06 Apr 2020 Interview: Young T & Bugsey are playing the game correctly and it’s paying off
Much like the name of their hit single, Young T and Bugsey have found value in not rushing. The dynamic duo signed a record deal with Black Butter, home of the likes of J Hus, JAE5 and K Trap, back in 2016. Four years later, they are among the best creators of feel-good, upbeat club bangers and continue to ascend with every new release.
They built an early buzz off of tracks like ‘Glistenin’ and ‘No Mickey Mouse Ting’ during their come-up, both of which had a sizeable impact. The first song helped them to secure them a record deal while the second featured Stormzy in the video. Early on, it was apparent Young T and Bugsey’s hit rate had the potential to be very high, and now, their ability to weave wordplay into catchy melodies has begun to bore fruit.
Having built a name for themselves with a string of increasingly popular singles, the scene knew what they were capable of, but could they standalone and make individual tracks that slap as hard as their features? As their debut mixtape, Plead The 5th, shows, the answer is a resounding yes.
The tape begins with the hugely catchy ‘School Trip’ and is followed by plenty of solo releases to dispel any notion that Young T and Bugsey are only feature artists. The likes of ‘Energy’, ‘Plead The 5th’ and ‘Dreadlocks’ show what they can do on their own, building off their earlier solo releases which we’ve seen across the years.
Despite their debut project being impacted by the coronavirus crisis, Plead The 5th has still caught on among fans worldwide, debuting at #25 in the UK charts. A viral ‘Dont Rush’ challenge has swept Tik-Tok users, and in turn, helped their track ‘Don’t Rush’ hit the #1 spot in iTunes in nine different countries, including Ghana, France and Barbados. The music video for the track has racked up another million views in less than a week, months after its release. Although there is a lockdown right now, you can’t stop good music from spreading, as Young T and Bugsey are proving.
Plugsville caught up with the Nottingham duo in this exclusive Young T and Bugsey interview to discuss the value of showing patience as an artist, their come up and how the coronavirus crisis had impacted the release of their debut project, Plead The 5th.
Let’s throw things back to the earlier days. When did this musical journey begin for you both?
Bugsey – Before we were a duo, we were always making music, we linked up when we were 15 years old, but before that, we were already making music individually. But we started Young T & Bugsey properly when we were 15. We’ve been working together for eight years now.
Talk about what it was like growing up in St Ann’s… what was it like growing up?
Young T – It’s just a hood, init. It’s just a hood. Obviously, St Ann’s is one of the most known hoods in Nottingham, but it’s just a hood. The same old stuff that goes on any bad area, but at the same time, it’s alright init. It’s just a neighbourhood, but obviously, shit happens.
Was there a certain track or moment where you knew this could be a proper career rather than just a hobby?
Bugsey – I feel like we’ve always felt like music would be our full-time career. When we started taking everything seriously, we always felt like we could make a career out of music because that’s what we were doing 24/7. We were only focused on doing music. It wasn’t like we were waiting for a song or a moment, we just always knew we were going to do this and we would eventually get there.
You’ve had some big singles to keep things ticking over, one of which was, Ay Caramba in 2018, which charted at #32 in top 40 and spent 16 weeks in the charts overall. First top 40 single for you guys, how did this track come together?
Bugsey – We already had the track from 2016. We made a track with Toddla T back in 2016 and it was just sitting on our laptop for all that time, then Fredo did a verse for it in 2017 and it eventually came out in 2018. That’s how it came about. The hook and everything was already done. Then Sincere heard about it through our label and later on, it ended up being released and went on to do what it did.
Was there any pressure to drop a project/mixtape before you dropped ‘Plead The 5th’?
Young T – There was pressure but we didn’t really feel it too much. Single by single, a lot of people were asking for a project more and more. To be honest, we could’ve dropped the mixtape ages ago, but it was more our own timing. The tape’s been near enough finalised for how long, it was just about waiting for the right time to drop it.
Where did the title for ‘Plead The 5th’ come from?
Bugsey – We’re from Nottingham so we call Nottingham ‘the 5’. So it’s basically just a smart and cool play on words to pay homage to ‘the 5’, Nottingham.
