This article is an excerpt from the Yxng Bane feature from Issue 01 of GAFFER: ‘England’s Finest’. Available from our online shop now.
Yxng Bane, one of the most exciting new artists in the UK right now, is telling me exactly how it is. I’ve just asked him whether 2018 was the biggest year of his life.
“The biggest year of my life is coming,” he says, with no break of thought. “The biggest year of my life is coming. Even if we’re talking to up until now, it ain’t the biggest year of my life. I’ve been through way too much for that.”
The 22-year-old, who first went viral with his remix of Ed Sheeran’s hit “Shape of You”, is on his own journey. Although he is one of a handful of new UK artists who flit seamlessly between genres, he is ambidextrous on a different level. The “Shape of You” remix is evidence of that. So is his Platinum hit “Bestie” with fellow Londoner Yungen, his UK Charts Top 5 feature on Ella Eyre’s “Answerphone”, and the slow-swing “Rihanna” that went Gold. Plus, the summertime smash “Vroom”, the fiercely underrated “Any Minute Now” D-Block EP and the recently released “HBK” mixtape. His diversity perfectly captures every corner of the UK musical zeitgeist. But the greatest thing is Bane is ambivalent to it, a little blasé to the impact he’s having on the culture.
He’s still getting used to his rising star, consistently referring to the ‘journey’ that he finds himself on even though his status is almost undeniable. Throughout his latest mixtape, “HBK”, Bane’s delivery and storytelling rotates. “Loving You’” and “Breakfast” feature him singing, while “Problem” and “Slip N Slide” lean towards his raw, authentic, and infectious flow. It’s a mixtape that represents every single side of every single twenty-something in the UK. Moments of confidence, self-reflection, confusion and ambition run deep.
The technicolour makeup of his music translates into his personality, too. The wit, wisdom and confidence never waivers. So, when I asked him about life beyond 2018 he responds readily. “As my life changes I don’t see any situation that can beat me. I don’t see no situation that can break me. I’m on my own journey,” he says. It’s a journey we joined him on, albeit briefly, as he takes his daily commute from home to the studio. Capturing a conversation that flits through the topics of growth and go-getting and catches those character traits of wit, wisdom and confidence in full. After all, this is Yxng Bane. The young gunner who has made his ascent on the music industry look easier than anyone else.
You’re leading a new DIY generation as someone who uses your own flavours, experiences and know-how to carve your own niche. How much has the makeup of London, and your upbringing East in particular, inspired your creative journey?
Where we grew up in Canning Town, we were literally down the road from Stratford. So, in 2012, we all had an immediate change from the Olympics you know. It kind of bought a different flavour to the district; gave us all different dreams and ambitions to follow. There’s so much to be inspired by. There’s so much going on. The youth now are expressing themselves a lot more than ever before now. Everyone is growing. Everyone is out here. It’s exciting, you know.
You haven’t been in the game that long, but you’ve featured in so many newcomer lists and had chart success. Did you imagine it to be this way when you started that journey?
Not at all, you know. Even to say that we’ve achieved so much, but I don’t think that we’ve achieved that much. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we haven’t achieved because we have, but there is still a lot more to do. This is just the beginning, man. I still go to the studio every single day, you know. I’m still out here being creative, working every day, being inspired by the things around me and taking me on this journey.
Success is a funny word, but, on this journey, how do you measure success?
I don’t. There is no measure to success. Success to me is just growth. So, everything grows. In terms of a small capacity, my first gig was at Birthdays, then in March this year I’m playing Brixton. That’s growth. That’s how I measure success. Little things like that. A bigger fan base, for example, signals growth. For me, success isn’t a journey. It’s a destination. There’s no formula. It can’t be measured. You just got to do what comes natural and keep going.
What’s been the greatest challenge in your career so far?
That ain’t easy, but I’d probably say being away. You know, being away from friends, family. That’s been a big challenge, something you struggle to getting used to.
What is something you’ve learned, that you wish someone gave you the heads up at the start of your career?
I got given advice at the start of my career from Kano but I wish I understood it more than what I did at the time. But again that’s all growth. You learn at your own speed.
I mean, the UK scene has really blown up over the last 18 months to two years and it’s no coincidence that it’s in that time frame where you’ve exploded too. So, what do you feel your position is when you reflect on the current UK scene?
The UK scene is like a football team. We’re all just players in the team and I guess I’m just a player on the team. We’re all in this together pushing the scene forward. There ain’t nothing more to it.
What inspired the jump from making music on a low key thing to stepping into the studio and laying down tracks – is that a hard transition to make, going from hobby to a professional set up?
Nah, man. My pals pushed me. All the way. They pushed me to take it there. That’s how the jump happened. But with their help they certainly made it feel like less of a jump though. From my parents’ support as well, they’ve always been there backing me in everything.
What’s your recording process? How do you pick your instrumentals to jump on lyrics?
It’s got to remind me of a place that I’ve been to or remind me of a situation or be parallel to the way I feel when I go into the studio. It’s a natural vibe. It’s always got to be that way.
If you could pick three tracks that you feel symbolise different aspects of your personality, what would they be?
My favourite songs are always the ones I can relate to; “Play With Us”, Chris Brown “Undecided”. They’re all just my favourite songs man, but I can’t pick them for my personality, you know.
You’ve got Froze, Shape of Your, Vroom, Rihanna etc. – is your eclectic nature something you hold onto? Do you think that you can jump on almost anything, to be one of your strengths?
Yeah, I mean like I say, I just make music off my experiences, so whenever I feel like I have to sing about it, I will. What happens with me and creating music is, I let the beat take me or remind of a certain place or moment. So, it’s never the song before the beat. It’s the beat before the song. For instance, when “Loving You” was played to me, I knew. I knew what it had to be. That’s how I work. If I want to express myself and it takes me to sing, then I will. If I want to express myself and it feels like I need to rap, then you know I’m going to be rapping boy.
As a listener, one of the things I like most about your music is I feel like you’re fully involved in it all. Like you’re the one driving it – that the variety of your work is your own vision. When you perform live, that’s clear to see too. Do you think your music is effective because people can see themselves in those specific situations that you’re referring to?
I feel like it’s always been that way and that’s what I love. I feel that’s been stamped and confirmed with “Needed Time”. Because I pay a lot of attention to what people say and the replies to “Needed Time” has thrown up a lot of stuff, like, “Ah Bane knows exactly how I feel”. When you just make authentic music that represents you and you only, people will be able to relate to that and they’ll pick up the lines and make something of it. I’ve always kept it genuine.
What were you like as a younger teenager? Do you think people who you went to school with will look back and acknowledge that you were destined for this?
I’m still around the people I went to school with today, and they all say they saw it coming, they say they saw it coming.
As your life changes, how do you imagine that it will shape your music in the future?
Just growth, all growth. As my life changes I don’t see any situation that can beat me. I don’t see no situation that can break me. You know what I’m saying, I’ve already been through a lot.
This is the Young Lions issue, so who is up and coming in any age range and field that we should all be looking to and why?
Marcus Rashford is gonna have a mad year, I can feel it. He’s a great example for us all. Phil Foden, too. In the music game, Young Adz and LB, for sure.
Were you a baller at school too? If so, what sort of player did you play like?
Come on, man. I was a baller, yeah. My favourite player was Robinho, you know. So, I used to imitate him a bit when I was playing as a winger or as a playmaker. I loved my step-overs and those little chipped passes.
What’s the best lyric you’ve ever written?
“Conversations about problems ain’t gonna solve nothing.”
What’s the one track you wish you wrote?
Easy. Drake. “Do not Disturb”.