London-based rapper Potter Payper remains authentically himself as he leads the charge for UK rappers on the international stage


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London-based rapper Potter Payper remains authentically himself as he leads the charge for UK rappers on the international stage

Brought up in Barking, East-London by an Irish mother and Algerian father, Potter Payper has found comfort on the microphone since he was 10-years-old. Now known for his highly personal musical style that reflects his life experiences, Potter released his first mixtapes,‘The Philosophers Chrome’, ‘Training Day’, and ‘Training Day 2’ in 2010, 2013, and 2018 respectively. It wasn’t until 2020, however, that he began to pursue music professionally. Since then, Potter hasn’t looked back: He was featured on Ed Seeran’s track ‘2 Step’, performed at the MOBO Awards, and released his much-anticipated mixtape ‘Thanks For Waiting’, featuring artists including NSG, M Huncho, and Digga D, in 2021.

Throughout his career, Potter has stayed true to his authentic perspective, and continues to focus on putting his artistic integrity first. In line with his A COLORS SHOW performance of ‘Real Back In Style’, we spoke to Potter about maintaining independence in the music industry, paving the way for UK rappers to take to the international stage, his much anticipated album, and how, after all this time, he’s still the same old Potter Payper.

Where does your artist name, Potter Payper, come from?

When I was younger, people used to call me Potter. My glasses and hair at the time made me look a lot like Harry Potter. When I started rapping, it was best to just go with the name that most people knew me by. The Payper part started as a mistake when someone uploaded my song ‘Paper Chasing’ to YouTube. Thinking that the title was just ‘Chasing’, they wrote Potter Paper as my artist name. It just kind of stuck. I thought if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I don’t mind a bit of paper being attached to my name.

What is your first musical memory? 

My mom and dad lived in different homes; the contrast between them and the music people listened to was apparent. In my estate in East London, people would play music all the time out of their windows and cars. It was mostly 90s hip-hop, like 50 Cent, Eminem, and Snoop Dogg. They also played some R&B artists like Ashanti. My mom was heavy into reggae and dancehall music, while my Dad, being Algerian, played North African music as well as garage, Drum’n’bass, and early grime. As a result, growing up I had a wide spectrum of influence from various genres. I wanted to be like the guys in music videos, with their jewelry, cars, women, and houses. To me, they represented the guys on my estate who were earning money. Those guys imitated the videos, and I imitated them in return. It was like a third-hand imitation. Either way, that influenced me and made me who I am today.

When and why did you start making music yourself? 

I’ve been getting on the microphone since I was around 10-years-old, in youth clubs and at my friend’s house with DJ decks, so I’m no stranger to it. Maybe it was because of my appearance or upbringing, but for whatever reason, I felt that my only place was on the mic. That became my escape from reality. I didn’t start to take it seriously as a profession until 2020. When I was in prison, I started to put my music on streaming services. Through that, I saw the power of owning my own music, and that I could use it to sustain myself. Since then, I’ve never looked back: this is just the beginning for me, even though I’ve been making music for so long.

Did your thematic or stylistic approach to music change when you came out of prison and started to take it more seriously?

What I aim for now is not what I aimed for then. At that time, even though I was relatively successful, and people listened to my music, it wasn’t mainstream. As rappers in the UK, none of our music is mainstream, apart from drill and more melodic music. I want to make rap popular. I’m hoping my album opens doors for me as well as other artists that have the same sound as me.

How would you describe your current sound?

My music is all about authentic storytelling. I share stories from the places that most people’s eyes don’t get, or most people’s feet don’t walk. People know about poverty, social inequality, violence, murder, and drugs, but when I rap, it’s like a documentary that shows listeners another side of things. I could rap about anything, but then it wouldn’t be my sound. My sound comes from my heart and experience.

Who are some of your biggest influences?

What American rapper, entrepreneur, and activist Nipsey Hussle stood for really inspires me. In general, I’m inspired by people that don’t quit, people who stand firm in their beliefs and won’t be moved. I’m inspired by people that come from similar situations to me, who have been in and out of the social care system, or in and out of prison, but still manage to maintain a positive and purposeful life and give back. Good people do bad things all the time, and bad people do good things all the time. I’m inspired by the bad people that do good things.

Some of your early mixtapes include ‘The Philosophers Chrome’ (2010), ‘Training Day’ (2013), and ‘Training Day 2’ (2016). How have you developed as an artist since these projects?

Incredibly. It goes beyond my artistry, I’ve grown as a human being. I can’t even listen to my first mixtape anymore, but it reflects who I once was and how far I’ve come. I’m like a fine wine just getting better with age.

“I’m inspired by people that don’t quit, people who stand firm in their beliefs and won’t be moved.”

Earlier this year you released ‘Same Old PP’. In what ways are you still the same old Potter Payper? 

I am who I am unapologetically. I have good days and bad days, and I tell you about them all through my rap. My music is so personal to me that the only way that it could change is if I consciously changed as a person. I’ve stayed the same by maintaining my integrity and standing by what I believe in.

You’ve worked with artists such as NSG, M Huncho, Digga D and many more. How do you identify the artists you want to feature and work with? 

Firstly, I look for authenticity in what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. That goes hand in hand with integrity. I also just like working with cool people. For me, working with others is about more than just music. That’s why these qualities are so important.

Do you have any dream collaborators?

