Interview: NE-O | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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After some time away, Newcastle-based rapper NE-O is set to release his new melodic drill single Blessings on 11th August. Produced by Anyvibe, this uplifting latest offering is filled with sharp beats, haunting samples and NE-O’s driving and captivating vocal delivery.

NE-O has supported some of the UK’s top rappers such as D Double E, P Money, Big Zuu & Kamakaze and received support from BBC Radio 1Xtra and BBC Radio 1 Introducing. In 2021 he was awarded the MOBO-funded Help Musicians grant in 2021 and has spent the last few years establishing himself as one of the region’s finest artists.

We catch up with NE-O to find out more…

What made you want to become a rapper?
Honestly, I’ve wanted to be a rapper for pretty much as long as I remember. But I didn’t realise anyone in the North East was making rap music until I came across HB on YouTube, and then I pretty much instantly started writing lyrics.

Who or what are some of the influences on your music?
This is always a hard question to answer because I don’t listen to much music that’s like mine these days. I listen to a lot of bands like System of a Down and Slipknot, but they obviously don’t influence my musical style. But the people around me like my parents and my sisters influence me all the time because they make me want to keep going.

The musical answers are artists like the grime legends – Skepta, P Money & Ghetts, and the local artists like HB & Eyeconic. But I try not to let other people’s music influence mine too much, because I want to have my own style on any track I write. 

What’s been the highlight of your musical journey so far?
This is another tough one to answer because it depends on what I’m thinking about. I think the first major moment for me was supporting P Money and then getting to speak to him afterwards. He gave me a lot of good advice that I think I’ve continued to apply.

If I really think about it though, I think mine and Eyeconic’s headline show was my favourite moment yet. We sold out the venue and the crowd was full with fans who were genuinely there to see us – and the energy was insane, it felt different to a lot of shows I’ve done, where the crowd is mostly full of rappers/musicians.

This is your first fully solo release in over a year. What have you been up to in that time?
If I’m honest, for the majority of 2022 I had decided I was quitting music. I just had too much going on in my personal life and had to take a break for my mental health. But I’m fully back now, I’ve been quietly stacking up songs this year and I’m ready to start releasing again. I wrote/recorded ‘Blessings’ before I released Family Tree last year, and I was planning on releasing it last summer. But I’m glad I’ve waited on it, I think the timing’s gonna be perfect.

Tell us about Blessings and the inspiration behind it.
I think the content of Blessings speaks for itself. I’m determined to build myself and my family a better life. And I feel genuinely blessed that I will eventually have an opportunity to do that through music, I believe it’s just a matter of time.

You describe it as a melodic drill track. Are there many artists in the region making drill music, or one of its sub-genres? What do you like about Drill?
There’s loads of artists in the region making drill, I don’t really want to start listing them because I’ll definitely forget someone, but yeah the drill scene here is pretty vast and you’ve got people like NE4 and Simba Shore who’ve had some real success with it as far as numbers and streams which is always sick to see. 

I wouldn’t call myself a drill rapper at all, and when I do use a drill beat, I don’t have typical drill content in my lyrics. But I love the authenticity of UK Drill, it feels similar to grime in a sense that it really came from the streets of the UK. Plus the beats are normally 10/10. 

Your last collaboration was with Eyeconic on Isit, earlier this year, which was ‘Track Of The Week’ on BBC Introducing Tees. Have you any future collabs planned and how do you think collaborating on music develops you as a music maker?
I’m not gonna reveal too much, but I do have a collaboration coming up with Sebastenelli that I’m really excited about. I feel like I benefit a lot from collaboration, especially when it’s with someone who makes music that isn’t very similar to mine, because it forces me out of my comfort zone. On this track coming up with Seb, I’ve changed my subject matter quite a bit and my style/delivery so I’m looking forward to seeing the response when the track’s out.

What else have you got coming up in the not-so-distant future?
I’ve got quite a few tracks in the backlog, mixed and mastered and I’m just planning on when I’m gonna release them. I’m thinking about maybe releasing another EP but we’ll see. I think I’d prefer to release more singles and keep building my momentum. But definitely expect another release this year after Blessings!


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