wretch 32 dedicates song to mentor and friend richard antwi
“An iconic special guy who lived a perfect life…” Wretch pays tribute to the man who enriched the lives of many.
News of the sudden death of Richard Antwi, who passed away in February of this year, spread fast through social networks. What became immediately apparent - as well as the shock and sadness felt by the sudden death of a young man at the age of 38 and in otherwise good health - was the effect Rich had on so many people's lives. As a lawyer, manager, mentor and friend, Rich was as integral to the black British music scene as any of its artists, DJs or producers. The outpouring that followed his death from rappers, singers, A&Rs, CEOs, writers, photographers, kids on work experience, and everyone in-between, was testament to the time that Richard took throughout the course of his life to guide, hook up and help the hundreds, if not thousands, of people that he crossed paths with. As a lawyer and manager, the Oxford University graduate was involved in the career of everyone from Adele to Estelle, Wretch 32 to Lethal B, who noted that Rich "played a big part in turning my life around."
Three months after the death of his friend, Wretch pays tribute to Richard with a new track, Antwi, taken from his forthcoming album, Growing Over Life. The track is the last that Wretch played to Richard, two days before his sudden passing. It shows Wretch at his lyrical best, primed and in beast mode as he drops three and a half minutes of straight bars, recalling dark days growing up and darker nights to come. "I played it to Rich and he said 'People need to hear this, this needs to go global'", Wretch recalls. "I was just venting… and when you vent you're free."
Tell us about Richard.
Wretch 32: Without Richard I couldn't say I'd be sitting here, as far as I am, today. Richard and Twin B at Levels gave me my first record deal and that's what took me from the mixtapes and underground stuff to being able to provide for my family and sell out venues and do it on a bigger scale. He was definitely a mentor, father figure, a brother, an uncle at times. Rich was a real genuine guy who cared about the scene, and had a hand in so many parts, he worked with so many different people, from Lethal B, Estelle, Daley, Natty. Adele… the list goes on. He's done so much stuff on a loyal front and on a label front. He was just an iconic special guy man.
I thought it was so telling when Rich died that the levels of outpouring were so many and so genuine. It struck me so much, seeing how loved he was and how much impact he had on people.
Definitely man. I think one thing I learnt from that, like, I feel like there's always something to learn from a death, and I learnt a few things from Richard. Obviously we're all gonna have a beginning, a middle and an end and you want to have a perfect beginning, middle and end. I feel like Richard lived a perfect life because I believe if he knew he was gonna die at that time, on that day, he wouldn't have changed a thing. So I feel like he lived the perfect life. I think the beautiful thing about Richard is every time since his death that I've bumped into someone, they say 'Richard done this for me' or 'Richard gave me my first job', 'Richard introduced me to someone at Atlantic' or 'Richard took me to Island'… He had a hand in so many lives, which was really a beautiful thing to do with so many different people. It made me feel like, even if I can do half of that in my lifetime, then I'll be happy.
The song isn't about Rich, per se; what is Antwi about?
You know one of those days when you have a lot on you chest? Anything I wanted to say, I could just see it visually, so I wanted the record to actually sound like a soundtrack for whatever it is I have to say. And I just went in there and vented man. Literally, I just vented. It was the last record I felt I needed to record for the album, and it was the last record that I sent to Richard. When I sent it to him, he rang me back and we spoke for like an hour and a half. He was like, 'Look man, the level of lyricism that you just played, man, you need to be getting on a plane elsewhere'. We really had a big heart-to-heart about this song. And a few days later we lost him, I remembered the meaning of Antwi is 'powerful and complete', so that seemed perfect to signify, well, everything really. This being the last record that I recorded before his death, I thought, 'Richard is the type of person who'd love to have a track titled after him on an album'! So everything was just a sign for me to call the record that and put it out first, even though it's not a single really.
I think anyone who enjoyed my Fire In The Booth will enjoy the intensity of this record. I think it's kinda picking up from where that left off, but just in its own right. I hope it keeps people on the edge of their seats for the whole record.
What did you think of Kano's Fire In The Booth, which ended with 'Now whose is best? Me or Wretch'?
I loved that man. Everyone was like 'What you gonna do blah blah blah'. I was like, 'Look at the end of the day you have to understand I was always a fan of this guy. I've paid for tickets to watch him perform records from London Town and Home Sweet Home etc'. I'm a fan of the guy, I feel like Kano is one of the greatest MCs the world's ever heard. The world - not even the country. There was a conversation that a few of us MCs had about who's got the best Fire In The Booth, it became an inside joke. So when he did that it was like 'Yeah cool' cos we had said my one was the benchmark, which is an honour for me at the end of the day. I can't believe that I'm not gonna go back in there and try and behead him, but the competition is always on with us, that the God's honest truth, it's always on so... The next time I do go in there it will be a moment to remember.
Do you lot ever sit down and have a nice cup of tea and a chat?
More like chicken and rice and a Disaronno! You always need one influential fella that kinda connects it all, and every now and again Giggs will just send out a group message, and say 'We're eating here at 7 o'clock, if you can make it, make it, if you don't make it, don't make it'. And we just catch up man. We're on a journey and we've known each other for a long time, some of the boys a decade, I've known you a decade! It's a long time to have known someone and you get so caught up in this rollercoaster that can just bring you up and then bring you down and before you know it you're at the end of a journey and you're like, 'When did I actually sit down and laugh' or 'When was I not in the studio' or 'When was I not on the stage'? I think it's really important that that happens. That's something to take from Rich's death too. Live and love and laugh.
Text Hattie Collins