What made you want to put ‘School Trip’ at the start of the project? I feel like that was a good move to put that track first as it was a very powerful intro…
Bugsey – That’s exactly what we wanted to do. With picking the intro, we thought carefully about which track was going to be the first one. When we were making ‘School Trip’ in the studio, way before we made any tracklist, we knew it would be the intro song for our project when we made it. We felt like it would be sick because of how it starts and as the song goes on, the song gets better and better. So if you start your project that way, you can just take the vibe anywhere else after that because you’ve started it off with a bang. It’s high energy, where it’s not too high energy but it’s just right. Starting with ‘School Trip’ and maintaining that vibe throughout the whole project, that was the aim.
I feel like the mixtape helped to prove your worth as artists on solo tracks, having built a name off of some strong features…
Bugsey – That was the point, that was the exact point. That’s why the tape is not feature-heavy. The only features on there are mainly the ones you’ve already heard, and the Morrisson feature. So you’re gonna have to take us in on this tape. You’re going to have to take in Young T and Bugsey and that’s the whole point.
You guys have good chemistry with hard-hitting rappers spitting that hard stuff like Fredo (Ay Caramba, Bully Beef), Morrisson (Top Boy) and C Biz (Left Right). How are you able to strike that chemistry considering your music styles are quite different?
Bugsey – I would say making the song together and already having an idea of what type of song you could imagine someone jumping on with you. It’s not just about dashing an artist on any song, it’s about thinking ‘okay what type of song are we going to make?’. You have to think about their voice and what they’re actually going to say. We’re all from the same place as well, me, T and even the more road rappers. So even though our music is not traditionally ‘road’, because we’re from the same place, we can all relate when it’s time to make a song. We can still deliver lines and hooks that will relate to a street rapper as well, so we can all mesh it together. We know that we don’t have to be on a track talking bare crud, we can leave that to my man and he can do all the crud. We’ll handle the vibes and the more melodic side to balance out the track. If we’re going to do a song with a more road or street rapper, they can come with that crud talk and do that well, then we do what we do well when you mix that together, it works. Everyone likes a bit of crud and everyone likes vibes, so that’s probably why it works so well.
‘Strike A Pose’ was in the charts for 27 weeks, ‘Don’t Rush’ for 16 and both tracks charted at #9 and #20 respectively. ‘Bully Beef’ also charted in the top #50. What’s the formula for creating club-bangers with longevity?
Bugsey – It’s just not corny, init. I feel like that’s what it is. When we’re making music, we try to make music for the current climate and what’s going on, but it’s not corny, so it lives longer. We’re not rapping corny stuff. The music we’re making, you can have it playing in the background or have it playing in the foreground type of thing, we strike a nice medium with our music I think that’s what it is. Sometimes with club type of songs, sometimes it has a corny element too it, but with our ting, we’re giving you that vibe but there’s still that more mature rap element to it as well. You can tell there’s some intellect with the bars as well, like some may have a double entendre, it keeps you entertained. It’s not too A-B-C, but it’s simple enough that a wide range of people can still digest it. That’s the balance we try to strike, not too A-B-C but still enough to keep people entertained.
How have your plans for this project been impacted by the coronavirus crisis?
Bugsey – Truthfully, it’s been impacted quite heavily. Because we’re from Nottingham as well, we’re back home now. So our movement is super restricted. Every single week we’re down in London, working, whether we’re in the studio or we have a photoshoot or interview or whatever, we’re just active. We’ve always got something to do every single day of the week. With us being on lockdown, we’re back up in Nottingham and just on lockdown like everybody else. We can’t really push the tape how we’d like to. There are so many things we had planned that we now can’t do. Even music videos, we were meant to drop the tape and shoot a music video can be released with the tape, but with this, we can’t really shoot a music video right now to the quality that we would want. A lot of big camera people need a big crew, so it has affected it. But mans not letting it get man down. The tape’s out there now. Once all this stuff’s over, we’ll still be able to push it. It will still do what it was always intended to do. I’m a strong believer in whatever happens is what was meant to happen, so it will still do what it was intended to do for us. We know it’s not our last tape, so we’re still going to come with more tapes in future. We were meant to do a tour at the end of April, parties, meet and greets with the fans, bare stuff. Bare stuff but you can’t dwell on it.
Signed a record deal almost four years ago with Black Butter Records. Now things appear to be coming together. I think the fine-tuning/honing of your craft is very interesting and has paid off. Was this always the plan when you signed – To develop first and release properly later on?
