There are few acts with such innate talent and ambition as up-and-coming London rapper CHOZE.
Putting in the work from an early age, he was first headed towards a career in football, scouted to train for professional teams from Millwall to Queen’s Park Rangers. When an ankle injury put stop to his dreams of sporting stardom, he quickly turned to music, working his way up through pirate radio stations such as Deja Vu FM and Delight FM.
Using his experience there as a springboard, he's now putting his all into music of his own, with a debut solo album due next year. "My dream," he shares, "would be for this album to be respected not only by my peers and idols but from the organic followers who appreciate the art I’ve always tried to create and project."
Give early teaser-track - and statement of intent for the year ahead - 'BADDERZ' a listen below, and get to know CHOZE a little better, too.
Hi CHOZE, how are you? What have you been up to today?
Hi Dork, I'm good, hope you're well also. I've just been listening to some new albums today to get some inspiration for recording my forthcoming material. I believe listening to other genres of music can broaden your creativity levels.
Michael Kiwanuka 'Kiwanuka' and Dizzee Rascal 'E3 AF' albums have really influenced me with their artistic approach but the artist that has really surprised to date, is Pa Salieu. He is the artist to watch for next year. His style, sound and visuals are so unique, a breath of fresh air for me personally. I'm in my musical element right now, please forgive me!
What first sparked your interest in music?
The first spark came from the greatest of all time, Michael Jackson. He's a musical icon to me, and I always refer to his catalogue of music to understand how and why his artistry was unmatched.
He created movies through music videos that are still iconic to this day.
His creative legacy has had the biggest impact on my creativity to date,
He has been my biggest influence.
The second spark was So Solid Crew. Their impact, especially in the UK music scene, was like no other. They were a movement similar to Soul II Soul but with a grittier edge to their sound and image.
As a child listening to them on pirate radio stations and watching them perform at the Brit's demonstrated to me that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Their legacy was also the driving force to make me believe that I could carve out a music career for myself with the right support and team.
Going from football to music, both are incredibly competitive professions - where does that ambition come from, do you think?
I always wanted to do something I totally loved, which in turn would create a revenue stream that would support myself and my family.
I always felt my ambitions were not going to fit the norm, so to speak, but my attitude has always been and always will be 'all or nothing'.
I sacrificed a lot to try and achieve these goals, no pun intended! Lol. Football was an incredible chapter in my 'growing up' stage. I learned so much about discipline, integrity and respect. I connected with so many players from all walks of life, and it showed me the reality that I was going to face for years to come.
When your living on a housing estate, psychologically you sometimes feel trapped, and you don't look beyond your immediate circumstances.
Football and music always pushed me to new heights and rewarded me with accolades that I couldn't possibly have expected. But like they say, life is what you make of it. Hard work will always prevail over talent any day.
Is there much overlap between the two in terms of the qualities needed to succeed?
They both have similar methods to guarantee success. You always need to be an A student. Learn every single day what you can improve on because I believe that nothing can ever be super perfect.
If that were the case, you would never learn from your mistakes, or you would never grow to be the professional you aspire to be.
Practise is so important because we are only human, we sometimes have moments in life where we don't perform to the best of our ability, but practice keeps that driving force alive.
Practise maintains that level of effectiveness for every game or show, and perseverance is key. You have to keep pushing forward regardless of your circumstances. Through hard work and determination, we can all reap the rewards; you just got to keep going.
How did you break into pirate radio?
Through a collective, I used to write rhymes and produce records with them back in my Peckham hangout days. A lyrical genius called Antics introduced me to Flashback FM which had artists like Wiley, Dizzee Rascal and Essentials who produced grime sets every week.
It was an opportunity to improve my skills as a lyricist and to prepare me for performance slots in places like Stratford Rex or Citizens, which was based in Wandsworth.
Pirate radio played and still plays a big part in our culture today.
It was also a great deterrent, it pulled me away from any temptation of being caught up with criminal gangs or being labelled as a typical stereotype. Pirate radio saved a lot of youths when I was growing up.
Did your experiences there lead to many further opportunities?
One hundred per cent. I fully connected with so many talented musicians through pirate radio, it also helped me gain knowledge from an early age on how to produce and distribute records independently.
I built a database of recording and mastering studios, vinyl companies, engineers, producers, MC's and singers etc. through DJ and MC pirate sets.
The opportunities came along later when I started to rebrand and put out my own sound. I was getting booked to play at small venues when I started releasing material through regional radio which then went on to the nationals such as BBC1xtra, Radio1 etc. When you start to connect the dots, you realise how small the industry is and how quickly word gets around of what type of impact you are creating.
Tell us about your new single 'BADDERZ' - what's it about, where did it come from?
'BADDERZ', it's my introduction to this modern world. The reason why 'BADDERZ' was produced is because we are living in a new era where sound and innovation have taken on a whole new approach.
I wanted to display on the record that I am walking into a new time where the younger generation recognises that I appreciate their art form.
I'm speaking their language as well as mine, and that we are both on the same page but letting them know that no matter what the critics say about their form of music, movement etc. they must keep pushing the boundaries and don't look back. Art is art and preference is preference, you must believe in your own creation because it is what deeply defines your real artistry.
'Badderz' was produced by the amazingly talented SKXLZ. He helps me get my message across to my audience. The track is also an introduction to what is yet to come from CHOZE.
The aim of the track is to reach the masses, globally. It is a very alternative, yet a universal track and I wanted to display lyrically who I am and where I'm from.
It is also very important for me to describe my story to new listeners; it makes it easier for my audience to relate to my state of mind at the time of writing that track.
It's from your new album, right? Is that finished now, or still a work in progress?
Yes, it's from my new album which is finished, and it's called 'D.I.Y'. I'm very excited to share to the masses my opinions and beliefs through this LP. I'm also excited to hear the feedback (fingers crossed, positive feedback lol). Seriously, I'm happy with how SKXLZ, Shai Sevin and myself have created this body of work together.
How have you found the process of putting together an album? Was there a steep learning curve?
Interesting question, the only real learning curve for me was to master my lyrical performance. Could I live up to the production that Skxlz, Shai, Renzo and even DJ lynx had created for me? Would it achieve the desired impact on listeners? Those were the questions that were running through my mind throughout the writing process.
Eventually, those thoughts did subside, and through connecting again with my own strong self-belief, I was able to deliver an album which I hope can influence up and coming artists in the future.
I honestly feel that my team wouldn't let me sign off on the album if they didn't feel it had substance. The process has been amazing, and I hope to continue in this vein with all my future projects.
What else are you working on at the moment, do you have big plans for 2021?
Hopefully, if things do go back to normal, myself and my team will prepare for the live shows. Now we are just getting ready to release a single and album in 2021. My mindset at the moment is to be two steps ahead rather than to be two steps behind, so I'm working on new material for the next LP.
Like I said, perseverance is key, so I'm going to keep collaborating and recording with new artists that I've discovered through researching and going to gigs.
Discovering new talent that inspires me is such an important part of my creative process.
But for now, being productive musically and creatively and getting this album out to all of you beautiful people is my main focus. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it.
CHOZE's new single 'BADDERZ' is out now; his album 'D.I.Y' is coming early next year.