Interview: Wize speaks on his classic remixes, creative aspirations and drill's link to grime

2021 is set to be a massive year for Wize. With his incredible series remixing classic freestyles, a new radio show on Reprezent and an ever-growing audience of supporters, its undeniable that big things are on the horizon. We caught up with Wize to learn more about his musical inspirations, how he sees the relationship between grime and drill, and what he hopes to achieve in the future...

First off, what inspired you to start doing these remixes?

I’ve been a follower of Knxwledge for a while, a producer from America. He’s been doing edits of old-school Smack DVD freestyles of Meek Mill, Cassidy and stuff like that for ages. I’d never really seen anyone from the UK really tackle it. I somehow stumbled upon how he was removing the beat from the original freestyle videos and said I have to have a try, I’ve got to give this a go. Ghetts was the first one I attempted it with and it was surprisingly clean. To be honest, the Nocturnal instrumental that was in the back originally… To be able to remove those kinds of frequencies was kind of astounding to me. Later on, I found out that Douvelle19 is another person that’s been doing edits over here before me, so big him up too.

Do you have a favourite or standout remix that you’ve done?

That Skepta and Wiley one was a bit fluky because I was listening back to it like, how is it so clean? The flows that they chose to use on that day, it was foreshadowing drill or something. I just followed a very simple drill drum pattern and their flow sat on it perfectly, so really its just a testament to how ahead of its time grime is to be honest.

People are always saying which freestyle or MC to do next in the comments. Do you take notice of that, or do you just do your own thing?

It’s a bit of both. To be honest with you, there was a point when I was basing it a lot on the suggestions, but what I think the audience doesn’t realise that some I actually can’t do because there is just too much background noise, the vocal’s already too low in the video, they’ve got it blasting off some crazy soundsystem and it’s distorted from 2005, compressed a million times… I can’t do nothing with this! But there are certain gems, like the Practice Hours with Wiley and Skepta, for example, where everything was just perfectly levelled, it’s like it was meant to be.

How much should we look at drill as a style and offshoot of grime?

I think it’s the same thing, man. Look, you guys just talk about killing each other more than they did before. Before, they was talking about how sick their flows were, how they was going to take your girl and various few other topics that were bought up a lot. Now, it’s more clout oriented and it shows in the music, and you think that’s a whole new genre. You’re just using 808s – 808s have been round since the 80s, you know what I mean? You’re using oldschool sounds and trying to call it something new. I understand because it’s a lifestyle. I look at the drill scene and even aesthetically its different to what grime is, but sonically I don’t feel like there's that much difference. It’s not defined by the tempo, its more so defined by the culture and we come from the same place. We come from estates, council flats. So what’s different?

Ultimately, we’ve always had that though, haven’t we? I would say at a very early point garage saw grime like that - it was "dark garage" or whatever. But the access to the technology to create those things, it’s different now. Having a dude with a setup in his crib in 2005 was a lot less common than in 2021, when a guy with his laptop can sit and watch one tutorial, and now he’s a producer. So I think it’s a lot to do with that. It’s cool to pick out the correlation between the two. People are realising more and more that its not that dissimilar. When I put these grime acapellas on these drill beats, its doesn’t sound weird for a reason.

You did a vlog on YouTube and you’re doing some streaming on Twitch, too. Do you see yourself as wanting to branch out and be content creator rather than just a producer? Is that something you’re looking at doing more?

You’re bang on. I’m a heavy content consumer and one thing I’ve always done as a creative, what I’ve done is try to make the things that I like. That’s pretty much it - I’m acting out the things that I would want to see. For example, the edits. I would love to hear some of those old things revamped - go and do it. I watch loads of producer content on YouTube. There’s a guy called Ocean I watch a lot. He breaks down his beats, he makes beats, stuff like that. I really want to be that guy, that face, and I’ve always wanted to shine light on people and have the platform to do so. I guess I’m building that.

Had you done that face-to-camera style before you did the vlog?

