Interview: Logan talks Lord of the Mics, Idris Elba and life as a world-class athlete

All photos © Luke Ballance.

Self-proclaimed 'new generation grime scene leader' Logan is a man of many talents: MC, producer, videographer, studio engineer, personal trainer and athlete. The dreadlocked North West Londoner has taken the grime scene by storm after two years of relentlessly appearing on radio sets – including one occasion on which he infamously slept overnight at Mode FM – and has carved a name for himself as one of the genre's brightest new talents.

He recently collaborated with Kouslin for "Weh Mi Come From", a track crafted specifically for Idris Elba's YARDIE concept album, and has also gone head-to-head with Armz in a huge, yet-to-be-seen Lord of the Mics clash, slated for release at the end of the month. I join the 28-year-old at his local sports centre in Willesden Green, where he once trained his way up to become one of the fastest sprinters of his age in the UK, and where he now teaches youngsters his sporting secrets. Today, it's me he's educating – with a closer look at the man behind the music.

What music did you grow up listening to?

A lot, you know. I had the reggae influence from my parents, but mainly, me, what I was listening to the most was 90s R&B, hip hop and a lot of dancehall from my uncles. Missy Elliot was a big influence for me; Busta Rhymes; Timbaland on the production side. On the dancehall side, it was Bounty Killer; Lexxus; Vybz Kartel; Beenie Man; Ninjaman; Super Cat; Sean Paul.

And then when did grime come into your life?

I was in year 7 when I made my first instrumental, and that was in 2002.

Were you a grime vinyl collector as a kid?

I wasn't personally. My uncles were in-house DJs so they used to collect and play a lot of garage vinyl, at that stage where it was changing [into grime] – So Solid and that stuff. In primary school, people was just playing games in the playground, but when I went to secondary school, that's when I started and all the older kids were MCing.

One of my friends gave me a cracked version of Fruity Loops 3. I didn't know what I was doing, but I just started making beats. The MCing came a few months after, but I was making beats first.

That's interesting, 'cause I've found plenty of beats on your old Bandcamp under the name Logan Sylvester.

Oh gosh! [laughs] Yeah, that was when I started coming back to music again. I stopped 'cause I was doing track and field – athletics – and I was doing good in that so I didn't have time. I was doing music in my bedroom.

What were you up to on the athletics front?

At the time, well, 2012, I was ranked in the top ten in the country. Under-23 age group, I was top two at a point. I was like twelfth in Europe, so I was doing alright. I was travelling; I was going to America to train. Basically, you see the music circuit? I see going radio as training and then the live performance as races. It's weird. I was here [at Willesden Green Sports Centre] training six or seven days a week. And then during competing season, you might train four times a week but then compete every weekend.

That's mad. So how much of that do you still do?

I'm here coaching the younger athletes a lot now. I'm here training – mainly I'm just in the gym at the moment. I'm here three times a week. I do my odd runs with the kids, but I'm unfit 'cause I got injured. I tore my tendon in 2014, so that literally took me out when I was doing quite good.

What a shame! Which races were your specialities?

My preferred race was the 200m, but I did the 100m as well to keep my speed up and 400m for endurance. I like the 200m most because I'm a slow starter, so you'd never see me at the front of the race unless I was racing people totally slower than me. But people the same speed as me? They'll leave me for dust. 200m gives me enough time to get into my speed and hold it, 'cause I can hold my speed better than other athletes. When I get there, I'm fine.

Recently, you've been making a lot of dubstep and also a couple of UK funky tunes. Are these new genres to you, or have you always been interested in those scenes?

The newest thing to me would be the dubstep. The funky stuff is new as well, 'cause I hadn't actually voiced anything on them, but it's something I've always wanted to do. School days, I was doing the grime stuff, and then while I was doing athletics I started rapping and messing around with other tempos.

I've found dubstep a bit easier because it's the same tempo. It's just a bit different in terms of how you would approach a beat. I know the dubstep listeners like their beats a lot, so you don't wanna go crazy and put so much lyrics in that they can't hear the beat. It's almost as if I have to space everything out. I'm always thinking about the people listening. I'm still learning new tekkers, new techniques, but yeah... the dubstep world is something that I wanna do a lot more of. The funky house is just fun. I enjoy it. It's a bit slower, but it's just me experimenting.

How did "Weh Mi Come From" and Idris Elba's 'YARDIE' mixtape come together?

