Interview: Wretch 32

Wretch 32
Wretch 32

Wretch 32: “I dropped my phone in the bath and lost a load of songs.”

In five minutes with the grime star at Camp Bestival, we discover a fondness for Mick Hucknall and accidental phone-bathing

Jermaine Scott Sinclair, better known by his stage name Wretch 32 (pronounced “three-two”), is an English rapper and former grime MC from Tottenham, London. He was a member of the grime collective Combination Chain Gang, before forming The Movement with Scorcher, Ghetts, and Mercston, and subsequently achieving mainstream success as part of the UK’s urban music scene.

Wretch released his first single, Traktor, in January 2011 and went on to release two more Top 5-charting songs – Unorthodox (featuring Example) and Don’t Go (featuring Josh Kumra), the latter topping the chart – from his major label debut LP Black And White, which amassed over a million sales. The following year he was the face of Coca Cola and Adidas’ London 2012 Olympics campaigns, and won Best International Act at the 2012 BET Awards.

The release of his third studio album Growing Over Life hasn’t been a straightforward process, as we found out during a five-minute chat backstage prior to Wretch 32’s main stage performance at this summer’s Camp Bestival. We also discovered a few surprising influences…

So Wretch, you’re known as a rapper and grime artist, but when it comes to Songwriting and lyrics, the style of music doesn’t matter! For you, where does it start in terms of inspiration and your lyrics? Do you sit down and force yourself to write or does it just come to you?

“Yeah, I sit down and write in the beginning stages. It started from listening to great songs and wanting to mimic them, sing along with them.”
[cc_blockquote_right] MICK HUCKNALL, I THINK HE’S A GENIUS! [/cc_blockquote_right] What sort of songs?

“Anything my mum was listening to; Lisa Stansfield, Garnett Silk, Bob Marley and Simply Red, y’know what I mean? Mick Hucknall, I think he’s a genius! Serious, serious. So I started singing along to stuff that my mum was playing. Then I decide I wanted to write myself and I found my own craft. I find, for me, it works better when I think of a whole concept and put it together – beginning, middle and end – just like how you structure a story. I always try and make sure it starts kind of monotone then it rises, then there’s a big thing at the end, and then it comes down. So yeah, just taking what I learned from school, in English, into what I do naturally.”

Do you have to have your own space and lock yourself away?

“Nah, I go and work wherever the producer feels comfortable. I can write any way. Back then I used to write it down and then I went to writing it in my phone, but cut a long story short, I dropped my phone in the bath and lost a load of songs. So I don’t do that any more.”

When did that happen?

“This was a couple of years ago. So I thought, let’s cross that one off the list! So now I ‘write’ in my mind – I don’t write it down at all. The only problem is, that means I have to record it that day.”

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Wretch 32 at Camp Bestival 2015

Wretch 32 at Camp Bestival 2015

When you’re recording, do you dabble with the production at all?

“Yeah, well, you know what, I can’t play but I can direct. Because I know what I want and I know what my voice sounds well on. So it’s just about collaborating with the producer and him being willing to take your input – because you know what you want – and you being willing to learn some things from him, too.”

You’ve had three singles out, but what’s happening with your album, Growing Over Life?

“We’re going to do one more single and then the album. It’s been quite a long time, but to be honest with you, I’ve just got the worst luck in the world – when I’m good to go, it’s either not a good climate or we couldn’t clear a sample, or couldn’t clear a feature. Always, always! So now we’re just waiting on one more sample situation.”
[cc_blockquote_right] IT’S NOT LIKE A ‘THROW A BOTTLE IN YOUR FACE’ TYPE OF CROWD [/cc_blockquote_right] Have you been working with the same producer?

“Two guys called SOS [Sons Of Sonics’ Mikey Muzik and Mo-Samuels], who made 6 Words, made the majority of this album.”

What’s it like playing a family festival like Camp Bestival? Is it a new thing for you?

“Nah, I’ve done festivals before and I’ve done this festival before. I think it just fun, innit. For me… I’m with a new band as well, so we’re trying out new material and it’s a nice crowd – it’s not like a ‘throw a bottle in your face’ type of crowd! Or if they are, it’s only going to be a Panda Pop, so nothing to worry about!”

Is it a different band set-up?

“It’s not a different set-up, it’s just different musicians playing with me. We play some of the old records and we do some new stuff.”

Can you remember writing Don’t Go? Was that a case of Josh Kumra doing the chorus and you doing the rest?

“Yeah, for me, it was the verses on that one. Josh already had the chorus down and came up with the idea. I came in more on the bridge. But it sounded like you were talking about a girl, and I thought, ‘How can I be clever about this and write this song about something else?’ So I said I’ll write it about music. I’m saying ‘don’t go’ to music, like don’t go, don’t leave, I don’t ever want to not be able to make songs. So I changed it, but I still wanted people to think it was actually about relationships.”

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Wretch 32’s latest single 6 Words is out now, and you can watch the video below. For more about Camp Bestival visit:

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