INTERVIEW: Behind the Scenes with Artist, Writer and Radio Presenter Novar FLIP

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To get ahead in hip hop these days, you need to be more than just a rapper. With how big the game’s become, artists are increasingly having to find new methods to connect with their audiences, and that means branching out into different forms of media.

Currently riding that wave is UK artist, writer and radio presenter, Novar FLIP, who’s made a name for himself in more ways than one.

Dubbed a ‘UK legend’ by SB.TV, he was originally part of the hip hop group, The Mud Family, and, since then, has found success as a solo artist, collaborating with everyone from Charlie Sloth to Dappy.

His latest album, Damaged, has been very well received, and builds on an exciting portfolio of articles, interviews and video content. With a first class-honors degree in Commercial Music under his belt, and a new show on the way, Novar is very much going places.

In our interview with him, we explore his creative journey, inspirations as a writer, and lots, lots more.

What got you into music?

I got into hip hop music from a young age. I liked other music, but when I discovered hip hop, I was immediately drawn to the culture and identity underpinning it. It was more than just music; it was a comfort in feeling like I was part of something. Hip hop allowed me to be in tune with my emotions and express them creatively.

What was it like being part of the Mud Family?

The Mud Family was a great time for me. It was like a real family, and I learned so much from those guys as a young kid coming up. I was lucky in a sense to be a part of it. I was fresh out of school, wanting to break into the UK hip hop scene, and, suddenly I was a member of one of the leading movements that existed at the time.

I left school and decided to be a rapper full-time [Laughs]. But there is a down side that came with that time, and we were caught up in things on road that eventually had a bad impact on my life. I don’t attribute that to Mud, but, with success comes envy, and I discovered that first-hand.

How did you make the leap from music to journalism to radio presenting?

I did radio back in the day on Itch FM, but it was much more ghetto in a sense [Laughs]. In recent years, content in US music has been more and more focused on interviews and viral marketing. I decided I wanted to create a platform for UK music that focused more on these elements, and also incorporated discussions on social issues.

In a sense it’s a step away from music, and a way for me to stay active in the industry and have a voice as I get older. In the last few years it’s probably given me a bigger voice than I ever had, so it seems like I made the right move!

How difficult is it juggling the three?

It’s not only those three. I also run a company called Underworld Konnect with my boy Tijan, A.K.A Kingpin. He set it up a while back as a flyer distribution business, and now we run it together, as an events company and also a record label.

Juggling it all is a challenge, but life would be boring without challenges. I’ve always had a strong drive to make things happen that will bring success for myself and my family. But I also make sure that I’m doing that with things that I’m passionate about, and that bring myself and others fulfillment. So I make it work.

Inspiring stuff! Which role comes most naturally to you?

Recording and writing music, for sure. It’s the one that happens completely by itself without ever feeling like work. If an idea comes to me, or something in my life happens that I want to write about, my mind literally just takes over, and it just happens. I rarely ever sit down and say, “I’m going to write a song tonight”. But when that moment comes, everything else stops and I just zone in.

Who’s the coolest person you’ve interviewed and why?

I would have to say J Hus. Chip is probably my favourite, but J Hus was just so calm and down to earth.

Whilst a super star, with one of the biggest albums of the moment in the charts, he couldn’t have proved more modest, and was only too willing to help our photographers move tables to set up shots. He felt like a member of the team, and seemed really appreciative of what he’s been able to achieve as an artist.

Lil Peep was really cool as well. He got to the studio late, and we ended up doing the interview on a bench in the street. He was just a really normal and cool person. R.I.P. to Peep, man – I was sad when I heard of his passing.

Who are your biggest inspirations as a writer?

I’m quite new to this world, and I haven’t really looked at specific writers for inspiration. When I started out I looked back to the publications I liked when I was younger like The Source and Hip Hop Connection.

There’s a definite overlapping between my writing and radio work. And, to that effect, I look to platforms like The Breakfast Club as an inspiration for the reactions I like to stir up in my own media work and writing.

With magazines, it’s harder to get stuff published as editors often come in and chop parts out. But, I push the boundaries and get that stuff in there where I can.

What’s the reaction been like to your new album, Damaged?

It’s really been amazing so far. We haven’t even released a video and have so much more coming as far as promo goes. But, people who have caught on to this already have given it such a warm embrace. I get regular messages from people – men and women – telling me that certain songs have made them cry. I take great comfort in the fact that the raw emotions I’ve captured from my own experiences have really resonated with others.

We did a great listening party, which was a full-house. That was the first time I got to see people respond to it, and it made me realise the power this album has to touch listeners.

For how long was it in the making?

I recorded the bulk of the whole album in four to five weeks. I was going through a very difficult break-up at the time, and, like I mentioned earlier, the process just took over me and I started recording and expressing how I felt in songs.

I never really intended to put it out at the time, but then I realised that I had created something special. So I spent the next three years working on the production and mixing and mastering it. I took it to different producers like Show N Prove, who added their own vibes and switched up some of the songs, and just kept going until I was happy. I could’ve went on forever with that process, but I had to stop at some point and let it be heard [Laughs].

What are the key themes underpinning the album?

On the surface, it’s an album about a relationship and a difficult break-up. This is a classic theme in music, maybe less so in hip hop. But, within that there are so many more themes going on. From young people suffering from PTSD in the hood – and how that effects their relationships – to alcoholism, mental health, therapy, family, parenthood and so much more. I like that it’s a simple, relatable theme on the surface, with complex layers underneath.

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Image credit: Charlene Hesson

How would you describe it sonically?

Sonically, it’s quite dark and mysterious. A fan sent me a message saying it was ‘haunting’. I get why they said that, but there are lighter moments on it as well, and it takes a journey of ups and downs, as relationships often can.

Another fan said that every beat sounded different, which I found really interesting to look at, because I’ve been told so many times how well it gels together as a project. It definitely packs a number of different styles. If I could compare it to anything then Kanye’s 808’s & Heartbreak album is the closest thing to it sonically, and also content-wise. But it’s definitely me, and it’s also definitely very London.

What lies ahead for you?

I’m working on a follow-up album called Better, which will be about coming out of a difficult situation and moving on. Amongst other things, it will examine how we can better ourselves as people.

Before that, we’ve got videos on the way for a load of songs from Damaged – the roll-out of this album will continue into next year, and we have a headline show coming up for it too.

I’m also very focused on building Underworld Konnect as a company. We have some great plans for events coming up and want to put ourselves in a position to be able to get the music side to a wider audience, and also put on and develop new artists.

CLICK HERE to check out Novar’s latest album, Damaged. You can also follow him on Instagram at @novarflip.

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