As a member of the grime collective, ‘The Movement’, Mercston is an artist embedded in the history of the UK music scene alongside the likes of Wretch 32, Ghetts, Scorcher and Devlin.
With over a decade of experience under his belt, Mercston’s ability to evolve and incorporate new sounds including influences from reggae and R&B into his signature style has kept his offering fresh and current.
It comes as no surprise that bar of execution for his debut album ‘Top Tier’ was set incredibly high, after teasing what was to come with ‘No Banter’ featuring fellow UK rapper Wretch 32 last year. Taking to Instagram to announce the release of the highly anticipated project at the start of 2020, the tracklist boasted features from a variety of top-class UK acts including Ghetts, Devlin, Blade Brown, Louis Rei (WSTRN) and Giggs.
While the new album may not have been the grime project die-hard fans were expecting, the 16-track project showcases the rapper’s growth both through his lyrical depth, unpredictable flows, and undeniable energy.
Mercston spoke to IndustryMe about the project, growing up and everything in between.
Congratulations on the release of your new album, I bet you’re glad it’s finally out?
Thank you, I’m over the moon. It’s always a relief when you release a project but this one feels completely different as it’s my debut album, to top it off the feedback has been amazing.
Before we get into that, I want to talk about your entry point into music. How did you first get started and at want point do you think it became something serious for you?
My entry was via pirate radio in 2004 alongside a crew called The Mucky Wolf pack, we trained and trained and trained on the airwaves but I quickly realised that formulating songs was my strong point.
To be totally honest I think it became something serious during the process of making this album, it was always just a hobby for me before.
Do you think your father being a DJ influenced your style at all?
Most definitely. I grew up on Rare grooves, Reggae, Lovers Rock, Soul & Gospel, so without even thinking about it those styles are incorporated in the music I make.
While you’ve been a part of the music scene for over a decade, a lot of the younger generation will be discovering you for the first time with this album. Did that make it feel like a fresh start for you?
This is not something I thought about whilst creating this album, however upon releasing it I was aware that we have songs on there that would gain a new audience, a big percentage being the younger generation, so it’s a blessing to have the ability to evolve and understand music enough to not sound dated.
How has the grime landscape changed since you first started and how do you adjust to that?
It’s changed in a sense where artists have more freedom to express [themselves] on tempos that aren’t 140Bpm and they aren’t scrutinised for doing so as much. In the early days when Ghetts, Wretch, Scorcher, Devlin and I did this, we were considered as “Grime Sellouts”. To answer your question I’ve just continued to enjoy making music first and in turn, good products have been made. I ultimately just release what I believe in.
Staying on the subject of grime. With it being your first love, did going in another musical direction feel like a break up of sorts?
Not at all! I’ve never been the artist that has just released generic grime.
I’ve always pushed boundaries, attempted other genres, and sung from the start…I’ve just gotten a little better at it (laughs)
(laughs) That’s fair, but seeing as you are what most would consider to be a grime veteran, was there any pressure to stay within that domain?
No pressure, but I was aware that my first album had to contain a good balance of ‘Grime’ along with the other styles of music I make and I think we executed that.
You have released countless mixtapes and singles, why did you wait so long before putting out an album?
I feel like I wasn’t ready and in hindsight, I wasn’t. [I was] growing as a person and growing musically.
Finding the team that I work with heavily, my brothers who go by the name of ‘Dot Inc’, was imperative before the release of my debut I just didn’t know that until I knew.
Okay so we’ve got to talk about that um…‘interesting’ accent on Mercs Skinner – care to explain?
(laughs) So the accent adopted is an East London cockney rendition of the songs inspired by ‘The Streets’. It wasn’t something that was planned, I was just writing in that accent after 2 bars and ran with it until the song was finished.
The album also saw you flexing your artistic muscles with some members of ‘The Movement’. That must have brought back some memories?
For sure, every so often 1/2 or 3 of us will jump on a song together. I felt that it was only right to have my brothers on my album especially with the title track being ‘Top Tier’.
With so many musical influences such as Dancehall and touches of R&B seen throughout the album do you personally see it as a grime album?
I personally see it as an album of great music that isn’t genre-specific, that will make you feel like you’ve left the country and returned a few times on your travels, but upon listening you’ll know that Mercston hasn’t forgotten his roots, he’s just grown and that’s what music is about for me. Growth.
Lastly, with a debut album finally out in the world, what’s next for you?
Next, we tour and showcase the music to the supporters – it really is top tier season!