Times New Dutchman #6: Nine8 Collective (Pt. 2)

Assemble in Rotterdam
Fri 14 Jun '19

This is part 2, you can read part 1 here.

Two days later and the collective are out in force, having made the trip to Rotterdam. In person the Nine8 collective are warm and friendly. Lava La Rue (whose year of birth the collective takes its name from), performer/rapper Lorenzorsv, and MC Bone Slim sit back stage at WORM, before their show. La Rue is a driven, passionate figure. Her intensity is in stark contrast to the demeanour of Bone Slim, who, despite donning a blank mask, has evidently been making the most of the Netherlands’ relaxed stance on cannabis. Yet they clearly have a great deal of respect for each other, and constantly appear to be on the same wavelength.

“Has a single thing like this come out of London in the past 20 years? No.”

What makes Nine8 different from other collectives?

Bone Slim: Our definition of collective is different to other people’s.

What’s your definition?

Bone Slim: This is a platform. This isn’t a band.

Lava: We all have our own solo projects. I’ve always said listening to Nine8 is like Avengers Assemble, in that each one of them have their own solo films, and you can individually watch them. But when you hear us come together it’s like watching the film where all these plots and stories come together and make something, and there’s no main puzzle. When you have like something like the ASAP mob you think of Rocky straight away, you know? Yeah, there are other ones. But they all have a similar style and sound and they’re all doing the whole New York narrative, so only one of them can really thrive as the best, whereas with us we all have our own stories.

The collective is very diverse, what are your thoughts on this as a political statement?

Lava: We’re a Hip-Hop group coming out of the UK that has almost just as many female MCs as there are male MCs, just as much as a queer perspective as a straight perspective, but we’re not making a big deal out of that. I chat to Bone Slim about my girl issues just as much as he’ll chat to me about his girl issues, because he’s my bro and we’ve all grown up together multiculturally in London. So instead of saying, “this is going to be a gender neutral outfit,” it’s like, no, we just coexist together. And that will speak for itself. Two of us are Caribbean, two of us are Indian, two of us are Irish, one’s fully English, one’s Somalian and are we making a point of that? No. But has a single thing like this come out of London in the past 20 years? No. I think that in itself is political enough.

How does day to day running of the collective work?

Lorenzo: it’s very natural and fluid and you just literally go with the flow.

Lava: It is called Nine8 collective because we are collectively run. We’ve been going for three years but we’re debuting stuff now because we’ve recognised that if we want to start putting things out in a certain way, it can’t always be through DIY nights and community and culture, and our immediate circle. If we want to do something internationally, there’s going to be a process. It all kind of works in different ways, but yeah, it works. I think it’s a good way to do stuff if you have a creative community.

How’s the response to the EP been so far?

Bone Slim: Can you draw a picture of me going like this? (He spreads his arms wide, leans back and laughs) Bone Slim says the response has been this much!

Lorenzo: It’s been really well received. Obviously to us, we’ve been here for three years, but to the public we’ve just arrived. Do you know what I mean? So in that kind of perspective, seeing the response that we’ve had has been really good. Already we’re getting emails about other stuff that could potentially happen, and we literally just dropped the project. It’s been really nice.

Lava: This is the first time that the rest of the world who don’t know about London can have access to an audio version of the movement. So hopefully the continual response is to have more of an understanding of what we are and how we work.

As the soundcheck continues various members of Nine8 drift in and out of the backstage area. Biig Piig, the soulful singer recently signed to RCA Records, is one such member. Alongside her are MC/producer L!baan, and 17 year old singer/rapper Nayana Iz. At this point the youthfulness of Nine8 has never been more evident. They are in a playful mood, clearly enjoying the occasion. And gigging in a new country provides a welcome opportunity for reflection on the place the collective was conceived.

“For the first time in ages I felt like this was my place. You just feel it.”

What would you say the impact of London has been on Nine8?

Biig Piig: I think London is such an intense place, it’s mad. But what’s wonderful about it is that there’s so much going on. Everyone’s there to prove themselves. So I feel like we’ve found something really special; a home and a hub where there’s no hostility. London can be a great place but it can also be really fast-paced, really hostile and really competitive. Finding a bunch of people from different walks of life, and bringing them to one section and saying “this is our community and our home,” and then being able to move forward, that is so special. Usually I feel like a lot of musicians can’t trust nobody, whereas this is a bunch of young people being able to talk with each other. Growing up in Ireland and even Spain it was the same thing, not really feeling like you fit.

