May 11, 2013 1 comment

Over the last 12 months Cam Toman AKA Mad Brains has really risen up the ranks of the London rap scene. The 21 year old makes music that is welcome to many a tired ear, no gimmicks, no jokes, no stupid voices – just good tunes and blissful rhymes. With numerous scintillating live shows under his belt, Mad Brains’ debut mixtape ZADES has finally been released, and you need to wrap it round your ears.

For a debut mixtape, it’s pretty freaking good. Featuring faultless MF Doom and Mr Scruff productions, the 9 track offering doesn’t compromise. ZADES sees Mad Brains effortlessly flow over each track; his lyrics are artistic and intelligent, and undoubtedly influenced by real life happenings. The mixtape slashes and burns genres, ‘Blowpane’ is grimy in the best way whilst Doom productions ‘Bobby’s Backpack’ and ‘Too Much Rum, Hush’ have that wonderfully playful hip hop sound, evocative of something out of the Stones Throw stable.

First single Buggin’ kicks back, lifting only with a weary swagger and a frustrated anger whilst Mad Brains tell us of the inevitable repetition of life. I caught up with the man himself to pick his er, Mad Brains (bad pun, I’m sorry).

L: Alright Cam aka Mad Brians, ZADES is your debut mixtape but your presence has been making ripples on the London rap scene for a while, how and when did it all start?

MB: I originally began mcing over donk tracks playing on someone’s Sony Ericson in the park when I was like 14. Embarrassing I know, but that’s the north for you haha. I actually started writing lyrics a couple years after. I moved down south two years back to do music journalism at UCA, through that I met the right people to kick start my rap career. Ricci Queens and J-Flowz (Sonne Bien) have been like big brothers to me, they have showed me the ropes in London, I wouldn’t be where I am without those two. My first performance was an event called ‘Master of Freestyle’ in XOYO, I won the competition and from then began recording my own material.

L: Sounds like you’ve definitely made the best of your opportunities! As you said, you work closely with the Sonne Bien collective, releasing debut track ‘Smoking Section’ with Ricci Queens and J-Flows, can we expect more collaborations on ZADES or is this a one man show?

MB: Well Zades is finished off now, but there will one hundred per cent be more collaborations with the three of us. Maybe Smoking Section pt.2 who knows…

L: Exciting stuff…Zades, your debut mixtape is lyrically adept, feeling raw and anecdotal in character. ‘Buggin’ for example is highly intelligent in its wordplay and has an undeniable realness to it. Do you base your lyrics on observations or experience?

MB: When I write lyrics it is totally based on the feel of the track. An instrumental can take me to a completely separate space of thought, Buggin for example is a dark sounding which creates an eerie atmosphere when listening. Buggin is based on observation through experience if that makes sense? It is me taking a step back and analysing some of the harsh realities of my past and the current state of our generation.

L: The artwork featured on ZADES is by the Pillas Bros, known for their previous Wu-Tang collabs. How did that come about?

MB: I was travelling for a few months and I ended up in Inglewood Los Angeles of all places. I met them both there and they had a minivan so I jumped in with them for a while and explored the coast. They are great friends and we are sure to collaborate more in the future.

L: That’s made me ridiculously jealous and sounds like a story that has more between the lines! Anyway, enough tales of minivan adventure, let me pick your brains on hip hop… It’s been argued that music, especially Hip Hop has suffered ‘Style over Substance’ recently, with a plethora of artists out there now copying the same image and pedalling the same message, changing only the design on their tye-dye tops. Would you agree?

MB: Completely! I wrote an article based on the ‘glamorisation of weed in hip hop’ which touches on how hip hop has lost all lyrical substance because rappers are just talking about weed and chains now. But it does genuinely frustrate me the way the hip hop is going, I fully explain my views on this topic in my song ‘Grenade’.

L: Yes as soon as I heard Grenade I found myself excitedly agreeing with every statement. It’s a crying shame… Any summer shows or festivals in the pipeline?

MB: I moved to Barcelona a week ago to write for a magazine called Relevant BCN, so through that I am slowly making contacts for gigs through the summer.

L: Ah, so maybe some Spanish flows could be on the horizon? How have you found the music scene over there (so far)?

MB: Well as I said I have only been here for one week, but I can definitely see a lot of potential out here. I am really excited about recording new material and doing some shows in the sun!

L: Sounds like the one, Sea, Sun and Spitting bar. Anyway, We’re all much done here but It’s gotta be asked: Junk Food of choice?

MB: Salt and pepper mice with a glass of scotch.

As you can see, Mad Brains is a classy fellar. Keep your ear to the ground and eyes peeled for more from this guy.