My dream collaborator is Adele. If I could get her on a hook, we’d make the universe cry. I’d also love to work with Lewis Capaldi. I love anyone that’s got soul and pain in their voice. In terms of rappers, there’s a few I’m looking forward to working with. There’s one French rapper I want to work with called Niro.

Tell us about your single ‘Corner Boy’. What was the inspiration behind the track? 

The local corner shop is a staple of London life, so the concept behind the track is typical street British culture. In a corner shop, you see a complete cross section of society, from kids buying groceries to people congregating, older kids smoking, dealing drugs, or the police standing nearby. One of the lines from the song is: “I swear I seen it all at my corner shop.” On the same day, I’ve seen seen a man help an old lady move her bags, and someone get stabbed. The shop owner, better known as “the boss man”, builds relationships with his community and he sees people grow up. He might even see your kids grow up. The track is all about those relationships and communities.

What is the highlight of your career to date?

One was performing at the MOBO awards. That was massive for me, because I used to watch it from my jail cell. I would watch all the legends that I listened to growing up winning awards. I was so proud to perform ‘Gangsteritus’—a track that meant I could be myself and didn’t have to conform—on that stage. My friends, who are still in prison, called me the next day to say they saw me on TV. They couldn’t believe I was there. It was a surreal moment.

Another highlight was performing with Ed Sheeran at Radio 1’s Big Weekend. He brought me out, and we performed in front of 80,000 people. To stand on the side of the stage and watch him perform songs that I’ve listened to my whole life, and to then go on and perform myself was insane. It’s given people so much inspiration and hope that they can achieve so much, musically or otherwise. You can be a star, you can be successful, and you can be free.

Making my latest album has also been a big highlight. I talk about integrity, authenticity, and all of the other values I uphold. Getting my album accepted and released, against the criticism I faced, is vindicating for me. It makes me feel like I was right to stand by my beliefs and not to change. I’m excited for people to hear it so they can see that I maintained my integrity as an artist and a person.

What have been the biggest challenges in your career?

My biggest challenge in life has been poverty. No one’s got money where I’m from. The only way you can get it is by getting a job to scrape by or resorting to crime. Now that I’ve had relative success with music, I’m financially stable and I don’t necessarily need to do any of the things I used to. The question is: where do I go from here? I wasn’t meant to get here. The industry, the government, the police, social services, Her Majesty’s Prison Service, and all of the agencies I’ve come into contact with my whole life wrote me off as someone that was just going to be nothing. Even though I know that no one expected me to amount to anything, I still want to be the biggest and the best thing that anyone’s ever seen. So the biggest challenge for me was the struggle within myself to push through my self doubt, and to build the self worth I needed to captain my own ship confidently.

I might have the occasional off day, but I fully believe in myself. I believe I’m the best,not just in music, but in business as well. I’ve got my own label 36 The Label, and lots of ideas about how to reshape the UK industry to benefit artists. Artists and producers are the creators, so we should get the most out of our work and should be getting the biggest split of the profits. We shouldn’t be put into debt. Culture relies on us, not the execs. You can translate this principle to other areas. As a population, we don’t rely on our government, the government relies on us. We are the majority and we put the government in charge. The truth is, if people stay together, are good to each other, clean-hearted, authentic, and have integrity, then we can run the world.

“If people stay together, are good to each other, clean-hearted, authentic, and have integrity, then we can run the world.”

Tell us about the song you performed for COLORS.

It’s the intro to my album. I tried to write it in a way that tells my whole story without glamorizing it. In the past, I made a lot of poor decisions that affected a lot of people. I didn’t want to play that down or act like those experiences didn’t happen. The intro was written from a place of raw expression. Everyone will understand the words coming out of my mouth, but the deeper meaning is for the people that can relate to my experiences. My A COLORS SHOW is for my core fanbase that have been with me since my first mixtape and have seen me go from zero to hero.

Is there one lyric in the song which is particularly meaningful or important to you?

At one point, I say: “There’s one of me and there’s five of them. I bring my knees to my chest and I rise again.” Metaphorically it’s about dusting yourself off and getting back up when you’re down. In a UK prison, if you get into trouble, they use control and restraint. There’s only one of you and there’s always five prison officers who get you on the floor and instruct you to lie flat on your belly with your hands behind your back. Then they say: “Bring your knees to your chest and stand up.” You can’t use your hands, and if you don’t act accordingly you’re back on the floor again. That lyric pertains to that protocol. When someone recognises that situation, whether they have been in prison or they work as an officer, it creates a shared experience and provokes a conversation about the establishment through my music. 

If you could send one message to your fans right now, what would it be? 

Music is leverage. Don’t rap to get a deal, be your own deal. Don’t work so hard and build your buzz just to hand it over to someone else to benefit from it. If someone pays for your studio session, they own your masters. Rap is the new trap. Get busy.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I hope to push forward our collective effort, and to put my peers and I at the forefront of international hip-hop. I am always going to rap, but now that I’ve released a large body of work, the business side of music intrigues me more. I want to address a number of issues in the industry including inequality, its disconnection from actual people, executives in powerful positions, and the exploitation of vulnerable people. That’s what I’m here to change. I hope that 36 The Label, the artists we put out, and the relationships we maintain, my management group, and the team I surround myself with are the next wave of this industry. Get with us or get rolled over.

Potter Payper is a London-based rapper whose debut A COLORS SHOW dropped on 15th May 2023. You can watch the full performance on our YouTube channel.

Text: Emily May and Maryam Tuggar
Videography: Lucie Leichsering
Video editing: Katia Fisenko


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