There is no doubt that Midas Touch, (both as a trio and as solo MCs), has been making some big movements in UK hip hop. This summer they brought to you their latest offering ‘Special Vibe’ and ‘We Are’ which did not disappoint, showing their lyrical magic. I was lucky enough to catch up with the trio to discuss inspirations, the UK hip hop scene and the story so far of Midas Touch…
For those who don’t know, how did Midas Touch come together as a trio?
AKS: We’re just 3 friends, who grew up together. That’s the story of many groups isn’t it? The unmanufactured ones at least. But it’s not much more complicated than that. J and myself were in the same class in primary school, and singing together at that age. Phoenix was a neighbour. I feel old saying it, but back then the local community felt a bit more close knit, at a certain age. Everybody knew everybody, and it was only natural that as we all had an affinity for music and Hip-Hop, that at some stage we’d put our heads together to work on something.
J The Exodus: The three of us go way back! We have known each other since school days. We all had a passion for music, so it was natural for us to align ourselves as artists, since we were already friends. It was an inevitable move.
Phoenix Da Icefire: I first started rapping with AKS after parting from a grime crew, called Fatal Assasins. AKS was also my next door neighbour so I guess us two brothers coming together was destined. I later went to school with J the Ex. I recognised him from when he used to live in the area, so I approached him to do a track with AKS. Boy was we all surprised to find out that AKS used to go primary school with J the Ex. We took that as a sign, along with how good the track we did together.
Who would you say are your biggest influences?
AKS: Artists like Nas, Common, The Roots, Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys to name but a few, or more recently, the ‘Kendrick Lamars’ & ‘Janelle Monaes’ of the World. People providing a level of artistry, which keeps things cerebral but also conveys some moral element. I don’t know how to explain it other than to say “Soul”. Beyond that, I’m blessed to be embraced by the scene enough to keep myself surrounded by incredible talents. So the people I have around me inspire me every day; those I can call my friends & family. They inspire me to be the best person that I can be and to keep striving for my aspirations.
J The Exodus: We have a wide range of influences from the likes of Lauryn Hill, Nas, Tupac, TDE, Mos Def, KRS One, Talib Kweli and so on. We also have been influenced by the music of our older generations such as Michael Jackson, Fela Kuti, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations and so on.
Phoenix Da Icefire: At the moment my biggest influences would have to be anyone I hear coming with something new, saying something I’ve never heard in a way I have never heard it before. I like Action Bronson (I happen to have a track with him), Nas, Logic from the States and Kendrick Lamar.
As three highly lyrical MCs, what inspires your rhymes?
AKS: Conceptually our rhymes are a reflection of the lives that we lead, and the lives we want to lead. You always hear hip-hoppers talking about “Keeping it real!” and there’s 2 school’s of thought with that. One is that your rhymes are a reflection of who you are, the other is that your rhymes are a reflection of who you aspire to be. We encompass both. We’re students of Hip-Hop like that. But if you’re asking why lyrically we go in, its bait that a lot of that is down to friendly competition. If you know the guy next to you isn’t going to put a half hearted verse down, you respond in kind! To coin a phrase “Iron sharpens iron!” It’s inevitable that we’d have a bit of friendly competition within the camp. Rap is like sport, and although we’re running the relay when we’re a group, each of us still wants the fastest leg. (I speak in metaphors. Force of habit!)
J The Exodus: Our lyricism is an expression of our life experiences and viewpoints. As artists we feel it is our place to speak our minds without fear. There is also an entertainment factor to musicianship, and we try to ensure what we produce is captivating as well as entertaining.
Phoenix Da Icefire: For me knowing I’m getting on a track with two of the best rappers I have personally had the pleasure to meet, is enough inspiration to want to step up.
Being three rappers who had started off as solo MCs, describe the process that goes into making tracks as a trio.
AKS: We started off as solo MCs and remain solo MCs. We ain’t a boy band. Before we created music together we we’re friends, so it’s only natural that the comradery we share transcends to the stage and the music in some way; and that’s what Midas Touch is. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to share the stage with guys you’ve grown up with, and vocally shared dreams with since their conception. Every time we step out on stage as a unit its like we’re realising those dreams afresh.
J The Exodus: We are all soloists also. As a collective conceptualising, and creating, is like second nature, we were friends before music.
Phoenix Da Icefire: I’ll let the label which put in the hard work for our last project answer that one, all I can say is a lot of sacrifices have been made to get us this far.
Compared to the US, the UK’s hip hop scene is much smaller and less dynamic, what are your thoughts on today’s UK Hip Hop scene?
AKS: My whole thing is that Rome was not built in a day. The scene in the UK is in its infancy; I mean we’re only recently seeing our first set of commercially embraced Hip-Hop (if you can call it that) artists, so to compare it to the US like they should somehow be on par with one another is unrealistic to me. Furthermore, the US is a massive market compared to the UK so in that sense it’s an unfair comparison. But that being said, things are improving. There’s a whole generation of kids that have grown up listening to Hip-Hop & Grime who are moving into positions of note, and with that comes more access to commercial avenues, which in some sense weren’t available to us before. I think we’ve kind of twigged that creating our own platforms is the way to go, and the internet and social media have made reaching an audience much more possible. There’s a new wave of artists coming out and getting acclaim, and I can’t help but feel encouraged by that.
J The Exodus: This is due to the sheer population and landmass differences in my opinion. California alone is larger than the UK! If you are an “Urban Act” in the US, say you were to go platinum in one state? That alone is hundreds of thousands of unit. If you conquer the US we are talking about almost half a billion people. The UK is not even a fifth of that. However we over here are on the rise and are now reaching a level where we can compete and or collaborate with our American counterparts.
Phoenix Da Icefire: I feel like 30 years since hip hop was fresh and exciting the attention on the essence of hip hop has moved away and become corporatised. I do feel though that people are getting bored of trivial music as it sounds so far removed from reality that people are now starting to search for real music and we’ll be waiting for the fans when they wake up.
Written by Nikita Rathod