i-D's music class of 2018: mez
“Just focus on you, man. Don’t focus on anything else. Don’t waste your energies. Not today, man. Not today.”
Mez wears tracksuit American Vintage. Hat Fendi. Sneakers Nike
Mez talks in a full throttle, non-stop flow. He raps like that too. Whether triple-time cheeky on Normal Shoe, or spouting speedy similes on Magnum, the Nottingham MC, who first surfaced in 2014, quickly clocked up collaborations with Stormzy and AJ Tracey and comparisons to the legendary D Double E.
While he appreciates the latter, he’s quick with a practical analogy: “If people bring out a microwave, you’re going to compare it to another piece of technology, ‘Oh that microwave cooks like that oven. It cooks toast like a toaster,’” he explains, “but it’s not the same thing.” It’s not. He’s carving out his own path independent of the big names he’s aligned with. “There’s a lot of people who come out and do one big tune. And that’s it, everybody knows about that person,” he says. “I haven’t had that yet. It’s been a long graft. Eventually it’ll pay off.”
The MC is making waves beyond Nottingham, which he says can be quite insular. “Not a lot of people from Nottingham have figured out how to get exposure outside of the city.” While it’s been a large part of helping get his name out there, he’s also wary of the dangers of social media. “Everything is to prove a point. I think it’s just one big competition.” His advice? “Just focus on you, man. Don’t focus on anything else. Don’t waste your energies. Not today, man. Not today.”
What’s Nottingham like?
It's good to grow up there because you just do whatever with your mates. But obviously I feel like when it gets on to doing more stuff that you want to do, like musical things, there's limitations to it. So you just have to go a bit further than Nottingham.
What’s the grime scene like there?
I feel like it’s bigger than London. When you go to places like Manchester, Bristol, you go to all these places and the people in the crowd know the record more than you. Sometimes I go places and I'm like, man, this thing is actually everywhere and not just in one place.
Yeah, I'm from New Zealand and it's massive there.
Yeah when I checked out my plays on Spotify, my most played places were Nottingham, London, then surprisingly Australia, New Zealand. I was surprised that people are actually listening from there.
You've worked with Stormzy, AJ Tracey, big names -- how does that feel and how did it come about?
I don't wake up in the morning mentioning someone on Twitter and saying ‘Yo, cool let's link up today.' I don't really feel like that works for me. Anyone you see me linking up with, AJ and that, these people are actually my real friends, and it's been a natural connection. To me, if it's not natural, if it's not love, it doesn't make any sense.
Are you close with your parents?
You don't have to tell anyone your mum's a G, that's standard. If your mum's not a G, then I don't know.
What is your earliest memory?
It's a question if it's a memory or not, because my mum seems to think I didn't do this. But when I was young I went on holiday with her and one of her friends. But she keeps trying to tell me it didn't happen. But it did happen. We certified, definitely went on this holiday when I was a baby and I can actually remember where I sat on the plane. I can remember where we went.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for young people today?
I think biggest thing challenging young people is the internet. Everyone's proving things. Everything is to prove a point. Everytime you look on Instagram, someone's only posted something because they want you to see something. They're never going to post it when they're just standing on the street. I can't tell you before internet, but I can tell you what I'm seeing now. You don't think it's there, but it's always there, at the back of your mind -- you deep down think, ‘Oh I need to do this, because I've seen this or done this.’ I just think it's big competition. For young people right now everyone just wants to compete with one another, no one really wants to focus on their own thing.
How do you reckon we could overcome that?
You just watch yourself and focus on what you're doing tomorrow, what you're doing today, what you're doing next week. As long as you focus on your thing, none of that will matter. I can't lie, it's not that simple. You wake up in the morning you go on your phone, as soon as you go on your phone you go on Instagram. But I dunno, I just try watch my own thing. I wake up in the morning and think, ‘What have I got to do today?’ As long as I do that, I'll be alright.
Photography Ronan Mckenzie (Collage by Kristina Britton)
Styling Julian Ganio
Hair Naoki Komiya at Julian Watson Agency. Make-up Ammy Drammeh using M.A.C Cosmetics. Styling assistance John Handford and Nathan Henry. Hair assistance Kazuhiro Naka. Make-up assistance Grace Ellington.