English rapper Songer is one of the brightest new talents to emerge in the UK in aeons. Here, he discusses fame, destiny, and the right to change his mind.
The Green Room in Dublin’s Workman’s Club is tucked away beneath the main venue. You have to follow a maze to get to what turns out to be an oasis of quiet.
Even secluded here, SONGER – the breakout rapper from Reading in southeast England, who is destined for big things in 2023 – and his manager Thor are buzzing. And that’s not only because tonight’s headline show is sold out.
“The whole Dublin culture, that work ethic and the grit and the spirit,” SONGER enthuses. “That’s amazing. I want to at least have a tiny little scratch on it.”
Today is his first taste of the capital, but the rapper has previously travelled to Ireland to go horse-racing with his dad. “So I have had a few Irish Guinnesses,” he laughs.
Is he optimistic about the year ahead?
“You have to be delusional, and properly believe you’re meant to do something,” SONGER tells me. “If you live by that, things start following you, rather than you following them. When I was a kid, I used to tell my mom that I felt different. And then one day, she just said, ‘That’s because you are’.”
His faith seems to be paying off. SONGER’s three album-length mixtapes have amassed more than 50 million streams on Spotify alone. He’s done Blackbox freestyles that went viral and widely-praised collaborations with English rap stars Bad Boy Chiller Crew and Vibe Chemistry. His debut UK and Ireland tour sold out in a matter of hours. Meanwhile, SONGER’s highly anticipated single ‘4:59’ is due out in February. The push is on.
“The best music I’ve ever made is sat on my notes page,” he says. “And that’s what makes me think that before it goes down, it’s gonna go up. If you like music, you’re gonna know who I am.”
Positive State Of Mind
‘Love Is A Lottery’, released in October, was the first single from his EP Skala, due in April 2023. It is a proper taste of SONGER’s flow, laced with political smarts, a potent dynamic and some hard-earned truths. Does he feel ready for the big step up?
“There’s a bar on Skala, where it’s like, ‘My life’s biggest fear is my life’s biggest goal’. That’s a fact,” he says. “I love my friends. I love my life. I love who I am. And I’m petrified of that being taken away from me.”
But he’s going for it anyway. Skala is alternately pensive, insightful and energetic, as he explores life, love and social issues over classical piano, boom bap and garage. Viewed as a whole, his music is a delicate mix of club bangers and artful storytelling.
“Every project I release is a representation of where my head is at the time,” he says. “I’m definitely in a different period of my life now. I’m back in a relationship. I’m in a much more positive state of mind. The Skala EP is almost me saying, ‘Right, I’m here now and I’m here to stay’.”
The way he tells it, each track represents a different mood.
“My style sounds like my brain,” he smiles, “because there’s peaks and lows and everything in between.”
But in common to all of the tracks are SONGER’s skilfully crafted lyrics. Naturally, I have to ask: why is love a lottery?
“If you win the lottery,” he reasons, “even the way it’s promoted, it’s the ultimate prize – the best thing you could ever win in the world. To me, that’s exactly what love is.”
Falling for someone who doesn’t love you back is a different matter though. SONGER laughs.
“The winning numbers from the day before, that’s what that is.”
Common Sense Will Prevail
The rap genre is frequently dominated by hardcore bars about sex, money, cars and drugs. In contrast, SONGER is a self-proclaimed “mommy’s boy”, striving to stay true to who he is.
“I’m my mother’s son and she’s the most perfect woman in the world,” he says proudly. He has no interest in pretending to be either hardcore or hard-done-by.
“That’s just not me,” he says. “And I feel like if I try to force that too much – I wouldn’t even want to become that person.”
Instead, he explores social issues in his music, including financial stress, racism and drug abuse.
“I definitely don’t want to be a figurehead,” the rapper explains. “But when it comes to kids’ starvation, poverty, racism, or other inequalities in society – or even just people that use their power for personal gain – that’s something I’ll talk about.”
And the hope is that he can help to change things. Interestingly, SONGER thinks of his lyrics as being akin to diary entries. As a result, a song that came out months ago might no longer represent his point of view.
“That’s another thing where anxiety comes in,” he smiles, “but you have to be faithful that common sense will prevail a lot of the time. People can change.”
Change – and grow. That’s been SONGER’s own experience.
“If you’re constantly scared about changing your opinions,” he observes, “then you’ll probably never have one in the first place.”
Which is the kind of brave attitude we’ll likely need in the year ahead.
2023 may well be turbulent – but with SONGER making waves, it’ll be fascinating too. Stay tuned.
The Hot Press Hot for 2023 issue is out now, starring The Murder Capital and Sam Smith.