Much has been made of the death of British Rap as the charts remain denominated by the Dance and House of Disclosure, Duke Dumont and Rudimental. So, the music industry sat up sharply when, last year, South London rap duo Krept & Konan (aged 23 and 24), scored a No.13 in the National Album Charts with their second mixtape, Young Kingz. A No.13, with no radio, TV, press or traditional promo; just word of mouth, savvy social media and great rap records.
“We dominated online,” says Konan of their success, listing YouTube views in the millions and Twitter support from the likes of Wretch 32, Tinie Tempah and Professor Green. But much more powerful than pop stars endorsing the pair, it was an authentic ethos conveyed to their relatively small but highly engaged audience that was as effective as any savvy digital strategy.
“Ultimately, people bought Young Kingz for the music because they could see that the music was real. Making a radio hit was the furthest thing from our minds.”
Young Kingz is a mixtape free of record label restriction and without influence from an A&R desperate to deliver radio ready hits. “Ultimately, people bought it for the music because they could see that the music was real. Making a radio hit was the furthest thing from our minds,” Krept insists of tracks like My Story, which depicts the horrific night in 2011 when masked intruders broke into Konan’s house and shot and killed his stepfather, Carlton Ned. Last August, Christopher Thomas, an ex of a girl that Konan briefly dated, was found guilty and sentenced to 35 years in jail. “My Story gave people an insight into real life,” says Konan of the effect the track had on them both. “People have a vision of a life that they think you live but we gave them an insight into what actually happens. It helped people understand us more and bought us closer to our fans.” Next up is their debut album – a record that will continue their uncompromising ethos. “We want to bridge the gap between the UK and America,” says Krept, adding that they have French Montana on a remix of Don’t Waste My Time and are the first UK rappers invited to appear on Diddy’s Revolt TV. “Americans come here and wipe the floor with that type of rap, so how come we can’t sell the kind of numbers that they can? It’s possible to do it without going commercial and we’re going to be the first to do it.”