I first heard Konny Kon on the Microdisiacs track Time You Knew, back in 2001. In fact him and Cappo were two of the first MCs I heard rapping with regional accents, which changed a lot for me. Since then I’ve seen him survive in a scene saturated with MCs, until he found a new direction a few years ago with Children of Zeus. I spoke with him about a few things, including the early days, how Children of Zeus came to be and why the Manchester scene is so strong.
G: You’ve been involved in a lot of different areas of the UK scene over the years. For those who might not know your history, can you give us a quick breakdown of your career to date?
K: Okay, I have been writing rhymes since I was in primary school and at some point started buying records for instrumentals to rhyme over.
I recorded my first record about 98/99 as part of a group called Microdisiacs (also with a guy called Real Deal, who went on to be Strategy who now works with Dub Phizix), but we can skip quickly past that bit because we were really shit.
That dissolved and I went solo and did a few records with Cappo, P Brothers and Evil Ed, started DJing a bit more and did a lot of the big hip hop shows in Manchester.
Meanwhile Strategy started a group with DRS – who was well known as a drum n bass MC for LTJ Bukem – called Broke’N’English. At some point they reluctantly made me their DJ. I rhymed on a few records and helped with the first mixtape with beats and samples, but I mostly just did the live shows which we seemed to do constantly. At the time there wasn’t many acts doing anything productive in Manchester, so we got all the support slots for every big US rappers and soon ended up with a reputation for a heavy live show, which ended up taking us round the world.
One of the shows in France in about 2004, there was another group from Manchester playing with an MC called Hoodman. We both really rated each other and stayed in contact.
We did pirate radio and also 1xtra shows, which got us a bit more popular, but eventually the Broke’N’English music making kind of died down and at the same time DRS and Strats started being heavyweight MC’s in the dnb world. I just kind of drifted off as life took over and did the odd track on my own.
G: You’ve known Tyler a long time but how did the Children of Zeus project eventually come about?
K: The guy called Hoodman who I met in France, later went on to be called by the name his mum gave him, Tyler Daley.
When we got back from France I ended up going to his house to make some music and he played me all his hardest beats. But after a while of me ice grilling every beat, he played a soulful beat he had made and I said yo that’s the one!
I think he was a bit shocked, but we then got into a whole conversation of all the soul and R&B music we both grew up listening to on pirate radio.
We rapped on that beat and Tyler also sang on the chorus.
Few years later, I wasn’t doing anything and Tyler shouted me to produce an EP for me. He also played me a track called Still Standing that he did. I loved it and put a verse on it.
We recorded a few more with Tyler doing hooks and us both rapping, but I told him I think we should do more with him singing because no one from round here was doing anything like that at the time.
Bass music, D&B, grime and anything 140bpm had taken over Manchester and a lot of MCs, producers and DJs from our city were really making a mark across the world and hip hop and soul music were pretty dead, so we
just decided we were gonna work on a soulful project to go against the grain and it became Children of Zeus, which is where we’re at today.
G: Manchester, like Bristol, is a good example of a city where artists across different genres work together. Why do you think places like London seem to struggle to reach that level of unity?
K: I can’t speak on London or anywhere else, but I think a lot of what’s ended up being the Manchester scene today came from Broke’N’English starting a label called Estate Recordings, which brought together a whole crew of musical dons. Some were older, some were younger, so with the more experienced guys they brought through traditional hip hop or drum n bass. The younger guys grew up MCing on garage and grime. Then it all started merging musically, but the label didn’t really go anywhere. The small crew grew and other branches of the tree formed from everyone bringing in next MCs and producers.
I think though at some point there was an active thought process in saying: if one of us wins we all win, so let’s all build each other up. If someone had a release the whole city got a message saying ‘we’re dropping the vid at 2 can you post it online?’ and it worked. Dub Phizix and Strategy went absolutely clear with Marka and then Dub Phizix worked with quite a few more MCs and everyone got their shine. A lot of those guys ended up being in Levelz and that’s working out a lot better than the Estate Recordings thing ever did.
G: You’ve always seem to have you finger on the pulse, so who else should we be checking for outside the standard UK rap circuits? Any of the new generation got you buzzing?
K: The same way the whole bass music, dnb and grime guys all got together, Children of Zeus being at the forefront of Manchester Soul/hip hop are also trying to push the younger guys. We have Rootz Raddix, Cul de Sac, Sleazy F all making great soulful music, but probably my favourite is a MC called Lay. She’s dope.
G: You’ve been lucky enough to travel the world a fair bit and you’ve also met some of your musical heroes. If you could make an album anywhere in the world and with anyone, what would be your choices?
K: Rae and Ghost wrote Cuban Linx on a beach in Barbados apparently. I’m Bajan so that’s where it would be. I was thinking the other day if there was a budget who would I like us to work with and I think it would be Alchemist. Get him to make some soul music. Maybe Anderson .Paak too, but to be honest I really feel blessed to just work with Tyler. His talent really hasn’t been celebrated like I believe it should.
G: Are there are any creative areas you’ve yet to try your hand at which are still on the list?
K: I make beats, but I’m only really a guy who knows how to loop up or chop some samples, which is fine, but I’d like to find time to learn to play an instrument. Probably piano. I just don’t have time.
G: What do you personally find are the most frustrating things about the UK rap scene?
K: Yo making the music I’m making now is the best thing I ever did. I’m doing shows and people are dancing. And dressed like they made an effort. And it’s full of women. In head wraps. And they smell like cocoa butter and tropical fruit punch. I DJ a lot as well and there was a time I’d look out in the crowd and really hate it. UK l rap scene to me equals no money, no women, no vibes and no real prospects of taking it further than anyone did 10-15 years ago.
G: You’re a collector of both, but if you had to pick a side – vinyl or cassette?
K: I actually don’t really collect tapes any more. It’s a sore subject. I threw out a couple of bin liners worth of tapes when I moved out of my mum’s and gave loads away to friends.Years later they’re a thing again and all these tapes going for good dough, I had a lot of them because I never bought CDs. So yeah vinyl all day.
G: What can we expect from Children of Zeus in 2017?
K: Another 7″ on First Word records and a 12″ on Skull Snap (Pete Rock production and a track with Peedi Crakk of State Property/Rocafella fame). Hopefully some work with Jazzie B from Soul II Soul will be completed, but that’s as much as I can say. Tyler’s on Goldie’s album and I think more is in store after that as he’s really backing us. Our live show is getting great feedback, so a lot more shows and more music when we find time to make it.
G: Do you have any other projects you’re working on yourself?
K: I’ve got a track with Lenzman who remixed our track Still Standing almost done. Dub Phizix sent me some stuff that I’ll definitely get done as we really should have worked together years ago. I’m still DJing a lot and making beats, but in all honesty until music pays me more money, I spend most my time in a day job so I can buy records and eat in every restaurant in Manchester.
G: Any final words, or shout outs?
K: Shout to DRS and Strategy. Love my brothers and I’m really fucking proud what they’ve achieved from where we came from. Also shout to Tyler, this whole Children of Zeus shit is so the world can hear what an incredible musician and singer he is. I just want him to win. Also big shout to everyone who’s supported me/us over the years and all I ask is if you like the music, share it because it’s the best promo we have right now! Thanks for the interview, sorry if it’s a bit long and I didn’t slag anybody off – I’m looking at you Greg Blackman – really appreciate it! Peace.