I don’t know. I’m a weird guy, I’ll wake up one day and be like, you know what I fancy doing? I don’t think I’ve ever really played with that before. With video content in general, I feel like my show that was on Boiler Room, Crowdsourced, where I bought producers on to make beats and that… That’s a two hour long show, and it’s live. I feel like doing the helped me gain the confidence in front of camera. I built a personality around that. That was my first foray into video content.

I saw you put out a Legend of Zelda-inspired beat, and saw you making music on Mario Paint as well. Do you take inspiration from gaming and video game music?

I went through a whole era of people saying my music sounds like its from a game. When I was big on SoundCloud, from like 2015 to 2019, I was going for a lot of that whole retro synth sound. Kind of inspired by the kind of thing Joker does, or Swindle. The melodies they use are very retro and playful, very rhythmic. I’ve always taken influence from games I used to play. Back in the day, a song in a game would loop for ages. There’s not much memory on those little cartridges, so you’re getting a 30 second 8-bit loop. You’re going to know it, its in your head, its ingrained. I think I did that enough where it started coming out in my music.

For me, it’s probably the Pok√©mon soundtrack. Those really infectious sounds that get in there and just stick.

This is exactly it, and it’s fascinating to me to think about the limited equipment they had and what you were creating with it. Back then, on Gameboy especially, I believe it was only 4 voices you could have going at the same time, 4 different instruments. How on earth are you layering, creating chords and creating such a beautiful masterpiece with only 4 8-bit sounds? It’s insane.

Can you see yourself not just doing remixes inspired by video games, but doing actual soundtrack work in the future? Is that something that interests you?

I would love to, man! If I knew how, I would leave it all and go work for Nintendo, I’m telling you. Where’s the point of access? I wish I knew.

What are you most likely to be listening to day to day?

Right now, I’m heavy into the whole Upstate New York sound. Griselda Records, Roc Marciano, 38 Spesh, Trust Gang, all of that. That’s my bag right now. But it depends, if I get up and its edit day, I put myself in edit mode. I’m going to find the backup grime channels like Off The Radar, go and listen to the classics to get some inspiration. I guess I put myself in modes. Some days it’s a lot of the more smoother jazz hiphop sounds, sample-based East Coast stuff, sometimes its just grime or drill.

If you were going to name an underrated grime producer who hasn’t had the recognition you think they deserve, who would you say? If there was going to be a history book of grime production, who needs to in be there that you wouldn’t trust the writer to include?

Can I say two? First of all, Flukes. Flukes 100% inspired the hell out of me as a kid. Melodically, the kind of styles he was using, hip-hop soundbanks but making grime with it - it was crazy. I’ve always found him sort of otherworldly. Secondly, DaVinChe. I think DaVinChe is an unspoken legend. I think he was one of the first people to take grime to the next level, to the point where it could be played on radio and it didn’t sound weird playing with pop music. I don’t feel like people really know too much about him. There are legends that stand out that people pay homage to, but DaVinChe and Flukes for me.

And if I asked the same thing for MCs?

For MCs, I think Maxsta doesn’t get enough love for how long he’s been about and what he’s done. I also think I’m going to say Lil Nasty. I always thought he was so strong on every set, I feel like he stood out so well. Being related to Griminal, maybe he didn’t get as much of a look in. But I always thought he was just so sick.

What’s your favourite grime beat of all time?

Of all time, it’s Dot Rotten, “Hoody and Hats”. That beat right there is absolutely ridiculous. The way he’s chopped that Arabian sample… And then the drum pattern he used. If you listen to the skip, it’s a precursor to drill, and even now it’s my training beat. When I’m writing my bars and preparing for a set, I’m slapping that beat on. 

What can we expect from you in the future? What are you aiming for?

I’m releasing a project with my friend’s label Truth-Hz. It’s dope. For the rest of the year, you can be sure that I’ll be on there with the content, that’s all I can say.

Find Wize on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates on his future projects.