Basically, hold tight Jack Dat. He put me and Kouslin in contact with each other. We ended up getting a Pirate Studios session, where we made "Bad". I came with the bars, Kouslin came with the track he'd produced, and then I voiced it. He did some rearranging, so the beginning bit where he's put a filter over it  where I'm like "trendsetter, the flow setter" – was a part of the [original] hook.

If you don't know, Idris Elba DJs, and he plays some of Kouslin's beats. One night, Kouslin was like "are you free for studio tomorrow? Idris Elba's hollered at me for a track about the YARDIE movie and he wants you to voice it. You've gotta watch the film and then spit as if you're one of the characters". I was thinking oh gosh, you're giving me homework now! So he sent me the link and I watched the film twice, just to make sure I knew what was going on – at like four in the morning.

I only had a sixteen bar. I went studio with Kouslin and got everything I'd done down. Kouslin did some re-arranging again, and then we sent off the demo to Idris and the team with fingers crossed. They said "yeah, we love it! Come back to Idris's studio and get it recorded properly." A week or two after that, we went to Idris's studio and put it down. And then they were like "yeah, you guys made it onto the project!"

You say you're playing a character on "Weh Mi Come From", but on the song you mention your genuine West Indies roots. Is your Grenadan ancestry something that's important to you?

Yeah, it is. 'Cause of the way I'm doing the yardman style as well, a lot of people probably think 'is he Jamaican?' Nah, I just know about the culture and I like the sound of it. I grew up on it! So that's why that song was a bit tekky for me, 'cause it was a yardie song, about the movie, which is based in Jamaica. I was thinking 'how can I actually do this without saying I'm from Jamaica, 'cause then everyone's gonna start chatting shit?' The culture's all the same, to be fair. Grenada, Trinidad, Barbados, St. Lucia, it's all the same in the Caribbean.

So I first heard of you through Hell In A Cell...

Oh. [laughs]

That was quite something, the first one. Was it your first ever clash?

Yeah, that was my first time clashing. I'd never even done a one-on-one clash. I went to my first radio set in August 2016, so at that time, I was like a baby. I probably went to about five sets in 2016, 'cause I obviously knew finding sets was hard. It was only like 2017 I started really going along.

So [at Hell In A Cell], I was just nervous. I've only really started getting comfortable now. Even now, certain times, I get nervous before live performances. I was alright with the lead-up, and then I got there on the day and I just duppied myself! [laughs] The bars I had were fine; it was just too early for me. But it was a good experience.

It was weird 'cause when it happened, a lot of guys was like 'this guy's done out here'; 'you got merked'. I know that energy. And I'm thinking 'you don't even know...'. In athletics, I've been through races and situations where I'm the third or fourth fastest in a race and it's the final. To qualify. The pressure's different, innit? I've had mad losses and mad wins, so in athletics you've just gotta bounce back. There was a race from the under-23 championships where I should have came second and I came fourth. Afterwards, you've just gotta bounce back, 'cause there's other races.

Clearly you've impressed, 'cause obviously you're on Lord of the Mics now...

Yeah! Jammer called me in December and said 'do you wanna clash on Lord of the Mics?'. Initially, I said 'no, I'm not even on it'. And I thought I'd be on it! He was like 'ahh, now come on, you're one of the new guys I've been seeing! I've been hearing about you and it'll be a good opportunity'. I was like 'thank you, I appreciate it, but I don't know if I wanna do it.' He was like 'ahh, come on, man' and I said 'when are you looking to do it?' He said March. I said 'do you know what? Call me back closer to the time and I'll see, innit, but at the moment? Nah.' Two weeks later – January now – he called me again and said "GHSTLY [XXVII]'s said he wants to clash you. He already said yes." So in my head, I'm thinking if I say no now, I'm a wasteman! I said OK cool, GHSTLY's a sick MC.

I went to America on January 11th with Treble Clef and Micofcourse, so I was like 'perfect – I'm away, I can write my bars'. That happens. While I'm out there, GHSTLY does a little Instagram video: "The guy with blue dreads? When he comes back from his holiday, I'm gonna spin him." Fast forward to January Grime Originals, when I'm back, and we're on the same lineup. I see him backstage, we talk and everything's fine. We said "yeah, let's put on a good show at Lord of the Mics", rer rer rer. Anyway, onstage he ended up cussing me. I got him on the night, and then our clash was supposed to be four weeks from then, in March.

Then, a week and a half before the clash? Couldn't hear from him. Deleted his Instagram. Deleted his Twitter. Jammer was like 'I can't hear from him. I don't know where he is.' So for me, he ran away. I wasn't chatting. He was the one that said he wanted to clash me. Then he's coming back saying "I told Jammer get someone worthy" [on new war dub "Smoke Bacon"], but no, you said you wanted to clash me. So I don't know what he's talking about, but he's just gonna get air from me.

