This article is an excerpt from the Steel Banglez feature from Issue 01 of GAFFER: ‘England’s Finest’. Available from our online shop now.
It’s coming home. Grime that is. To Newham, if you want to be more specific. Much like the current wave of energy and optimism that surrounds English football, it has been refreshed and reinterpreted by a burgeoning wave of emerging talent, and no one represents that more than Steel Banglez. The name may sounds like a mish-mash of two dubious 80s pop acts, but that’s where the similarities end. After a whirlwind two years prefaced by almost a decade of grind at the coalface, Banglez has emerged as arguably the hottest urban producer around.
Banglez, also known as Pahuldip Singh Sandhu, is undoubtedly a child of Newham, the borough found nestled in the deep of London’s multi faceted and rapidly changing East London sprawl. Newham Borough has begat footballers and grime MCs in bursts. The late 90’s saw a formidable group headed up by Jermaine Defoe, Sol Campbell, and Lee Bowyer emerge as Premier League stalwarts. Hundreds of England caps and top-flight goals later, they’ve become household names and football legends. Look further back and more icons can be found: Frank Lampard Sr., Tony Cottee, Rob Lee, and Linvoy Primus.
Grime as a concept, as a nascent icon of modern, urban Britain, was forged on the same grey streets. Football cage, chicken shops, night buses and sprawling inner city council housing formed the nucleus for a unique music genre. A 14-year-old Banglez, in a style that has since become characteristically forthcoming, elbowed his way into this emerging scene to become acquaintances of the Newham generals, years before such a group officially existed. Dee Double E, now the ethereal cult icon of Grime, was then a hustling MC making a living through weekly garage raves. He took Banglez under his wing, where the teenager experienced the party scene and club music. Kano, Slew Dem, NASTY Crew, Tempa T, Footsie and the omnipresent Wiley were all members of the musical family Banglez felt himself part of.
“I couldn’t be more proud. Growing up in East London and Newham specifically, my whole life has been a creative hub, with all types of music genres and independent fashion. Today, people from my neighbourhood are shining, and I’m over the moon”
A PC on finance, cracked copies of Cubase, older brothers hogging equipment and late night sessions once everyone was in bed. This is stuff lifted straight out the DIY Grime producer rulebook, and Banglez lived the life on the frontline. So much so that an unfortunate prison stretch came soon after. After enduring a three year sentence that would’ve been the end of many men, Banglez became hungrier to get back out and amongst it. He even picked up his pseudonym inside due to the Sikh jewellery he adorned his wrists with.
And what of the outside world? Giggs’ “road rap” sound was finding its feet, and with a wisely built studio under his belt in Canning Town, Banglez worked his magic on the up-and-coming grime duo Krept and Konan’s Go Down South. He was back in the game, and the pace picked up remarkably from that point.
With a that confident swagger and magnetic personality, Banglez is also renowned for his ability to pick an MC on the rise. From the aforementioned Krept and Konan followed an enduring collaboration with Mostack, as well as MIST, the ebullient Birmingham MC built for, or by, the social media age. As comfortable in a commercial DJ booth as he is on the main stage of Outlook Festival, Banglez fits this mould: JD Sports meets chin-stroking think pieces. It’s a bewitching mix.
Newham should be proud of its various sons. From Sol Campbell to Steel Banglez via the idiosyncratic and hilarious bars of Dee Double E, there is a mutual link between it all that tethers it to East London, at once cosmopolitan and deeply English. The grey skies and tower blocks tell a life of a community that incubates colour and vibrancy. Of all the Young Lions breaking through, Banglez wears the captain’s armband.
We feel there is a tribal energy to football that also exists in music, notably Grime. Do you agree?
Yeah, one-hundred percent. I believe it’s to do with a variety of cultures, languages and people from all walks of life, which you can clearly see in these arts. They are both melting pots.
Are you proud to be part of the scene pushing Newham as an area of creativity and experimentation?
I couldn’t be more proud. Growing up in East London and Newham specifically, my whole life was a creative hub with all types of music genres and independent fashion. Today, people from my neighbourhood are shining, and I’m over the moon.
2017 and 2018 were huge years for you. How do you see 2019 playing out? Any big moments we should keep an eye out for?
They have been the vital two years so far in my career. I’m finally a brand which is cemented within the UK music scene. Period. 2019 is about showcasing a new level of music, videos and sounds. I’m planning on excelling, and building a more global sound. I’m heading to the path trodden by the world’s greatest music producers who make hit records.
Mist rolls about in Man Utd kits all the time. Can we expect to see you on stage in West Ham claret and blue? Yeah, I’m always in West Ham Apparel. I reckon at a big festival this year, I’ll wear their classic colours. Maybe one in East London.
How do you see the future relationship between football and music developing?
I believe it’s already evolving hugely within the ballers and the rappers. It’s evident that the relationships that have been developed with NBA players and rappers in the States are also happening here. I won’t be surprised if a footballer jumps on the wave and starts rapping on tracks. It’s going to happen.
Do you have a favourite West Ham player?
I have a classic favourite, who is Bobby Moore. A true West Ham and England legend.