This week, we caught up with Jed Langley-Stevens - better known as LSPY - while maintaining social distancing measures.
We orchestrated a Skype call with Bath-native emcee LSPY for a 10-Part Q&A. As LSPY joined the video call, it was surprising to see him sporting a buzz cut - a look more akin to a prisoner or army recruit than his usual wavy crop top. He'd had to shave his hair off as there's no access to a barber in isolation. It is clear that the Covid-19 outbreak is affecting everyone. Here, we discuss the impact that the coronavirus could have on the independent music industry, LSPY's newest track 'So Alive' and what's next in store for the West England-based creative.
Q: Tell us about your journey so far, and what it’s like to be an emcee with a lisp
A: I grew up in Bath which doesn’t really have much of a big hip hop scene, and started doing a few of the open mic nights. The first time I actually got in the studio...there was a competition and [I] got offered this record deal, which didn’t turn out too well to be honest. It was 12 months you did it and then you had to pay 150 quid a session, which is really just a studio rate anyway, but obviously it’s a first chance to get into a studio. After that, ‘cause I was going to Southampton, I started getting a bit more local with the people that I knew. ShaoDow I met in Bath. And then I was speaking to ShaoDow, and obviously followed him on all social media. Seen him with this guy JoJo and saw his beats were good, and then just went with JoJo from there and it was just really good...everyone in the South knows he’s one of the best producers. He can guide you - anything you’re stuck with, he’s there to support you.
Initially, my name was Jed Stevens, which is standard. Jed Stevens. It’s my name. And then it was like, well, how are we going to cover up this lisp? When you’re editing songs, are you gonna cover it up so you’re hiding it and try keep it under the radar although people are obviously still gonna know you have a lisp? Or do you just exploit it to the maximum, use it to the best of your ability, and just use it like that. So I’m just doing that, and changed it to LSPY.
Q: You’ve got a really distinctive sound. Where are you taking your music next - are there any particular avenues you want to go down?
A: I’m trying to work on my singing, ‘cause you’ll hear in my songs at the minute there’s a lot of autotune...I like it. I’ve been following American hip hop, and that’s where it’s come from. But [I am] trying to actually use melodies and to be able to vocalise with it would be good.
There’s things with 'going places'. Obviously, Southampton is a long way to go and, as I said before, it’s so hard to find a good producer. I’ve met producers in Bristol, been amazing producers, but - because they’re used to boom bap - whenever you try and get these to produce something preferably that I’m wanting, it seems to be a lot more difficult because they try and add that boom bap aspect into it. It’s just trying to find the right people, really.
Q: Your new track is 'So Alive'. What’s the thought behind that track?
A: Behind it was me and this guy called Kyle, K. RY, we just thought we need to be able to show our emotions and show how truly and dearly we want it. That it’s not just a matter of 'rapping' and that, it’s about doing what we want. ‘Cause - for example - Kyle unfortunately, when he was younger, his mum passed away when he was quite young. So it’s about showing how proud we are, how proud we wanna make our families, and, like, it’s not just rap. You wanna be able to make a career, like… my biggest goal is making people you know proud of you… It’s about having the determination to do what you love, really.
Q: What was the inspiration behind the wording of that track - 'So Alive'?
A: To me, it’s about being the best we can be. When I think of 'So Alive' I think of stages and a hyped up crowd, because that’s what we’re all trying to get…'So Alive' was about getting everybody so in your track that they can listen to every word and relate to it.
Q: There was one bar in the opening verse: 'be myself, ignore the fakes // everyone on the top shelf is a bunch of snakes'. Can you talk us through that line?
A: There was times when I was trying to be someone that I wasn’t, and I didn’t like it because I couldn’t be free and couldn’t be confident with who I was. So, then, it was like ‘I’ve got to be myself’, like, ignore everybody that’s there, and then put them with the people that are trying to cut me off, with the snakes. Because, to me, they’re on the same level - there’s so much in common with them. People who are fake to you and people that are obviously trying to undercut you and stab you in the back. Music’s always been a way to vent, so to be able to have that aggression when you’re rapping a song or singing or whatever, that *inaudible* to me a lot more.
Q: Is the lockdown slowing up your hustle through lack of access to resources or anything like that?
A: To be honest...I probably have about 45 tracks that I need recording that haven’t even been touched...So I’ve got loads of tracks there that are ready to be done, but as far as getting that studio time it is a bit difficult. But it’s allowing me to look into other things like affirmation, and looking at how I want to actually reevaluate myself as an independent artist and what markets I want to actually aim for. Obviously, again, being a bit different in terms of the accent that I rap in and the lisp, you’ve got to market that differently...I feel people are a bit reluctant to listen to new music, or if it doesn’t sound local then they won’t listen to it.
Q: How are the lockdown conditions affecting your creative output?
A: I’d say it’s alright - I haven’t seen much difference. To me, when it comes to writing, I’ll probably write a song or two songs lyrically, and then I’ve just run out of ideas. Coming up with fresh ideas is probably one of the most - for me, the most - difficult thing. Putting it into words is alright, but trying to come up with the subject is just one of the most difficult things.
But I think in lockdown it’s alright for you. It gives you a bit of time to think about it, go and sit in the garden, write down a list of topics that you might want to write about and then be able to actually put it into practice when it comes to the next day or whatever.
Q: How do you think the impact of the coronavirus may affect the independent music industry as a whole in the long run?
A: Initially, I think it’s gonna be good ‘cause people are able to write when they can, write instead of working however many hours a day...but - especially when people go back to working - because people have been sat inside for so long, they’re not going to be looking online for music. Now, while lockdown is happening, will be the best time to release music and push it because you can brand it and get it out there while people are sat at home on their laptops and their phones. But if you do it when lockdown’s over, it’s gonna be a bit of a struggle…
Over the year, I think… I think, eventually, it will come back to how it was. But I think, independently, it’s gonna be a struggle for people to get back to their ways. Especially if this goes on until, say, August, it’s going to affect people. But, at the same time, some people will be able to take advantage of it - especially if they’ve got home recording studios.
Q: Can we expect some quarantine bars from LSPY?
A: I reckon there’ll be a few freestyles coming up, yep.
I’ve recorded a couple in the home studio but, again, making a master’s a bit of an issue. Obviously I try and do as much as I can but, like I say, from starting with JoJo who’s one of the best in the South, it’s hard to get people to master music at that level when you’ve worked with him for however long.
Q: Do you have any last words for our readers? Anyone you want to give a shoutout to?
A: To all the artists, really. We’ve got to support each other. Keep doing what you’re doing. I mean, it’s gonna be a tough time, but here we are and we’ve got to put up with it.