Joe Blow talks homegrown and stateside

Over the last 20 years Hip Hop culture has played a major part in the Capital. Bringing music lovers, artists, dancers and lyricists together in a melting pot of raw talent. One name that has been cropping up from the start is Joe Blow, one part of the Squid Ninjas crew and close friends with producer and DJ Stagga, he's constantly spreading his tentacles in to new unchartered waters. In his own words "Hip Hop is a way of life not just another music genre."

HJ: Welcome to EMW. Please introduce yourself to those that might not know your work.

JB: Im Joe Blow aka Mr Picton from Barry Town, South Wales. I've been involved in the music scene for longer than I care to remember and I'm the co-founder of Squid Ninja records.

HJ: You've played a major part in the Hip Hop movement coming out of Wales in the last 20 years or so. Did you always know that this was what you wanted to do?

JB. Yeah without a shadow of a doubt, ever since I was a kid I've always had a healthy appetite for music. I can remember being about 5 or 6 , I used to sneak into my older brother Simon's bedroom and go thru all his vinyl and play 'em on his hi-fi when he was out with his mates. He had quite a varied collection everything from Ska, Punk and Reggae, but one day I came across something very special a slab of wax by Run DMC. That shit changed my life forever, it was from that day that I started trying to track down everything I could to do with Hip Hop. By the time I was 12 I'd made the natural transition from being a lover of hip hop to being a hip hop Emcee/Deejay.

HJ: You perform and record with a lot of different producers and MCs but you are also firmly rooted with your crew Squid Ninjaz. How important is it for you to keep working under the Squid Ninjaz alias and could you tell us about any future projects you have planned with this crew?

JB. Squid Ninjaz are my family and been for the last 11 years , at one point practically most of us were living under the same roof, which was safe because we had a phat studio set up. At the moment most of us are working on our solo projects , Hekla has just dropped Ugly Fruits 2, Metabeats is working on his 2nd Hip Hop album and also he's doing his thing with Darkhouse Family and C.R.S.T. Ral Duke is pretty deep into a bunch of tracks and Skamma is just starting work on his album. Cesto is putting together a mixtape in HMP Cardiff where he is curently serving part of his 9 year sentence. He got put down just as our album 'Revenge of the Blowfish' dropped. He's now an enhanced prisoner and gets studio time so as soon as he's finished that I'm gunna be putting it out on the label. My own album should be finished early 2011 and were currently knocking together a few bangers for a new Squid Ninjaz album.

"Ryan (Andrews) did my last video 'Poetry In Motion' which was a straight up aggy video, this one will be totally different from that."
HJ: Going back to your other work. We've just seen you get released alongside Stagga and Skamma on Slit Jockey Records with remixes from some top producers. How did this states connection come about?

JB. I've been working with a quite a few people from the states for a while now, Adam over at MCT Productions has put me on tracks with Roc Marciano, Midaz, Marco Polo , Baretta 9 and Protoman to name just a few. My latest link I've made over in America is with my fam over at Slit Jockey Records. Stagga passed a copy of Genik Riddim to Starkey and he thought it was "ridiculous"and decided to sign it to his label. That track pretty much opened the doors up to work with producers from the states like Dev79, Havoc n' Deed, Bad Dudes and Distal who are all into that bass heavy sound.

HJ: Genik Riddim is currently riding high in the Juno charts at the moment. There is also a video to accompany this track which will be out soon. Who's behind this video and what can we expect to see?

JB: Yeah we're really happy with the response that Genik Riddim has had so far. It dropped exclusively on Juno for 1 week on Dec 13th and was in the top 5 practically straight away, it's gunna be available everywhere else on the planet from the 20th Dec which is when the video should be droppin as well. Ryan Andrews is the director and Jon Rennie is doing the special efx. Ryan did my last video 'Poetry In Motion' which was a straight up aggy video, this one will be totally different from that. Ryan and Jon are both at the top of their game right now and I firmly believe that they were the best guys for the job plus I think they really enjoyed working with all the beautiful girls from Poletwisters as well, perks of the job I say ha ha.

Joe Blow and Skamma posing with the lovely Poletwister girls.

Genik Riddim - Starkey Rmx (Radio Edit) - Download link (For Promotional Use Only) via~subdivisionbass

HJ: Your work with Stagga is definitely coming to fruition with the above 'Genik Rididm' and a track called "Acidicts RMX" featured on his upcoming album getting a release on Rag n' Bone in Jan 2011. Along with Skamma your work with Stagga is getting heavier by the minute. Can we see more work between the three of you in 2011?

JB: Most definitely, me and Skamma have a few freshies with Stagga brewing up in the studio at the moment and they are bangers even if I say so myself so keep your eyes and ears peeled for that shit.

