With beats big enough to challenge the heavyweights, ladies and gents make way.
(LEFT) Jacket CALVIN KLEIN, jumper STUSSY, trousers ADIDAS, trainers ARTIST’S OWN
(CENTRE) Jacket CALVIN KLEIN, trousers ARTIST’S OWN, trainers REEBOK
(RIGHT) Hat, shorts and socks STUSSY, jacket NIKE, T-shirt and shoes ARTIST’S OWN
If you’ve heard anything about London trio Belly Squad, you’ll know they’re determined to do things differently. The grime-inflected afrobeat group maintain a distinctly UK edge but they’re hard to place. What have they got that no-one else is offering? “Sauce,” says 18-year-old Ty Jombla. “Sauce and juice.”
“Sauce and juice,” concurs his cousin and fellow MC—the grown-up of the group at 20—Ross Jombla.
I look to “Yung Max”—18-year-old Remmi Maxwell—for an answer. “You can’t just do what everyone else is doing, because why would people listen to your music instead of someone else’s?” He ponders before adding the inevitable, “and as he said, sauce and juice.”
Formed in 2014 after working on individual projects, the three boys have been making underground rumblings for years, but it was the release of their “Banana” EP in February 2017 that demanded wider attention. The remix of its title track, featuring Abra Cadabra, Young T & Bugsey and Timbo & Showkey, has clocked up 4.9 million views on YouTube. “The original got a million!” Max is quick to remind me.
(LEFT) Hat, shorts and socks STUSSY, jacket NIKE, T-shirt and shoes ARTIST’S OWN
(CENTRE) Jacket CALVIN KLEIN, jumper STUSSY, trousers ADIDAS, trainers ARTIST’S OWN
(RIGHT) Jacket CALVIN KLEIN, trousers ARTIST’S OWN, trainers REEBOK
It all started on the now obsolete video-looping app, Vine. “We had the instrumental for ‘Banana’, the original one,” explains Ty. “I made it into a Vine and I quoted it on Twitter saying the first lines of the chorus. It kept on getting retweeted, kept on getting loops, so that’s where the buzz started… I was walking from my nan’s and I heard someone outside of Tesco listening to it.”
“Obviously we have a plan of what we want to do,” Ty continues, shifting his vision to the future, “but we’re just having a go.”
The four tracks that make up “Banana” took them just a month to record, mix and master, meaning the next EP is “coming before summer”. Until then, they’re dropping “concept videos” as they make them, their most recent being the sun soaked “Like That”, a legit beach banger that will make you desperate to quit your job, take the first flight towards the equator and sink a mini bar’s worth of rum.
Don’t sleep on Belly Squad, not that you’ll be able to miss them. They’ve got their sights set on the top spot, coveting a career track akin to that of grime’s contemporary greats. “Skepta’s been putting in work since I was in primary,” Ty explains, in it for the long haul. “Obviously his hard work has paid off and it’s well deserved.”
“We’re trying to take it as far as possible,” grins Max. With almost five million plays on a remix, there’s no limit on their come up.
Taken from the Summer 17 Issue of Wonderland; out now and available to buy here.
Joe Pickering at Stella Creative Artists using Bumble and Bumble
Louise Dartford at Stella Creative Artists using Kjaer Weis