Bugsey – Because we were signed to a label quite early on, we were always going to have to do a lot of developing anyways to get up to the level that’s required. With the past four years, maybe not the last two but the two before, we were just in and out of studio sessions with so many different producers. So many different calibres, so working with so many different types of people, in different environments, helps a lot. Remember, mans from Nottingham init, so we have to come down here, we might be in Tottenham, Peckham, wherever. We’ve grown in life as well, so our music is bound to grow as well. If you can drop three songs in a year, and all three of them are bangers, it’s going to do way more than just dropping 10 songs but only 2 of them are bangers. Your hit and miss ratio is way better, so every time you drop, people know what quality to expect. So with us, when we dropped ‘Glistenin’ then signed not too long after, we had to develop because we were still very early on in our career. And it’s been the best thing for us now because we’ve been about for a minute, but the way we’ve come up and rolled things out in the past year and a half is refreshing. They know Young T and Bugsey now.
You guys must be one of, if not the biggest music acts in the whole of Nottingham now. How have things changed for you in your hometown nowadays?
Young T – We are, still. It’s mad. We changed a lot.
Bugsey – Man don’t really think about it too much. The number of people we’ve inspired, set a blueprint for, opened doors for. Even after us, people got signed. If we never came out and everything we’ve done, Nottingham wouldn’t be where it is. But even me saying that I know in my heart that Nottingham can be way more. There’s way more to do, there are way more people that can elevate the ting. One thing I’m starting to realise in life, it’s not even about doing stuff after you’re done, it’s about doing stuff right now. It’s not about waiting until your peak is over, because you’re most powerful when you’re at your peak, so if you’re at your most powerful, why don’t you try and help people at your most powerful? Once things get even bigger for us, where we’re at right now, we have so many more levels and achievements to hit. All the stuff we plan to do for Nottingham in the future. The story we’re going to be able to tell will be bigger and better than what we’ve done now. We want to make it a thing where people want to do stuff in Nottingham, they want to see what’s going on, beyond just Young T and Bugsey. I think one thing we tried to accomplish when coming up when people think of Nottingham, we wanted people to think of Young T and Bugsey, but I feel like we’ve kind of already accomplished that.
Do you think London artists now have an advantage in not being from London? What are your thoughts about that?
Young T – I think that’s one’s getting a bit done now. It’s a bit dead now. It’s evident now, there’s too much evidence of so many artists outside of London becoming so successful. It’s not even a conversation anymore. There are people like Aitch, who is doing numbers and there’s so much more there for Aitch to still do and achieve. People like Bugzy Malone, he’s doing numbers, still doing numbers. The way it’s even set up is like it’s too far gone now. I’ve just named how many big artists that are heavyweights in the game right now, and they’re all in the other big cities in the UK. So from there, it’s just going to spread and spread.
I feel like you’ve definitely found your lane, musically. You have a very clear sound, even more so because of your accents. Where do you think you sit among the other artists? I’d say you’re entering the top-tier conversation…
Bugsey – I don’t know because, with this tier thing, there’s a lot of things you have to take into consideration.
Young T – You can say one thing and put us in a certain tier, but we know we still have a lot to do.
Bugsey – What I might class as a top tier will be different from what T thinks is top tier or what you think is top tier, so there’s different criteria. But if I was being honest, I feel like the top, top tier in the UK, right now, is probably J Hus, Stormzy, Fredo and Dave.
Young T – Even that, someone could even turn around and say they’re just the artists of this generation. There are other heavy-hitters which are still doing their thing right now who are still top tier. Skepta and Chipmunk are still in the game doing their thing, and they’ve got way more on their name than the people Bugsey just listed.
Bugsey – Yeah, so it gets complicated.
If someone from outside the UK and said ‘play me 10 songs that represent the UK music scene well’, only one track per artist, would you say one of your tracks should make that list?
Bugsey – Yeah, if you had to pick 10 tracks, then one of our tracks might be in there. If you’re talking about right now, this current moment, if somebody from America or Russia said play me the 10 hottest tracks in the UK right now, I feel like, if you were being fair, one of our songs would have to be in there.
Any tips for musicians curry on lockdown right now? How are you guys dealing with it?
Bugsey – I’m fully locked down, fam. This is boring for me, you know! Boring, fam. It’s not like I’ve got a home studio or anything like that. All I can do right now, if man sends me beats, then I can write, but that’s about it. I can’t go in the booth, I can’t just be active.
Young T – It’s kinda humbled man, init. If you’re a producer and you’ve got the equipment, you can definitely still be cooking up beats. Or if you’re an artist and you got a home studio, but for me, all I’m doing right now is just writing hooks here and there.