'Skepta's the sickest': Co-manager Sam Burton salutes Ignorance Is Bliss

'Skepta's the sickest': Co-manager Sam Burton salutes Ignorance Is Bliss

It’s been quite a week so far for Skepta, who looks set to debut in the Top 3 with new album Ignorance Is Bliss.

Skepta’s fifth album was released last week through Boy Better Know, the label and collective the MC co-founded with his brother JME in Tottenham in 2005. According to Wednesday’s midweeks, three tracks from the record are in line for the singles Top 40, too.

The rapper has been hard on the promo trail, granting interviews to BBC Radio 1Xtra and Capital Xtra, meeting fans at various in-store appearances and drawing praise for his comments about D-Day during an interview with Good Morning Britain.

Ahead of the record’s release, Music Week heard from inside camp Skepta as Sam Burton – who co-manages the MC alongside Music Week Women In Music Award winner Grace Ladoja – teed up the campaign in our news section.

Burton acknowledged that much has happened since Skepta released the Mercury Prize-winning Konnichiwa in 2016. The story is familiar by now: a mainstream breakthrough (it peaked at No.2 and has 185,855 sales to date, according to the Official Charts Company), BRITS appearance and international success helped pave the way for UK rappers including Stormzy, Dave and J Hus (who features on Ignorance Is Bliss) to enjoy similar impact.

So what does Skepta’s new record mean for his future, and how important is he to the music industry? Ahead of his headline appearance at Field Day in London tonight (June 7), we sat down with Burton for a chat.

“Skepta is not a week one or day one artist, we’ve got things planned and are planning as we roll the campaign out,” the co-manager told us. “It’s going to be fun, I’m looking forward to it…”

Did Konnichiwa’s success impact Ignorance Is Bliss?

“Skepta locked himself in the studio and got on with it, it was a totally different process to any album he’s made. I don’t think that’s because of how well Konnichiwa did; it’s just the headspace he was in. He changed his phone number and properly went into himself. He went into the studio with MSM, his engineer, and made the project, it’s the first time he’s done that. He deleted Twitter and Instagram, he didn’t want distractions, he just wanted to create.”

Did he play you anything?

“Little bits and pieces. That’s a first. It was nice to get delivered the finished album. I got to sit there and listen to it like a Skepta fan, which I am. Now I’m getting into the management stuff and the legalities and this that and the other. It was nice to absorb it.”

The UK scene has developed a lot since Konnichiwa…

“I don’t feel like we’ve gone away, Praise The Lord [with A$AP Rocky] was one of the biggest records of last year and Energy with Wizkid was really big as well, it’s not like there’s been a hiatus. Look at Skepta’s features, Octavian, Slowthai, key players in the new wave, LD from 67. He’s always in amongst the thick of it. The scene has really progressed and it’s amazing to be a part of that, I don’t feel like we’ve been outside of that, we’re definitely in it, but we haven’t had an album out in the last few years. The records that have been out have definitely done their thing.”

We laid the foundations in the UK a long time ago

Sam Burton, Boy Better Know

Praise The Lord and Energy were big internationally…

“It’s all building. We laid the foundations in this country a long time ago with BBK running around doing everything ourselves coming from the grime scene with that DIY mentality of figuring it out by yourself. We’ve upscaled that on a global level. We’re working with The Orchard and Ian Dutt who have all these links globally to the business side of it. Culturally, Skepta really is out there, he’s getting on an aeroplane every five minutes and is really pushing it, linking up with like-minded people all over the globe. We don’t look at it as following up this or that, it’s just [about] making bangers. Skepta has always had that in the artillery. You can send him into the studio on his own with his laptop, that’s how this album has been made. There are features and a couple of producers have been called in, but this is a Skepta production. He can do that and he doesn’t make any noise about that. It’s a given that a grime MC can make his own beats, but to make them to the calibre he does? It’s not a given, he needs a lot of applause for that.”

Do you have targets for the album?

“I don’t go into things like that anymore. That’s Not Me was Skepta’s realisation and mine as manager of, ‘Fuck that, the things that are important to us are not that’. Don’t get me wrong, accolades are great, I love every one he’s had, but it’s about building, making things better, thinking about what the show’s going to look like, when we’re going back to different territories and all that.”

How would you describe the sound of the album?

“The first two tracks [Bullet From A Gun and Greaze Mode] showed quite a bit of range, that was on purpose. On Bullet From A Gun the production is totally different, Skepta’s saying this that and the other, there are so many quotable lines that have been popping up on memes all over the gaff. Greaze Mode is the big party record. There’s a lot in between them too, it’s a great, rounded project. You put it in, press play, listen to the whole thing through and there’s nothing to skip. It sounds like the best piece of work the guy’s done, I don’t even want to call it work, it’s music.”

Can you sum up his importance as an MC?

“Ah. [Laughs] That’s a weird one for me, I’ve been with him since the beginning. It’s a great time for him to be dropping his album. The whole scene has never been this good. With him travelling and making connections, it makes it even more interesting. How important is Skepta? Fuck me, I can’t emphasise it enough. It’s not for me to blow that trumpet, [but] I do, obviously, Skepta is the sickest.”

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