Verb T might be winding down from the whizz-huffing escapades of his younger label-mates, but the father and High Focus artist’s message continues to mature, refined from the plusher surroundings of his own secure stronghold.
Still, where you’ll find Verbs is growing across a range of foreign festivals and cosy underground venues worldwide. UK rap has never experienced such a universally accepting response.
His last effort with Illinformed saw Verbs emerge from a pit of takeaway boxes to handle overdue bills, contemplate the fragility of his own legacy and grapple with the infectious deductions of many an uneasy night. The confrontational, reassuring voice behind the veteran’s catalogue doubles as a wavy but wise sat-nav to regain the sense of direction that insecurities thrive to hijack. Some rappers embrace their platform – or podium – others try and raise their listeners up on it. Verb T softly murders the illusion that any plateau between you and them even exists.
His authentic, humble vibe resonates with strength and whole-heartedness even outside of music, still. As exhausting as it looked, the support seemed sustaining as Verb T spent nearly as much time with his fans off stage than on after a sweaty, all-out set at The Phoenix in Coventry. We later wedged between an alley to talk about reaching out to fans worldwide, the spotlight equity between Grime and UK Hip Hop and what’s next for himself and the monumental formation- The Four Owls.
How do you feel the transition has been for High Focus from when it first launched to now- seven years on?
It’s all been a bit of a blur really. I think it’s moved up in stages. It started off as a more underground buzz, and it just got bigger and bigger. The platform’s grown, and a lot more people are following the movement now. So it’s just that really- just reaching out to places we haven’t been before. We went to Australia last year, travelling all over Europe. It’s been a hell of a ride, but it’s been a lot of fun, it’s been real good.
Did you anticipate a global response to your music going in and how do you embrace such reception moving forward?
It probably goes for everyone on the label, but specifically for myself, all I can really do is just say my perspective. When I travel and meet new people in different places, you catch different feelings and different vibes. So that inspires me to write. But it’s not a specific thing I take from each place. In a way it keeps me going, that’s what makes me want to write more- when you see the reaction from fans all over. It makes it worth it. And you realise that when it comes to Hip Hop, people all over the world are the same. You have the same conversations with people all over the world because you’re all in that same mentality. Especially with The Four Owls, the reason I think we connected as a group is because people just related to some of the things we were talking about.
So they can share your perspective on things?
Yeah, so they can share our perspective. It kind of feeds back into what we’re already doing, but then obviously from there you gotta take it somewhere, wether it’s somewhere more creative in terms of doing more conceptual tracks or just doing similar things that I might have done before but thinking of a different way to put it across in different styles.
Rag ‘N’ Bone Man did well at the Brit Awards recently. How do you feel about the media reception and can UK Hip Hop and Grime can flex between audiences as well as serve their own respective fanbases?
I think they definitely can. When it comes to the media there’s a lot more of a spotlight being put on Grime. And I think that’s cool because they have big followings, especially with the younger audience. It really goes off, they really respond to that type of energy and feel, and I think with Hip Hop it has a slightly different energy and feel. But Skepta, before he blew up, was one of the headliners at Boom Bap festival, and he was on the same stage performing to the crowd that The Four Owls were. It’s great to see where he’s taken it, and it’s all independent as well. So I got nothing but love for that movement.
And with Rag N Bone Man, he’s got that Hip Hop essence, but even before he was with Booze Town and Rum Committee, he was doing his thing. And he’s put so much work in in terms of performing live and just getting to the level he’s at now. He’s worked for that, really fucking hard. And it’s mad to think there were nights where he was doing High Focus showcases with us and now he’s up at the Brits collecting awards. I got nothing but love for that and I’m really glad to see him reaching those heights. Maybe the media spotlight will move more over to us, maybe it won’t. But it’s not really something I concern myself with, I’m just happy to see anyone that’s an emcee from the UK doing well.
Can we expect anything from yourself and The Four Owls down the line?
With The Four Owls, we will get round to it, but we’re focusing on solo projects at the moment. So as you said, Leaf’s got his thing coming out, also Fliptrix recently dropped Patterns of Escapism. BVA’s just started work on new solo material. And I’ve got an album, as of yet untitled, that’ll hopefully be out later this year. I’m just tryna finish that off. So we’re all working, and we’re all gonna do songs with together, you’ll see us all on same track. As for a new Four Owls album, I can’t really say. It could take a couple of years, or it could be next year. With The Owls it’s funny how it works, we just suddenly get hit with a bolt when it’s time, so hopefully that happens again soon.
But y’know we’re still doing shows together, we’re still talking to each other every day. We’re still family but I think it’s at a stage right now where we’re all moving in slightly different [directions]. We’re all keeping in within the aesthetic of what we do as the Owls. It’s that raw underground Hip Hop type sound, but when we reform it has to be something special. We can’t just do an album for the sake of it. So I think [it’ll be] once we’ve got out what we need to get out as solo artists. ‘Cause it’s very different making songs as the Owls, it has to be something where we’re all on the same page. Whereas when it’s solo, I will take if off in a different direction, lyric wise or creatively. But I’m sure we’ll get back to it at some stage as a group.
Thank you, Verbs.
It was a pleasure man, glad to be here.
Verb T recently launched In The Balance Records, featuring upcoming UK talent Moreone, Chillman, Urban Click and more. Pre-order his anticipated upcoming album with Pitch 92 and keep an eye on High Focus for their talented new signing, Coops.