GET TO KNOW: SMELLINGTON PIFF
"We’re all like a family, it doesn’t feel like it’s a money orientated thing..."
Smellington Piff, also known as Llewellyn Owen, was raised as a new age traveller and has made a big name for himself in the UK hiphop circuit. We caught up with him about his upcoming album and his past life.
Piff was quickly introduced to music at the age of four through the UK free party scene: “I’ve lived on the road all my life, on traveller sites and stuff, and when I was younger my dad was part of a sound system called The Tribe of Twat, it was everyone who lived on my site, and they started doing free parties.
“I used to obviously come along to them, and I just started sort of messing about on the decks when I was like 4 or 5 on Sunday's, when everyone was chilling out. And before I knew it, by the time I was 7 or something like that I was playing in nightclubs in London, all around the UK.”
By the age of 7 he was a regular techno DJ for Drome night club, now the SE1 night club: “I was probably earning more money for that than I am now. But yeah it’s pretty mad really, it’s sorta like another life that I’ve lived that I get flashbacks of. But it totally blew up when I was a kid, I was quite famous.”
He told me how he got noticed: “It was at one of them free parties and somebody spotted me, I can’t remember now whether it was the owner of the Drome nightclub. After a while I was playing down there every now and again, then after a while we actually moved into the nightclub. Me and my dad, my dad was working security and I was playing at all the nights. Then we moved my caravan in there and it was just sort of in the corner covered by some herris fencing whenever there was a gig on, which is pretty mad.”
After establishing himself as a techno DJ, playing all over the world and even receiving a Guinness World Record, at around 12 years-old he told me why he packed it all in: “I mean I was DJing for what was like 8 or 9 years. I never went to school cos of the choice of; you can go to school or you can DJ. Like after hearing my Dad’s horror stories about how he went to school in the 50s and getting caned and stuff I obviously chose to DJ.
“So I mean once I got to like 12 or 13 I’d been doing it for 9 years, I was fucking sick of techno to be honest. I hate it now, I mean hate’s a strong word but I definitely disliked it. Yeah I mean I started smoking weed when I was like 12 and found hiphop, and from like 13 or 14 I think I started writing my own stuff. I never thought I’d end up rapping you know what I mean? I was just sorta doing it, and by the time I was like 19 or something I made my first track, and then Leaf heard that track madly enough and put me on, thank god.
“It all just sorta fell into place, I’ve never pushed my music at anyone or tried to be an MC if you know what I mean, it just sorta happened. I mean I made my first track when I was 19 with Sean Peng, GA and OAB in Glastonbury. And Ocean (OAB) who’s good friends with Leaf and Beaver (BVA) and stuff, he showed Leaf and Leaf was like who’s this kid? Get him round and it just sorta yeah, from there progressed you know.”
"I just remember being a DJ, 100 people looking me whilst I’m playing techno and shit.”
He told me about the pressure that built on him as a DJ and how that accumulated to his change in career path: “I think that was also another reason why I wanted to quit so much cos everyone was telling me to do it, and you kinda rebel don’t you in a way, after doing it for so long I was just like fuck this shit I just wanna be a normal kid.
“Which it was great don’t get me wrong, everything you do makes you who you are doesn’t it so, without that I wouldn’t know half of the shit I know. So it was brilliant but you know at the time when I was like 13 smoking weed I was just like fuck this shit, can’t be bothered with these sweaty ravers in my face you know. My earliest memories, I can’t remember anything else before that, I just remember being a DJ, 100 people looking me whilst I’m playing techno and shit.”
Piff continued to tell me about how being a part of RLD benefits him productively: “I work with some of the best MCs and producers you know, in the world in my eyes. It’s fucking amazing. We’re all like a family, it doesn’t feel like it’s a money orientated thing, or motivated sorta thing. We’re doing it for the love, you know, so you’ll never see anything else but real boombap hiphop coming from RLD. You’ll never see any funky different styles coming through like that, which is perfect for me because that’s where my heart is.”
Piff's humble attitude towards making music showed when talking about his aspirations as an artist: “When I started out I didn’t even think about money. I played for three years without earning anything you know, free gigs and I still play the occasional free gig. So it’s never been money motivated in that way, I mean I’d like to make a living of of it, that would be perfect, I don't care about anything else really. I just wanna make good music, music that I like.”
NFA - Piff's next album, is set to be released on March 28th, he told me what to expect from it: “Well it’s took me a fucking long time to make it to be honest, I’ve been slacking. Since my first album dropped I started making it, there’s songs on it from back then, you know, like three years ago or four years ago. Then there’s songs right up to now, so there’s a lot of different emotions in there and different head states of what I was going through you know? But I’m really happy with it, I’m really happy with the end product. It’s produced by Illinformed, Leaf and I’ve got a couple beats on there so I’ve tried to merge everything together as one sound as much as I can. I’m really happy with it man, I can’t wait for the people to hear it really.”