How are you feeling about the Armz clash?

We had six days to prepare for the clash, so big up Armz, 'cause he didn't have to jump in. At the same time, I'm probably a bit more war-ready for a clash than him, 'cause he wasn't even supposed to be in it. My mind was still in war mode. So I said "look, let's just put on a good show". I still won that, but it's not the clash that everyone wanted to see. Did what I could do in six days... I had to change all my bars!

Good man. One thing that I never understood about TheOtherSide is that you seem to do all your videos under that name as well. So is it an MC collective and videography collective too?

Yeah... it's a weird thing, you know. Before I entered the grime scene, it was my friend. One of my boys, Skenzo [Illstar]. He doesn't do music now himself, but he was always screaming "TheOtherSide". At first, I didn't like it. I was like "what are you talking about?" And then it just grew on me. I started making bars: "it's Logan from TheOtherSide". 

The only reason why it stuck with me was because when I came into grime, I didn't really meet no one from this side of London; North West. The only people that there really was was, like, Flirta D. But no one my age was around. There's a few people now. So I was like you know what? We're obviously on TheOtherSide, innit? It's something I just screamed. It's me and JoSo[Sick].

I do all the videos in terms of editing. If it's my stuff, I don't shoot myself. I'll get any random one of my friends, whoever's free on the day, to shoot the video for me. I'll just school them through it; talk them through – but I'm still learning myself.

Do you think that Keep Hush have had a role in your rise? Obviously, they've put you on a lot of recent sets, and plus you were involved in their '100% Heat' mixtape last month.

Yeah, hold tight Fred and Freddy. Hold tight the whole gang. They've been showing love from early. I've just been on so much of them I can't even remember. Time after time. With the 100% Heat thing, I was just going through Instagram when I saw the advertisement. They'd got a competition where if you submit your song, they'll review it and if you win you get a chance to be on the mixtape. The day before submissions closed, I uploaded a few of my songs, and they were like "you made it". Hold tight the guys, man, 'cause they've just shown me nothing but love and they've helped me a lot. A lot of the people that listen to my music... I realise that I had people listening to me from Keep Hush. I'd get in there, and people would be like 'Logan! Logan!'

You had some die-hard fans at fabric in May as well. Looking around, it seemed nearly everyone at the front knew your bars.

That confused me! Keep Hush and Grime Originals. That's when I realised 'whoa, people actually know your bars!' It's weird. It still confuses me now. I'll start spitting and I'll see people spitting line-for-line. They made me realise 'rah, you've got something there'!

Have you got any more shows lined up that you'd like to mention?

I'm off to Croatia for Outlook Festival in September. I've got NASS Festival this weekend. That's through Kouslin – got a set with him, so that's gonna be an interesting experience. I've got a few things including something potentially happening that's quite big in November. It's not confirmed, so I don't wanna say, but it should be happening.

I'm not gonna lie... with all these shows, barring the festivals and that, everything's a bit last-minute. Not that it's a problem, but I'll know like a week or two before, sometimes five days before. I just go with the flow, man, unless I've known in advance. But a lot of the stuff I do happens to be in the right place at the right time.

What does OLM stand for?

Official Logan Music. I've just got it there so everyone knows it's me, because there's how much Logans? I used to be called Darkness back in school days, but when I came in properly, I was like 'right, I need to change that', as there's already Darkness the producer and he's already doing bits. I didn't wanna make up a new name, so I just used Logan Sylvester – my dad's family name and my mum's family name. But then I cut the Sylvester out and just said Logan. 

Lastly, what can we expect from you musically in the near future?

I've got a dubsteppy six-track EP with Yama and Mezu, two badboy producers. That'll be coming out this year sometime, hopefully just before Outlook. I've got a joint EP with Micofcourse coming out this year... that's happening. Haven't got the name yet but I've got the tracks and everything; need to finalise everything now. I've got a hell of a load of singles coming out. I think the next thing I've got coming out is with Trends, called "Ready for the War" – as usual, you know? [laughs]. Got the video done already, so it's ready to roll now. As soon as I release this next video, it's gonna be like last year. Every month, a new track and new video from Logan.

Sounds like you're keeping busy! Looking forward to hearing the results. Thanks for your time.

 Find Logan on Twitter and Instagram for more updates, and look out for his appearance on Lord of the Mics VIII, dropping Friday 9 August.