Booda French is a name that should be familiar to anyone who has followed the UK hip hop scene over the past few years. From his early days battling under the name Truth, to a string of stellar independent releases and a close affiliation with EatGood, he is now back with a brand new EP on Soulspazm Records. I spoke with him about reaching full potential, his friendship with J57 and what it was like coming up in Ipswich.
So how has the release been going so far?
Surprisingly well! The feedback and love have been overwhelming, specifically since I’ve been a bit AWOL for a while. I’ve never put out anything for a price and honestly didn’t expect anyone to spend their hard earned money on my music, so anyone past the first sale is a massive blessing to me. I’d be grateful even if they bootlegged it and spent their time listening to it. There’s a lot of stuff out there to spend money & time on, so I’m flattered if someone chooses me. It’s hard to know how well it’s done on a “commercial” scale though because I don’t have the numbers yet. Off course that’s not everything, but people I respect have been saying nice things about it so I can’t ask for anything else.
You’ve been making music for a while now, but I know from talking to you that you don’t really feel you’ve ever reached your full potential. What do you think has stopped you?
I mean real life stuff got in the way, but then everyone deals with that, that’s not really an excuse. Honestly, I think it’s just confidence. It was never an issue as a youngster as far as performances and self belief went, but even then I wouldn’t put my full effort into things so that I had a defence in place. Like I would release demos and if they bombed, it’s OK, I hadn’t really put in any effort anyway, you know? Making music is torture for me, nothings ever good enough, nothings ever finished and I just want to try get to the end. I’d hear people doing something I like and feel like what I was doing was inferior, so I’d just scrap it. I’m starting to enjoy it again more though, I think that’s the key. And I understand my lane more so we’ll see what happens next. I’m definitely feeling more positive about what’s to come. The next stuff will 100% be the best stuff I’ve ever done.
You and J57 seem to have a built up a good working relationship over the years, which is kinda rare on the UK scene. How did you guys end up working together initially?
J’s the man. Musically and as a person. I’ve said it many times but I probably wouldn’t still be rapping if it wasn’t for J. I’m in a lot of debt to that dude! That’s another story though. We basically met when I was doing some booking agent work. He was managing someone we were looking at bringing out to the UK, we started talking, realised that we had some mutual friends and built from there. At the time, I was looking for someone to remake a beat I had done on my MPC, but didn’t have a bass line for. I had lost the zip drive & stems to it, but I was really happy with the song I had written to it so didn’t want to just throw it on the scrap heap. Asked J if he’d be down to do it, sent him the sample and he done his magic. That was 61 Grace which i think is the song that has had the most reach from my “catalogue”.
How did you hook up with Soulspazm?
A friend of mine was A&Ring there and asked me to do a project. A day after I had agreed to do a project for EatGood and it was too good to turn down. Talk about buses! I had no intentions of making any music at the time, although me and J57 had talked about doing a project produced solely by him. The plan was to do that as the project for Soulspazm, but Apatight had sent me some beats for the EatGood project which just went together perfectly with the J57 beats I had. Add a Jimmy Green beat and voila.
What is the most frustrating thing about the UK scene in your opinion?
Honestly, I’m probably not in the best position to comment on that. I haven’t been extremely active for a while in the “scene” as such so I couldn’t say. Coming up, my only problem with it was that it was a little two-dimensional, you were either a “backpack-weed-space” rapper or a grime MC, and I didn’t really feel like there was a place for what I was doing, or wanted to do. That certainly seems to have changed now, even just from my yearly hip hop social trip to boom bap you can see that the new age of fans have a much wider taste and acceptance in styles of hip hop which is dope. I think that’s maybe an “iPod” generational thing on a wider scale.
Obviously things are a lot easier now with social networking & the like, but what was it like coming up in somewhere like Ipswich? Was there a strong local scene?
Honestly, it was great. There wasn’t a scene, and that’s not just for hip hop – Ipswich has always had a lot of talent but no scene. There’s no real traditional “music venue” – more so pubs or clubs or bars, which also act as a venue or host nights. I came up in a bit of a gap as such, before me there was a massive hip hop scene in Ipswich and the wider East Anglia area and now there’s a massive scene in Ipswich. Its good to have some company and there’s some real exciting, and very broad stuff stylistically coming out. It’s crazy for such a small town, sometimes the stars just align. Everyone’s super supportive of each other too, there’s no division or beef because people make different styles etc, it’s all respect.
Being from Ipswich gave me the space to find my own ideas and sounds, I feel like if I was apart of a bigger cities scene, there’d be certain expectations. Ippy’s a blank canvas, there are not a lot of resources here, but that’s when some of the greatest music is made. 1.2 secs sample time style.
That being said, you gotta leave here to do anything from it and the fact that I came up when there was no scene in Ipswich, forced me to go London, Cambridge, Norwich, Manchester etc. and earn my stripes, cut my teeth and build my circles.
When I first came across your music, you were called Truth. Was the name change significant, or did you just get bored of being called that?
Ahhh, it was just a terrible name. I don’t know why I had that, or what it meant, I just remember first using it or being called it on my local basketball court by some local garage MC who was catching some waves at the time. Maybe I’ll feel the same about Booda in a few years, who knows! It’s rap names, I’m sure when we’re all 82 years old with our teeth falling out we’re not going to look back and consider our biggest regret the rap name we chose.
Do you ever watch battle rap any more? Most ex-battlers I speak to either still love it, or absolutely loathe it.
Umm, not really. I’ll check a Soul battle, or a Tony battle from time to time, but not really. A couple others if I have the time. I wouldn’t say I fall into either category – I just don’t have time to follow it really around real life stuff and any time I have is better spent making music or at least chipping away at it. I was never really into battling anyway, I did it because I felt i had to do it, then I did it more because I was OK at doing it, or because my friends wanted me to! These days, i’m not personally massively inspired by it but there’s definitely some incredible talent there. It’s also very interesting to see the shifts in trends and audiences over time. I can’t lie though, whenever I do watch one it makes me want to come back and do one more because I feel like I left on a dud note. Had some great opportunities and embarrassingly half arsed them which I regret, but couldn’t really help because of certain things. We spoke about a Don’t Flop match recently but, realistically, I doubt it’s something that will happen. Depends how things go.
Maybe still early days cos the EP’s only just dropped, but what can we expect next from you?
Another EP on EatGood in late January/early February. That’s all done. That was actually supposed to come out before the Soulspazm one – there’s already two videos online from it. I’m now starting on the next stuff… what that will be – an LP, or EP – I’m not sure, but I definitely feel like it’s going to be the best music I’ve done. I’ve got some clarity on what I’d like to do and some great people around me to help do it.
Any final words or shout outs?
Shout out to you! I don’t know why anyone would wanna ask me questions or read my responses, but I’m super grateful you do! Ha. Biggup J57, Apatight, Soulspazm, Jimmy Green, Carnell, King Kashmere, Darien Prophecy, Mecca:83, Cons for their work on the EP. Biggup Kosyne & EatGood fam for the next one. Shout out to the whole Ippy scene at the moment. Everyone who’s shown love and support on the EP. I know that sounds cliche and without being too soft and deep, it’s hugely appreciated and a massive help!