"With regards to other work in the pipeline with Skamma, we've just done a remix of Tynchy Stryda's 'Game Over' with Havoc n' Deed on the boards. That is one of our personal best tracks ever without a doubt."
With regards to other work in the pipeline with Skamma, we've just done a remix of Tynchy Stryda's 'Game Over' with Havoc n' Deed on the boards. That is one of our personal best tracks ever without a doubt. We've also done another track with them called 'Killa' which really does live up to its name! So watch out for both of those tunes.

HJ: Have you always kept an open mind when choosing beats to rhyme over?

JB. I've always kept an open mind when it comes to music and my influences have always been very diverse. I was heavily involved with the Jungle/DnB scene in the 90s DJing at the One Nation and Dreamscape club tours, I used to love getting off the decks and tearing it up with the Emcees as well, which is something I still do to this day, so switchin up tempos over beats is something I find easy to do. At the end of the day I can spit to anything, I cant be pigeon holed as just a Hip Hop MC or a DnB MC or a Grime/DubStep MC. I find people are to quick to put certain styles of music into categories, music is music and I've always believed that. Hip Hop is a way of life not just another music genre.

"I find people are to quick to put certain styles of music into categories, music is music and I've always believed that. Hip Hop is a way of life not just another music genre."
HJ: On the other side of the coin your next album is for the old skool heads. Can you give us an idea of what to expect?

JB. Well I think it just carries on from where my ep 'Smoking Skills' left off, it's definitely got that typical Squid Ninjaz feel to it and some of the beats are the heaviest I've ever had the chance to spit over. You can expect to hear bangers from my Squid Ninja fam Lou Hekla, Joe Dirt and Metabeats, plus some absolute killers from Qred, Mista Digital, Junior Disprol and Father Jack aka Jee4ce. It's almost finished but I'm not gunna let it go out until I'm 100% happy with it so dont quote me on a release date.
Big shouts out to Kaptin for his relentless support and also 4dee reppin Zulu Nation UK hard. And everyone else whos helped us along the way you know who you are.

HJ: Lou Hekla's latest mixtape is killing it right now and instrumental beats are getting a lot of rep. When choosing beats to spit over do you have a preference or are you happy for producers to go wild?

JB:  Hekla is a fucking genius man and it comes as no suprise that his mixtape is going off right now. Beat tapes are an amazing platform for producers to get exposure and make new links to be able to progress forward. When choosing beats to spit over I don't really have a preference I prefer to keep an open mind, generally I'm happy for a producer to just go wild and experiment.

HJ: It's apparent to me that in a close knit community like Barry/Cardiff people work together. With plenty of outlets for new artists and people such as Bethan Elfyn, Adam Walton and Kaptin and the Chrome Kids blog representing the scene hard, constantly online and on the radio it seems now is a good time to be involved with music in Wales. Is this the strongest you've seen the music scene in Wales?

JB: At the moment Wales has the strongest underground music scene that it's ever had. It took a while for people to start reaching out and helping each other, but with so much talent emerging  from  here I would say its an amazing time to be involved. I'm really glad that 'Higher Learning' is back because that night has helped discover so many of the Welsh scenes key players and is an excellent organisation to be involved with, massive shouts to Kaptin, Dreggs, Ruffstylz and Mayor for flying the flag. Adam Walton from BBC Radio Wales is another guy who's helping the Welsh scene out in a major way and I advise anyone whose making music to send him in ya demo's as he will most probably play it on his show no matter what genre of music it is. Also Bethan Elfyn and Ed Richmond off BBC Radio 1 have shown us nothing but support over the last few years and they are very approachable people. I had a ball last time they invited me to their studio to do the BBC Introducing verses challenge, they even paid me for my time! What more could you ask for?

HJ: You're also working with other producers from Wales and other parts of the UK?

JB: We've been working with a couple of Dubstep producers from the UK as well as abroad, Kirkus has given us a handful of bangers to kill, his sound is well gritty which I love and I always look forward to getting new things off him. Rukus and Roke have also sent us a couple of tracks too, they've recently sent me a ruff draft of their 'Acidicts rmx' and I'm fucking loving it, cant wait to hear the finished product. We've also got a few beats off Monky, Diverse Concepts and Ital Lion who are all long time friends of ours and making their fair share of noise right now. Also watch out for a little collabo weve done with C.R.S.T... HUGE!

HJ: What advice would you give to up and coming MCs trying to get on to producers beats?

JB: Never pay over the odds for beats but always be polite and never act like your the next 2pac even if you think you are.

HJ: What's your favourite beverage at the moment?

JB: Stella I love that shit......

HJ: Any shout outs for upcoming events?

JB: That would have to be the 'Genik Riddim' video launch party but the dates havent been secured yet so I'll keep you posted on that, probably early january.

Seriously!!! I could have carried on asking question after question with this one and more and more info would have risen to the surface. Joe Blow is one hard working artist and still managed to take the time out for this interview. For that I am truly grateful. Below is a list of names that may or may not have been mentioned in the interview. I recommend you take a minute to listen to some of this music... you will not be disappointed!

Monster under the bed