Hey, You’re Cool! Charlie Sloth
“I could've spent a week making a hardcore rap album, but there’s no challenge in that”
“My forte is rap, urban music but that’s not all I’m about,” says Charlie Sloth, host of Fire In The Booth on UK’s BBC Radio 1Xtra. The London DJ has become a reliable figure in promoting the hottest new music in grime and rap, but these days he’s expanding into a producer role, collaborating with artists of diverse genres on his August debut album, The Plug. “I tried to incorporate some Afrobeat music, dancehall artists… all of my different elements of my influences.”
Along with his heavy radio schedule, Sloth has been touring the LP and recently announced a brand new radio show, moving at a pace that defies his name. MASS APPEAL managed to catch up with the DJ to discuss all that’s been keeping him busy.
As a DJ who also produces, is there one that you tend to like more than the other? How do you weigh your time between the two?
I get as much satisfaction out of both to be honest with you. There isn’t one that I prefer over the other. They both give me a different pleasure. Obviously I’m on the radio six days a week. Last year I did 211 live shows in clubs and festivals, so finding the time to produce and have time in the studio was one of the biggest struggles last year. But because I was so passionate about the music production and bringing that into the whole Charlie Sloth brand, I made time. It’s like anything, if you want to do it, you make it happen.
Talk through the main idea behind The Plug. How long was the process of making the album?
The process was about 18 months in total. We had to get it down to 22 [tracks]. But the process was to make an album that is as diverse and eclectic as possible. I wanted to show that obviously, my forte is rap, urban music but that’s not all I’m about. I tried to incorporate some Afrobeat music, dancehall artists. It was trying to include all of my different elements of my influences. I wanted to make sure that not one record on the album sounded the same. That was a big challenge for me personally, as I could have spent a week making just a hardcore rap album, but there’s no challenge in that. I’m always about challenging myself and evolving and progression. I wanted to make sure that no one record sounded the same and you couldn’t say, “That record is a bit like that record.” That’s what I wanted to achieve, especially as my debut album as a producer. I’ve got creative on so many projects, but I’ve never really let that be at the forefront of the Charlie Sloth brand. For me, I wanted to excel and become a brilliant DJ in my arena and I feel like I’ve achieved that. So I feel like I’m in a great space to be able to spread wings and allow myself to grow as a producer.
On the album you’ve got new artists and some veterans. How did you decide who would be on it?
For me it was all about working with artists that I genuinely get excited by. Everyone on that album, I respect as an artist. There’s some artists that I have massive respect for that unfortunately didn’t make the cut and that goes back to what I said earlier—making sure that every record was unique and individual. For me that was one of the hardest parts about getting the record out, getting it to 22 records. There were other records that I proper loved but just didn’t feel right on the album in terms of what I wanted to achieve with the album. It’s just a selection of artists that are my friends, that I’ve created personal relationships with.
You’re in the middle of The Plug tour at the moment. How has the tour been? With so many artists, what’s a typical night backstage?
Wow. The tour has been crazy and as you can imagine, it gets a little bit crazy backstage. All the artists and I have a great relationship, so we only get to see each other when we’re doing shows, and we don’t get to see each other as much as we’d like to so when we do it’s just a vibe. Drinks are flowing, there’s loads of people making appearances, wristbands are just flowing to people in the crowd. There’s been a story every event, some that I’d probably get in trouble about talking about!
Who would you say has been your favorite Fire in the Booth?
I get asked that a million times a day. It’s like asking me who’s my favorite child. It’s unfair to say because all of the Fire in the Booths provide a different emotion. It depends what mood you’re in. If I’m feeling emo, if I’m feeling gassed. All of them have provided different moments.
Did you expect that Big Shaq’s freestyle would have gained as much attention as it has?
You know what, I knew it was going to go crazy. We discussed it before and, I knew it was going to go mad. To the extent that it has? Nah, no way. I didn’t think it would become the biggest meme of 2017 and to the point now that it’s the biggest record in the club. I just find it outrageous. I’m guessing that will change with Giggs dropping his new album but for now that’s the biggest record in the club. I couldn’t foresee it. I love Michael, he’s such a great guy and that’s why I wanted to give him the opportunity. Once a year in Fire in the Booth, I like to bring through a comedian I’ve seen from the culture, give them that platform to showcase what they’re doing. Michael’s reaping the rewards from it now. He’s absolutely killing it.
You’ve always been a huge ambassador of UK rap and grime, do you think radio playlists are now playing equal amounts of UK rap compared to U.S. hip hop?
Definitely. The generation of youth that’s relevant now and that is dictating the pace, they’ve grown up with idols. There’s people they looked up to and grown up to for years. Giggs is a prime example of that. My man’s heavy in the game now for 10 years plus, and has been a real ambassador of the sound, the culture. Now you have kids who are 18, 19, 20, so there’s layers. A couple of years ago, my set would have been 80 percent American, and if there was any more than that, I might get a few looks. Whereas now, it feels like it’s 80 percent UK and 20 percent American rap. Again if I play anymore, I get funny looks. But the biggest records in the club over the last three years have all been British music, that’s across Europe, not just in the UK.
What does of the rest of year look like for you beyond The Plug?
I’ve just had a radio show announced, probably one of the biggest announcements made in the history of Radio 1 in terms of new shows, which is crazy exciting. That kicks in on the 6th of November. Obviously we’re finishing the tour and moving towards the end of the year, I might be releasing another single, and there’s definitely going to be album number two next year.