The single recently released, NFA, showed a reflective approach about his past life and upbringing, he explained the creative processes behind it: “That was a half made song that I made 5 years ago. I mean the first bar on it is actually from 5 years ago and it was on a different beat, and then I heard it again and decided, ah fuck it I’m gonna put it on this beat. I had the perfect Illinformed beat for it, put that on it, and then the second verse and the hook is like more modern.
“But yeah just goes to show how long music can take to put out you know, I mean some people just fire it out, I could’ve had an album three years ago but I’m glad I didn’t do that, I’m glad I held off and just made more. I made a lot of tracks for this album so when it comes down to picking the track list it’s actually quite hard, but I’m glad you know it’s the best kind of headache to have really when you’ve got too much content you know, but then like my next album now I’ve already started working on it that’s gonna be solely produced by Leaf Dog like my first album, and we’re gonna look to finish that off quick you know. I’m looking to be a lot more busy in the future.”
The artwork for the highly anticipated album was created by Tim Brunt: “(He is) an amazing artist, he actually does stuff for Judge Dredd Comics and stuff like that. I found him through extensive searching and we just sorta clicked, it just felt right. I spoke to a few people and he was really intrigued by it and it just felt right. Yeah I’m really happy with the end product he absolutely smashed it.”
Piff told me about the pros and cons of making beats: “That’s one of the reasons why my whole music thing slowed down, I mean I brought out my album and then I started making beats and it was a stupid thing to do really. But I’m glad I did it because it helped me learn a lot about writing as well, and about what to place on a beat and how. It actually helped me progress a lot but in a way it stopped me a lot as well because I was just making beats all the time, which recently I’ve stopped doing that so much, I mean I make the odd beat now but now I’m back into writing you know.
“Making beats is fun so it keeps your interest up in an area where you could get bored of writing if you were just doing that constantly you know. It’s all processes I suppose that you have to go through.”
He then told me how his favourite cities to play in are often abroad: “That’s a hard one, that’s a hard one. I’d say cities that are abroad really, I’ve had the most fun in. But then saying that there’s some places in the UK that are amazing and usually it’s the smaller places, but no that’s a hard one. I’d say my favourite gig that just pops into my head even though there’s been a lot I’d say is Luxembourg, just cos we were treated so well and it was quite a big step for us to do that you know.”
"It’s just like that because at the end of the day it’s real music and real things always come back around..."
Piff went onto say about the gigs he does abroad: “Yeah I mean they sorta come in clusters usually around this time of the year. I’ve played quite a few though; next month I’m going to Frequency Festival in Portugal and then I come back then I’m going to Amsterdam, then Austria, think we’re playing twice, then in Germany as well and that’s all with Babylon Dead.”
With many artists releasing content and doing bits for the UK scene, I wondered about his view on the scene at the moment: “I think there’s a lot less gigs at the moment for everyone. But you know this happened before, UK hiphop was big then it sort of died down then the fire was reignited again. It’s just like that because at the end of the day it’s real music and real things always come back around. But it’s still at a huge point; it’s growing constantly, new artists coming through, you got artists from everywhere in the UK now bringing different dynamics of styles and voices and accents and stuff which is fucking amazing.”
Amongst all the talented artists out there, he told me about who he is listening to at this moment: “There’s a lot of new stuff I’ve been listening to recently, like for example American stuff like Recognize Ali, Rome Streetz and Roc Marciano. As far as the UK scene goes, I mean I listen to a lot of stuff that hasn’t been released yet. Datkid’s got a new album he’s made with Leaf which is absolutely amazing, that’s a new thing that’s in the pipe works and that shit is amazing. Babylon Dead album is obviously fire, and you know I listen to a lot of stuff the camp makes like Eric The Red, Sean Peng you know my brothers and Leaf obviously, and Beaver. I was round at Leaf’s the other day when they made the new Four Owls album, and that’s sounding absolutely flaming.”
As festival season is quickly approaching, he told me about his plans for the summer: “As many festivals as I can man, I’m gonna be jumping over fences left right and centre. I’m playing at Nass, I’m playing at Wonder Fields and I know I’ll be guest appearing a lot of festivals as well, I mean I’m looking to go to as many as possible this year, I’m up for it.”
Go support real music and cop NFA on the 28th March!! Big up to Piff, RLD and everyone supporting true music!
March 15th 2018