TRASH TALK 001
KARIMTHAPEASANT DISCUSSES CREATIVE ENERGY, SOCIAL MEDIA AND LIFE PHILOSOPHY
Exclusive conversations with the most exciting artists, filmmakers, musicians, designers and cultural innovators in London.
Words & Photography by James Arden
Published February 20, 2019
Karim Benotmane, aka KarimThaPeasant, is an artist from East London quickly making an impact as a rapper and cultural innovator. I first came across him in West London in August 2017, when a director friend invited me to a showcase evening at Metropolis Studios. Karim took to the stage and performed like it was a headline show: he brought more people than everyone else; he performed longer and harder than anyone else; he had more fun than everyone else. Phones went up left, right and centre to capture the moment, and the crowd bounced to hooks and beats sounding like they were already huge hits in the rap game. He shut it down like no other.
Flash forward just over a year to 2019 and he’s come a long way. He’s released the tracks “Really Real” and “Legacy” - both complete with hypnotic visualisers. He has a forthcoming EP entitled “Unstable” to be released via FLARE Recordings, an independent UK record label Karim and his group of like-minded creatives founded. He has featured on tracks from artists Joy Crookes and Brudda Nay, and appeared on the EP “What Is Flare?” with his FLARE brothers. I also had the pleasure of directing him in the music video for “Really Real”. Last but not least, he’s sold out two headline shows in London. No small feat for an independent 20-year-old artist who’s just getting started.
I caught up with Karim ahead of the video shoot for his track “Legacy” to talk about creative energy, social media, self-belief and life philosophy.
I want to start by talking about how you use social media. One of the things that really impresses me with you guys is the pure amount of content you make and the hype you create online. Is that a conscious approach for you - making as much as possible - when spreading your own message about releases and shows?
Bro, 100%. You’ve got to make things look way bigger than they are, because it’s the only way to make people fall for it, in a way! The headline show at Phonox was what we were focussing on pushing for the whole of December 2018 leading up to that show. It was all selling tickets and pushing… we did all the promo for it ourselves, all the stuff you saw online, the trailers and everything, we shot and cut.
You’re good hustlers, but you definitely deliver. The last show I came to at Aures was sold out, as was Phonox. The energy is always huge - like an extension of what you’re projecting online.
The energy is right at these things, man. There’s can be so much bad energy in these other music scene environments. A lot of ego and not showing love. Anytime anyone comes to one of our shows you’ll see us, we’ll have conversations with anyone - we’re not putting up facades or anything, bro. There’s no way I’m going to change up any of what I’m doing right now, man, because it’s all coming from the right place. I feel like when stuff comes from the right place it’s never gonna go wrong.
I think that’s the only way you can do it and achieve inner happiness - to be honest across real life and online. When I left advertising to focus on directing, I wanted to foster relationships with people I genuinely connected with and could create with together, rather than just going out to everyone in order to stay busy, or appear to stay busy online. How do you approach creative connections?
It’s like pitching yourself constantly, it’s a trip. I feel like loads of creative industries are changing now because of social media and you can see it from every angle whether it’s filmmaking or music or fashion design. The reason why Virgil Abloh (American fashion designer, artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collections) is as big as he is, the reason why his shows garner so much attention is because he’s manifested that social media game. You can have connections with people on an informal level - it doesn’t always need to be a contract and back and forth and everything. Just two guys working, it’s natural. What can you do with your power, right now? You can go out and make stuff, right? People need to eradicate their fear of doing their own thing. People are just waiting for something or someone to fall in their lap, which is definitely not how the world works.
Everything we’re building with FLARE - it’s more than just the music, you get me? I’m not relying on one little hit to take me to where I’m trying to be at. It would definitely help and I feel like good songs push this shit forward, and I’ve got the love to make those songs, I want to be in those environments; to record with good producers. I feel like something hot always comes out of it.
From the shows, the music, the fashion, I feel like you guys are building a culture more than anything - not just putting out EPs.
