INTERVIEW: Reali-T | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Reali-T’s second album Commercial Break begins in much the same fashion as its predecessor, with a scene setting Intro segueing into statement opener The Black Guy Is Back. A direct follow-up to Black Guy In Your Neighbourhood from 2017’s Stay Tuned, the track offers a fresh account of Hackney-born, Newcastle-based rapper Tomilola Ayilara’s life in a predominantly Caucasian community; offsetting a slew of stark truths with his endearing tongue-in-cheek grin.

“I think people tend to take in serious messages when they have a bit of humour to them,” he contends. “Take a comedian like Dave Chappelle – every stand-up he does has an important theme, but because he sprinkles in humour, they’re easier to digest. Living up North can be a culture shock – I’m not going to lie and say I haven’t had people ask things like ‘What are you doing here?’ in the street, or pull down their car windows and shout ‘Pogba.’ But I’m a natural joker – I can’t be serious all the time. And if I was preaching, a lot of people would be like: ‘Woah! We’ve had a serious year, let’s not start 2021 like that as well!’”

Accordingly, Commercial Break is another richly entertaining showcase of Reali-T’s credentials; 12 tracks of exuberant bars showcasing an MC as keen to expose his own flaws (Disconnected) as he is to flip tired gangsta cliches (Water Guns In My Car). In our interview, he’s likewise eager to talk-up his peers, and with guest verses from 40, Sutherland and Jamilah among others, there’s little disguising the album’s distinctly North East flavour. “You always need a couple of friends who’re going to be honest with you – to say things like ‘Nah, that’s rubbish, you’ll embarrass us all!’ This time they told me that a lot of the tracks sounded more commercial than Stay Tuned. The one with Jamilah [Playback] in particular we’d been planning for a while, to go all-out and see if we could get on the radio.”

All I did was ask myself how I could be different – that’s all I’ve ever wanted to be

While this goal is reflected in the record’s buoyant tone, for Reali-T himself Commercial Break contains an ulterior connotation: “I took a break!” he acknowledges.

“When you’re in it, you don’t know… It’s like when I was younger and the neighbours used their dogs to chase Black and Asian kids down the street, and only when we grew older did we realise: ‘Wait a minute, that’s racism!’ This time, I began to think: ‘Hang on… I was in bed all day, telling my girlfriend I was going to work, not even writing music or getting joy from doing the things I love… that’s depression!’” The temptation, then, is to label Commercial Break a redemptive album – though crucially a sense of perspective is something this qualified pharmacist has never lacked.

All I did was ask myself how I could be different – that’s all I’ve ever wanted to be,” he concludes. “When I go on-stage, I wear a suit. I just want to stand out! I grew up listening to violent rappers like 50 Cent, Tupac and Biggie, but I didn’t live that life. I’m my mum’s favourite rapper, so eventually she’d have heard what I was rapping about and thought ‘Is this the son I’ve raised?’ As soon as my mum pulls the plug, my rap career’s over!”

Reali-T releases Commercial Break on 5th February


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