Interview: Speaking with Shotty Horroh

There’s a real problem going on in the UK and it feels that apart from a select few, the music scene isn’t really doing anything about it. Well, that’s about to change as Manchester born and bred, Battle Rap living legend, and one of the best lyricists in the game; Shotty Horroh has got his sights set on Mrs May.

If you’re unaware of Shotty as the above I implore you to take yourself off to Google, have a little look around, and return to tell me how right I am. His work and his art is easily summed up in one quote from a friend “imagine you grew up on the same estate as Oasis, but instead of listening to The Beatles all day you were banging out Tupac; that’s Shotty Horroh.”

Having recently moved over to Toronto and away from his dominance in Battle Rap leagues across the globe, Shotty is proving a lot of people wrong with his latest effort ‘Shudehill’. It feels more akin to early-Arctic Monkeys, powerful and unrelenting, imposing and powerful it’s built on his delivery and a crumbling working class.

The track moves Shotty in to a whole new realm, with others previously familiar with him as a more traditional rap artist, though tracks with deadmau5 gained worldwide attention – he is now residing somewhere a little bit unusual (not Toronto) and finds himself squarely in the middle of a band. Leading not only it, but his legions of fans to a more conscious place.

We managed to catch up with Shotty and share a few words about what’s ahead. But firstly, how life in Toronto was and whether or not he missed the UK? “Yeah man, life’s good in Toronto. Beautiful place, beautiful people. I’ve got a lot of friends and my missus is here. Lovely place, just finding a lot of new stuff in Toronto, a lot of cool stuff to do. The music scene is awesome. Definitely miss the UK but it’s to be expected.”

When you’re an artist like Shotty it’s tough to imagine him anywhere but in Manchester. His Britishness is deeply integrated in to all his work, using his experiences and the society around him to inform his style and delivery. It must’ve been a tough decision to leave. “It was hard to leave the UK. I supposed it was harder when the realization kicked in a few weeks later. At the same time, everyone back home knows I’m on a journey and stuff needs to be accomplished. Every day is fun and challenging so I’m quite preoccupied with the task at hand plus my friends and my missus are here so it feels just like home anyway.”

Confession time: I am a huge fan of Battle Rap. Odd for a suburban kid from a seaside town in the South of England, but is quite simply the fastest, most intense and visceral poetry in motion you’re ever likely to see. With Shotty being a living legend of the scene (his epic bodying of Arsonal is one of my favourite things on the internet. Fact), I couldn’t let the chance pass by without speaking about the scene and finding out when it is we’ll have to stop bringing it up. “At this moment, since that was all I was known for, prior to “Shudehill” and the deadmau5 stuff, a lot of people want to ask me about that which is cool because battle rap was an important part of my time as a rapper and as an adult, I learned a lot of things as a musician. I learned how to deal with hostile crowds, the power of branding, loads of little tricks of the trade.

Super fun, super cool. The people I met, great experiences, I wouldn’t change it for the world to be honest but it’s not really that time to talk about that. I’ve just been there for X amount of years and now is the time to talk about the music really. The battle I have now is with the music industry and the government.”

I tried to find out if he missed the scene which gave him his first bit of limelight, or whether it was all in the past now. “I miss the people but I don’t really miss the atmosphere. It’s not really something I think the spotlight should be put on now. That’s not where the emphasis should be. Right now it’s about making hard hitting music about social awareness. The battle is with myself.”

So, quite rightly on to the new song ‘Shudehill’, it is a sonic departure from Shotty’s previous work, it sees the rapper placed firmly at the helm of his band and delivering machine gun lyrics with a traditional band backing him on every note.

We wondered whether this was just a song or this was a more seismic change for Shotty. “The “Shudehill” song is definitely a departure from stuff you’re used to hearing me do. There will be guitars on everything going forward. You know, this is the genre now, this is the sound now, and it’s perfect to tell the story. It’s the sound I’ve been involved in my whole life so it’s time to put it to the forefront. Plenty of guitars, bass guitars and drums on the next album and the album after.”

The song is one deeply rooted in Manchester’s working class, and was one clearly felt in Shotty’s soul. He told us “It is a deeply personal track. I think I’ve always had my finger on the post to a degree when it came to politics because when you’re the victim of the government you have to be. My people, the voiceless, the unheard, we’ve had to endure this stuff for a while and we’ve had to have our wits about it and know what we’re doing. We’ve always been political, the conversation with a lot of my friends is about social injustices and stuff like that but I feel like now is the time to use my voice especially after the things like the bombing in Manchester arena. I feel like now is the right time to talk about it and the perfect medium for it is Rock & Roll.”

It’s an important message to get out and one that Shotty thinks all artists should be talking about. He said “It’s important to speak out. The world is divided up amongst our lives. You know, you got fans of this guy and fans of that guy and if we could all shed light or raise an issue that people probably weren’t aware of, then we can draw massive attention to certain things. Action can be taken and right now in the social media era, while Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump are taking meetings in The White House, the rest of us need to say our piece too and try to inform the people. That’s our job, we are the whistleblowers.”

The change of pace musically must have changed the creative process and now with a whole band we wondered how it all went down? “Lyrics are important. Melodies are important. Feeling, context, it’s all important. It’s not as simple as you know, lyrics. It’s a crazy intricate tapestry and it takes many years to learn how to weave it correctly, it’s not as simple as the new generation, the auto tune, it’s not that simple. I don’t use beats. Me and my cowriters -when I say co-writers, no one writes my lyrics- my guys will play guitar and I will sit there and try to hum a riff that is stylistic to what we need. You know a lot of the time it will be me telling the boys what to play and them interjecting and changing certain things up. A lot of the times, the boys will come to me with their own riffs but it has to be a certain sound, a certain brit pop sound. Then it goes to Riley for the drums and at any point during this process, I’ll be working on the lyrics. It’s different every time but it’s all organic. I don’t really use beats or downloads beats, that’s not what we do. We are a band that plays every single lick and sings every note.”   

We tried to squeeze on some finer bits of information out of him, but the man is rock solid. However we did find out there’s an album on the way. “There is a new album. Not going to disclose the name right now but it is named. There is a new album and a tour planned. I want to go full steam ahead of it, this is me, and this is the sound. This is my first official album.”

With that said, we couldn’t be more hyped about the new music to come from Shotty. If he manages to keep the same pace as on ‘Shudehill’ the new album will be a bonafide classic and knowing the determination of Shotty it’s probably easier just to say it WILL be a bonafide classic.

For now get in to ‘Shudehill’.

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