Yo! We’re outside, still, where’s the place?”
Music Week spies Young T & Bugsey moments before we’re due to meet, striding down a quiet West London side street and hollering together into a mobile phone. Young T is holding a paper carrier bag from Caffè Nero. Turns out we’re as stuck as they are, trying to locate the tranquil garden centre and café their team has picked out. A few minutes later, we’re sat at an outside table and the Nottingham rappers are ordering breakfast. Young T has a herbal blend to match his name and Bugsey has a full English. A water feature trickles behind us as we discuss how the pair have made strides into the mainstream with this year’s single Strike A Pose feat. Aitch (552,502 sales according to the OCC) hitting No.9. They’ve certainly shifted up a gear.
“It’s just our time now,” offers Young T, who’s ensconced in a warm jacket. “We know we make good music, we’re very confident it will get the credit it needs to get. Strike A Pose put our foot in the door, now it’s going to be continuous.”
Young T is the quieter of the two, delivering economical answers with confidence. Bugsey is his more buoyant foil.
“We’re not chasing the charts, we just want to make good music,” says Bugsey, arrowing his fork through some crispy bacon. “And when you do, you know it’ll connect. It’s basics, if you make good music, people will like it. We never lose that.”
Young T & Bugsey draw from their respective Jamaican and Nigerian roots as well as US hip-hop and the UK. They say their musicality sets them apart. In a world of instant grat singles, they’re endeavouring to make songs that stand up. It all started at St Ann’s Community Recording Studio in Nottingham, where they experimented freely, keeping their characterful bars front and centre.
“It’s the music we grew up on and back home, we had mentors that steered us in the basics of rap, of music, of being an artist,” explains Young T.
After 2016 breakout Glistenin’, the pair signed up with 2K Management and Black Butter, the team behind J Hus. They say its close knit set up is uniquely placed in UK rap. “Most labels sign an artist off a hit or the buzz, but for us it was just like, ‘Who are these guys?’” Bugsey remembers. “They took a risk because they believed in us and it’s paid out. For them it’s like, ‘I told you so’ and for us it’s, ‘Thank you’.”
Their new Headie One collab Don’t Rush debuts at No.29 the day after we meet and their first mixtape will follow next year (“It’ll prove we’re the real deal”). It stands to cement Young T & Bugsey as a radical proposition, using musicality and kinship to drive a scene supposedly at the peak of its powers to even greater heights.
“With us, we’re always there together, you’re never on stage by yourself. It’s good,” says Bugsey. “If the UK can be more consistent and do everything better, from videos to how we’re packaging and releasing music, our market will be massive.”
With that, he plunges his fork into a last bit of bacon. Young T chuckles as his friend finishes what was an artfully presented breakfast. “That’s proper bouji, man,” he says.
“Yeah,” says Bugsey. “But I like it…”