Exactly - we’re not just hoping one of them connects. Especially if you listen to “What Is Flare?”, there’s nothing there that screams ‘I hope this one song connects’. It’s a sound, it’s a vibe. I haven’t heard something like it come out of the UK in my life. Songs like “Sinner”, going off at the Phonox show - you don’t see that kind of rawness in the UK scene at the moment.
Same with my music and “Legacy”. These aren’t the hooks you’re used to hearing. No one’s talking about ‘morals, heart and backbone’ - everyone’s talking about bad bitches in a Merc! Everyone’s rhyming the same words all the time!
Culture is definitely the best way to put it. If we were chasing one genre, one hit, there’s an expiry date on that shit. Keeping the energy and the rawness? There’s no expiry date, it can go global. I know what I need to do, I just need to drop good music.
When it comes to work and life and creativity, I think it’s essential to never limit yourself to your own background or what people can easily label you as. What’s your approach?
Tyler, the Creator tweeted this crazy tweet that resonated with me - “Don’t let your identity be your identity.” It’s so fucking true, man. You should not let your identity become your identity. You are your own person. I feel it with a lot of people who need the guidance and that belonging. But where we’re at now and what we do, we’re so accepting of individuals - people can be gay and black where they previously would have been rejected by most of society. We’re hearing all these stories and real life experiences now, having all these conversations. Be a product of your identity, grow and continue from that - don’t limit yourself at all.
I don’t say I’m a rapper. I say I’m an artist. Rappers aren’t all making promos videos for their own shows. People get clouded in the infrastructure that exists - you cap yourself if you think you can only make music when you’re in a studio. There’s a resourcefulness that comes as a byproduct of doing stuff yourself. But now? Let me see money, investment, clout and opportunity - and I’ll run with it. I’m running solely off of the art right now.
Music videos, EPs, new releases - they’re all, to an extent, disposable. That’s why this is called The Trash Factory - there’s no end goal to this. You make things, they have their moment and they go on the pile of content already out there. For me it has to be about enjoying the process. How do you feel about releasing something, whatever it is?
They way stuff is received and digested now, it’s so quick. Making “Rise and Fall” we recorded it at 3am, and it was out at 8pm. Wrote it, recorded it and shot the video. Stuff should just live, man. If it sounds good, just put it out. I love dropping things and feeling the love - it’s 100% reciprocated. Every time I have the opportunity to meet with people, they fall in love with the vision!
Sometimes I get too caught up in my life and the way I’m built - I can carry my own in real life, you get me, but for certain man it’s difficult and it is some daunting shit, but you have to get over that barrier at one point. If you don’t have that self confidence and you can’t feel it in yourself and you can’t get it across and convince others…you have to learn how to love yourself and believe in yourself. That’s the only real wall you have to break through - knowing your own power.
I think a lot of people - and especially creative people - can actually feel powerless pursuing such a competitive, challenging career. How do you think you can know your own power? What’s the key to unlocking it?
Life is a bunch of choices - it's a whole “Black Mirror - Bandersnatch” thing, man! What are you choosing NOT to do, when you do have time, when you have these modern resources; a phone in your pocket. What’s stopping you? The key to life is taking in yourself. You have to appreciate what you’ve got, but then you have to know what you can control. If you get a no from one person and it makes you feel like shit…there’s a million no’s man, every hour! A million no’s for one yes. That fear of failure that we get from our education system now is mad. When people talk about the snowflake generation, I can hear it, but at LEAST they’re failing and we’re not judging them. A kid can make a mistake and it’s OK. Some of my friends are 15, 16 out there being creative but they’re cool with failure - they allow themselves to fail.
It’ll be so interesting to see people coming up after you - kids who are 15/16 now - how much culture and technology will change and evolve again in the next few years, and how they’ll relate to and create music, content, films.
When we’re getting artists now who are pushing boundaries - the UK is getting respect in a different light now - we’re going to see amazing projects, we’re going to hear amazing albums, we’re going to hear amazing sonnets, we’re going to hear real life… the rawness that came with grime? Times that by a million, and the exposure in the mainstream by a million. People are ready for it.
Music is changing - I want the real to prevail at all times. I think when your intentions are in the right place, you’ll always prevail.
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