs.

So it’s up to the listeners to promote and hype up the stuff – not the artists. Twitter allows you to get at DJs so you can tell them who to look out for (a recent example being the many tweets aimed at Radio One DJ Zane Lowe to get TY and Mystro on the show).

SoulCulture: Let’s move onto your online project, Mystro Investigates… What are the concepts behind these episodes and what’s the reaction been like so far?

Mystro: Spine TV just came through and asked if I was up for doing a show. They explained the whole idea of me just going around with a camera investigating different scenarios. We then started getting tighter with recording, interviews and the editing and it’s been fun. It’s always good to have a few characters away from rapping and I hope that people get to see the other side to me than just the emcee.

SoulCulture: Your Digmund Freud EP is out in September, tell us what we can expect from that as well as projects for the rest of the year?

Mystro: Digmund Freud is a little concept I’ve got going, basically just to lift up peoples’ spirits. Like we mentioned earlier, a lot of the Hip Hop crowd seem bitter over the lack of support for Hip Hop and you can’t blame them for that.

There is a general feeling that if you’re making regular Hip Hop then you’re considered as ‘old school’ or ‘ancient’. But a lot of people are saying the same thing about the state of the music, so it’s not just one person being paranoid.

As well as that I’m gonna be doing some tours with DJ Swerve, a number of shows and in the New Year will be heading back to Australia and New Zealand, taking the tour over there as well.

Mystro’s Digmund Freud EP drops September 13th. The single “Around My Way” is out now.

–Henry Yanney

Photography by Neil Raja.

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