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Scorcher is in the busiest time of his life right now. The 35-year-old rapper born Tayo Jarrett in Enfield, North London, released his latest studio album, The Drama, at the back-end of last year, while securing acting roles that we’ll see play out on the big and small screens later this year.
After serving his second prison sentence in 2019, Scorcher admits he wasn’t interested in creating new music, but after his friend called him to the studio one day, the fire and hunger he had when he started out in 2006 was reignited. Scorcher initially made his mark in the grime scene after the release of his debut project, Simply The Best, Vol. 1—a 24-track mixtape he put out while serving his first prison sentence for driving offences—which was filled with captivatingly swarve flows, cruddy rhymes and hell-raising beats. Not long after he came home, Scorcher went on to link up with Ghetts, Wretch 32, Devlin and Mercston to form grime/rap crew The Movement. The group didn’t last long, but their legacy remains.
With his music career stretching over fifteen years, Scorcher is a certified legend—but he’s still finding new ways to evolve. Even working as an actor, he featured in the first season of Top Boy, in 2011, as gang leader ‘Kamale’, and has since continued to land role after role—most recently as ‘Linton’ in Steve McQueen’s award-winning Small Axe. Two very different characters. With all of Scorcher’s talents, along with his own personally-improved navigation of the industries he’s in, he’s ready to take things to the next level. We caught up with him over the phone to find out more.
“For me, it’s my life experiences—things that I’ve gone through—that have impacted my musical evolution.”
COMPLEX: First of all, Scorcher, how are you doing? Sometimes people forget to ask that simple, but important question.
Scorcher: I’m good you know. But I can’t lie to you, bro: I’m a bit pissed off. I put out my album, The Drama, and that was good, but then I started another project—an idea me and my friend had back in December—but I have two more tracks that need finishing. I’m in my house now and, obviously, I have more to do, but that’s further down the line so it’s like fuck! And, obviously, I’m still promoting The Drama and I’ve got two more videos I need to drop from that. I’m a bit frustrated because I want to finish and drop it ASAP. When you hear other artists say, “I’ve got 100 songs stacked!” I’m not really like that. I make and release, make and release, make and release. I’m not one to have loads of music that I’m just sitting on, but I’m still grateful that I’m a position to create.
Sounds like you’ve been super busy! You’re someone who’s very proud to be where they’re from. In your opinion, how does North London differ from the rest of the city?
I feel like North London, as a whole—especially my part, in Enfield—it’s got a vibe that I can’t really explain. You kinda just know when someone’s from North London. It’s not in terms of what we’re like, but we have shared experiences of what it was like growing up there. We all know what our parents are like. I don’t spend loads of time with my baby mum’s parents, but when I speak with my daughter, I say, “I bet your grandad says this…” and it’s always spot on! It’s because he has that North London vibe that I know. But it’s a weird place; there’s a lot of things that don’t make sense—the same as everywhere, really. But it’s just home to me.
As someone who came up in the first school of grime—in the mid-2000s—I’d love to know your thoughts on the genre’s current state.
I think that music, in general, is in a healthy place right now. After all my time working in music, I don’t think there’s ever been a time when this many people have been earning a good living off of making music. Whether it’s drill, Afro-rap, R&B, grime, there’s so much opportunity, freedom and accessibility. The opportunities—I wouldn’t say it’s as far as being endless, but you can do it yourself now, which you couldn’t really do before. Back then, it was a case of getting your CDs in shops like Woolworths, and you had to release your music in certain channels for it to be picked up or for it to make it onto certain radars, but it’s not like that today. You can get your music up on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, SoundCloud; you can promote it on your Twitter, your Instagram, your TikTok—you don’t actually need radio. The fact that the music is being celebrated is great, man.
When you first stepped on the scene, every emcee at the time seemed like they were ready for lyrical war—any time, any place. Of course, we still get the occasional clash, but do you think that grime’s missing that competitive edge it once had?
No. I don’t feel like anyone comes out in that much of a different way to what we did back then. I feel like UK drill comes from grime. I don’t think the sounds are the same, but the energy that comes from drill is directly from grime. So, before, that energy was only in grime, but now there’s a whole other category of a similar tempo that has a very similar energy so you might find yourself gravitating towards that sound, but I think that’s all it is.
Can we talk about your 2017-2019 stint in prison? I know you don’t really want to get too deep into it, but how did that time away change your perspective on music, and life in general?
When I came out of jail, I wasn’t interested in making music. I’ve always had a love for music, but I wasn’t interested in putting it out. I spent so much time away, that was my identity when I came out. I’m not saying I’m a prisoner, but making music wasn’t a part of my life for years, so it wasn’t something that I was always thinking about. But, one day, my bredrin asked me to come to the studio and I had a moment where I was sitting down in my house, I’d made an Instagram that day, and I was thinking: “This could be one of those moments in your life where you’re not even realising.” I could’ve stayed in my house that day and be closing a door that I didn’t know was opening, and for what? So I decided to go and see what happens. I did the first thing I thought of when I got there, and then it just went off and I thought, “Maybe I’ll do a couple more!” [Laughs]
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Scorcher’s Still On Fire – Complex