You’ve mentioned that musicians don’t easily trust each other, was that the case for you in the collective?

Nayana Iz: I just felt it was different. For the first time in ages I felt like this was my place. You just feel it, don’t you? You just know. I just spent loads of time with them, and we became close like that. With these collectives, you’re not going to spend time and put in your everything with people you don’t feel fully comfortable with.

L!baan: That’s why first I look at people as people, I look past the music. It doesn’t matter how good your music is, I’m seeing how you are as a person and if we can work our way up from that. If I don’t get the same sort of vibe from someone then I’ll cut it off. That’s what special about Nine8, everyone, even with a completely different style or music, has that same vibe, it’s kind of awesome.

How do you go about writing songs as a collective?

Nayana Iz: When I make music it’s just everything that I’m trying to get off my chest. I’m just like “let me get it in this song”, and forget about it. The fact that people can feel that, is just because it’s real.

Biig Piig: There are usually beats floating around or we’ll go to the studio for a day and see what happens. We mostly write together though, at least we did for the EP, which was cool because you kind of bounce off each other’s energies a bit.

L!baan: Sometimes you can write down certain lines, and you’re like, “how the fuck did I come up with this?”

In a good way or bad way?

L!baan: Oh in a great way! When you surprise yourself, that’s one of the greatest joys there can be as a musician, or anyone doing arts really. You’re just chuffed with yourself. When you’ve come up with that one line, it’s like your statement. That’s how I can remember most of my verses, with that strong line. Say the statement and everything else swoops underneath.

Is that the opening line?

L!baan: Well sometimes that one line you come up with could be in the middle and I’ll build my way up from that, but you need to have that raw emotion there first. A statement of belief within yourself.

Biig Piig: It’s weird how words shape together a certain way, and this sounds fucking lame but, music is just another way of communicating. Especially when you talk about lyrics and stuff, it’s a way of bringing an emotion towards a sound. Like a conversation.

Nayana Iz: When you’re speaking you can’t communicate how you’re feeling as much as you can in your music.

What is the aim of these international shows?

Biig Piig: Going on tour is a way of hopefully spreading the mentality we’ve got inside the group as well. If you can spread that across Nine8 events, that’d be sick.

What is that mentality? How would you describe it?

Biig Piig: It’s a home for like all kinds of art. Less “we need to be the best” and more “how do you feel?”

Has being in the collective affected you on a personal level?

Nayana Iz: Definitely, I was so shy before.

Biig Piig: You just found your voice though, it was always there.

Nayana Iz: It was always there. I just think it’s because I finally found that family. It was different when I was making music by myself. Then I finally found people I could actually make stuff with.

A trendy crowd gathers as the show begins, with the Wunderbar’s lack of stage seeing them level with the collective. The sparse equipment (decks and microphones) gives each Nine8 member room to dance, and Lava La Rue takes full advantage, weaving in and out of the crowd spitting lyrics. She commands the room to crouch down with her; they obey. Then she jumps as high as she can, causing the venue to erupt into a mass of leaping bodies. Perhaps this is the aforementioned “immersive experience”. Biig Piig and Nayana Iz take a more laid back approach, resulting in the set’s more profound moments, whilst Nige gets the crowd bouncing once more with four-to-the-floor rhythms and charmingly English MCing. Nine8’s sound is unashamedly eclectic, ranging from Downtempo R’n’B to straight up Rap, but they are united by deep basslines. After an hour of non-stop energy, the performance draws to a close, leaving the ambience of the bar to take over.

Times New Dutchman is written by PR Intern Eddie Smith, with new instalments published at irregular intervals over the coming months.

Nine8’s debut EP, No Smoke, is out now.

Times New Dutchman is written by PR Intern Eddie Smith, with new instalments published at irregular intervals over the coming months.

Nine8 recommend:

  • Elevation Meditation
  • p-rallel
  • 237
  • Tariq Disu
  • The Moontown Project
  • Nasty Brian
  • Rex Ardeo
  • Neighbourhood Villain
  • Ashbeck
  • Society of Alumni
  • Rizloski
  • 614
  • Pablo Pullen
  • House of Pharaohs

Times New Dutchman is written by PR Intern Eddie Smith, with new instalments published at irregular intervals over the coming months.

Times New Dutchman is written by PR Intern Eddie Smith, with new instalments published at irregular intervals over the coming months.