Steel bangers

Sheffield is known for its closed down steel factories, two average lower-league football clubs and a rich musical heritage including the likes of Def Leppard, the Arctic Monkeys, Pulp and the formidable Warp Records. Continuing that musical lineage is a young rapper by the name of Vard. Sheffield-born and raised this 25-year old is about to release his first album ‘A Tower Of Dank’ which is one of the best UK hip hop records I have heard for a while, you know the sort of proper hip hop with loops and samples and thought-provoking lyrics. For that exact reason I directed a video for his third single release ‘Major Sound’ for him, so without further ado, meet Sheffield’s finest wordsmith and check out ‘Major Sound’ below.

Vard, why did you contact me in the first place?

“I contacted you because I have always been a fan of a video you have done which was Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Graftin’. My era was Dizzee Rascal, ‘Boy In da Corner’ and those visuals always stuck in my mind. When I started making my own music again when I got a bit older I saw that video again on the internet, and I thought ‘I need to contact this guy’ and here we are.”

So when did you first start making music?

“I started rapping when I was about 10 years old. I was actually listening to So Solid Crew, Oxide & Neutrino and that sort of garage music. That influenced me originally and that’s when I started. When I was about 13 that’s when I actually started making tracks with friends. I had a local crew called ‘Hoodlums’ and we used to record songs in my house. We had a £1 microphone and we started from there. I used to do grime with those guys till I was about 16 and then I stopped doing music. Then when I got to about 19 I decided I wanted to start again and that’s when I had the idea for ‘A Tower Of Dank’ and things went from there.”

What is ‘A Tower Of Dank’ all about? That’s your label, right?

“Yeah, it’s a project that represents me but I also want to showcase the talent around me. I’ve got a lot of different rappers around me from up-and down the country, mainly in Sheffield and in Bristol, and I just wanted to really make a project with all the talent around me.”

So what’s the scene in Sheffield like and how much of an influence on your music does the city have?

“Sheffield influenced everything I write about. Anything you hear me talking about is what I have experienced in Sheffield or what other people are experiencing in Sheffield. The main music scene in Sheffield that I grew up with was grime and bassline. There were a lot of grime acts and originally there had been a hip hop scene before my era with artists such as Hoods Underground and No Excuse. But I grew up on grime and bassline, which kind of is like speed garage. But as I grew older with music, I found myself drawn to different genres and looking for different types of rap and that led me onto the Boom Bap era, the 90s, the East Coast, you know hip hop with samples and loops.”

Lyrically your music is quite varied really, you touch on all sorts of topics, right?

“Yeah, that’s true. I see this more as a debut project and not an album. These are a variety of songs that I made throughout the last few years. Some of them are about bad times, some of them are about good times. There’s everything in there, it’s just different times in my life where I decided to pick up the pen and write and express myself in that moment.”

Who was at the helmet for the production?

“One of the main producers was Baileys Brown. He has helped me a lot, he has guided me, he has shown me a lot and he has produced near enough half the mixtape. The other producers are Matka, he’s from France and has done a couple of songs on there and also Hozay. Hozay and Baileys Brown are both from Bristol and also Ded Tebiase, who did ‘Major Sound’.”

How did you end up with that Bristol connection?

“One of my friends who is actually on ‘A Tower Of Dank’, who is called ‘MR’, he was going to university in Bristol, At the time I was looking to venture out of Sheffield a bit and he invited me to come to Bristol. So I started going to Bristol and the reception I received for lyrics I was showcasing to people was really good and that led me more into the UK hip hop scene and from then on I had this Bristol link.”

What I like about you is that you have a bit of a plan behind it, that you want to get your artwork and videos right and do this release properly….

“…yes, I want everything to represent me. Every time I see an artist doing something that I don’t agree with, I use that as a lesson. For example, sometimes you get people handing out mix-tapes and it maybe just in a plastic wallet and that really doesn’t make me want to take you seriously. So I just wanted to make sure that I established myself as a brand so people would take it seriously and give it that chance to listen to it in depth and maybe realize some similarities to their own lives.”

I know you have worked hard for all this, so you must be excited that it’s all coming out now…

“…yeah, I am. Especially as an independent artist, I set myself goals of what I wanted to do and at one point it seemed oh so far away and now we are at a point where it is literally finished, so that’s a great feeling.”

You must be proud to be putting Sheffield back on the UK Hip hop map?

“Yeah, definitely. Obviously I represent the UK as a whole. But I’m a Sheffield boy, I was born and raised in Sheffield everything about me is Sheffield, so off course I always will represent Sheffield no matter where I am.”

Words: Goetz Werner