For Headie One, times are changing. The 24-year-old rapper is about to release Music X Road, the latest in a line of mixtapes that have made him one of the most sought after new MCs in the UK. On July 31, he interrupted a stream of retweets (mostly shout outs from fans) with the post: “Listened to the final mix of my mixtape and I think it really is the project of the year”. A few days later, he’s busy with admin for his fashion line OFB Clothing when Music Week checks in.
So, why does he think Music X Road, due on August 23 via Relentless, is so great? “It’s very musical,” he says, his voice slow and chilled like in his verses. “It’s so different from what’s going on, there’s something there for everyone. It’s got very good concepts as well, it’s one of those sort of projects which will stand out, really.”
Music X Road, named in tribute to its documentation of Headie’s life in London, where he grew up on Tottenham’s Broadwater Estate, is a primal, wide-ranging listen, expanding far beyond the drill sound that made his name. “That’s literally what it was, Music X Road, no sugarcoating or nothing,” he explains. “It’s just the two things. I thought it would be a good name to have for the tape, to keep it as simple as possible, don’t sugarcoat it.”
A lot of people don't put their whole truth out there
Headie (real name Irving Adjei) has never been one for adding gloss to his lyrics, filling his songs with cold-hued stories. “It’s important to say it as it is,” says Headie, who spoke out against censorship of drill on Sky News last year and has served three stints in prison. He was bailed by police after being charged for possession of a knife in June, and his experiences continue to colour his music. “A lot of people don’t put their whole truth out there. The reasons I do music and the reason others do music are probably a bit different,” he says. “I just want to make people aware and open people’s eyes to what’s happening on my side. I know everyone goes through different stuff and takes different paths, but that’s my aim, that’s what’s most important for me, above everything else.”
The mixtape features collaborations with Skepta, long-time friend RV, Krept & Konan, Stefflon Don, Nav and Dave. The Dave feature, 18Hunna, hit No.6 back in January, and Headie barely noticed. “I didn’t really understand what that [going Top 10] meant really, people were congratulating me,” he explains. “I just thought it was a good song. I didn’t go into all the extra stuff. It was a good look, but that stuff really doesn’t matter. I’m more focused on being happy with the song and its meaning, everything else comes second.”
He looks back fondly on recording with Dave (“one of the cleverest people I’ve worked with”) and says Skepta “taught me a few things”. You get the feeling further high profile hook-ups are within reach, but Headie’s on his own path. “It’s about transition, progression and the story moving forward,” he says. “Having more of an open mind, both in life and musically.”
Headie has moved away from his old estate, and says music means his “mind is in a different place”. “Before, I didn’t really have much to think about, well, I had a lot to think about but a lot of it wasn’t really forward-thinking or positive,” he says. “Now, it’s positive and that’s all that matters. I want more than the sky, no limits.”