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Confidential chats to Natty

Ben Patey talks to Natty and finds his patois inspiring

Published on September 29th 2008.

Confidential chats to Natty

"I'd say it's a mix up, mix up…it's just mixed up", offers Natty, trying in vain to describe his music.

"If you've got a bit of afro beat, a bit of soul music, a bit of reggae music and the main lyrical influences come from folk and hip-hop you kind of get the whole thing."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, you'll find the likes of Perry, Bob Marley, Burning Spear and Fela Kuti listed amongst Natty's favourite musicians.

However, before make you make too many assumptions about his sound, know that he also counts Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Miles Davis and Joy Division among his musical inspirations.

Of course, the roots connotations his nickname stirs up - Natty Dread is the name of a Bob Marley album - mean that people are quick to judge Natty as an up and coming reggae artist with a purely reggae based album.

In 'If I', a song he wrote for Love Music Hate Racism (a music-oriented campaign by the Anti-Nazi League and Unite Against Fascism), Natty sings about the casual racial preconceptions that people make about him and his music.

"If I sang you a song in this style and I swing my head from side to side, would you question what it is I do? Would you think I was being untrue? Well I grew up on the same streets as you, listened to the same tunes as you. I went to the same school as you, I dreamt of being a footballer too".

On the subject of football, Natty used to be quite a useful player himself. In fact, before his music career kicked off, he was at Lilleshall, the FA's school of excellence, where he made it down to the last 50 selection for England under 18s, playing alongside the likes of Chelsea's Joe Cole.

Ultimately a torn groin muscle meant that Natty had to swap the football dream for the musical dream. In August of this year he released Man Like I, a debut album that combines genre-crossing sounds, contagious melodies and politically charged lyrics.

Natty believes in what he is singing and delivers his lyrics with a conviction that defies his years.

In 'Burn Down This Place', Natty defiantly refers to the repercussions of the slave trade in what he labels 'the slavery after show'.

"If you don't want to say sorry, OK. Don't need your apology, we're OK. Should have been extinct but it's OK. We're still here, still here. Stop your chat about it's all history mate, I ain't trying to hear, trying to elevate. Just saying to remember what it took to see today. We're still here, still here.”

Clearly a very galvanised young man, what one thing gets him most irate?

"Institutional racism. Basically, I've got issues with the powers that be."

Whether the music industry falls under that statement is unclear but Natty does admit it's prescribed.

"It's formulaic. It's a system and we live in a world full of systems. You do something which is slightly against the system and you're not going to get as much recognition."

"What's the point, he says, of making music if you can't express yourself properly? Basically you've got to walk your own path.”

'Walking your own path' is an idea that is voiced in 'Badman' in which he declares, 'Real badman play their own role, walk the way they talk and stay true to their soul. Don't follow no man's code.'

Although tracks such as 'Bedroom Eyes', 'She Loves Me' and 'Stoned on You' reflect a more sensitive side to Natty, there's still plenty of tracks that are directed towards the politically apathetic youths.

Natty embarks on a UK tour in October, after a summer of playing various festivals including Glastonbury where he proved he had the fan base to play a much bigger stage.

Why then, in Natty's words, should people go and see him live?

“Cos I'm like nothing else in the world and no one else makes music like me. Oh, and I set fire to a PA system before...Not on purpose.”

"Because your music is that hot?"

"Yeah, because my music is that hot!"

Natty plays The Faversham, Leeds Sunday 5 October. Click here for more details.

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