AN INTERVIEW w/ ROWNTREE RANKS: TRANSCENDING THE UNDERGROUND; AFROSWING; PRODUCING FOR J HUS, CHRIS BROWN & MORE

Maverick 29 year old East London producer Rowntree Ranks’ has been bangin’ out the beats fof over a decade. From working with Bloodline, Wretch, Scorcher and Bombsquad in his Grime heyday, to producing for Chris Brown, Leona Lewis; and on top of all that, is a leading producer in the growing force ofthe ‘Afroswing’ wave. Helping to define what is to become another Great British cultural movement with contributions to ‘MoStack’s’ chart topping Mixtape as a recent accolade.

I caught up with Ranks for an interview on past, present, and future:

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How and when did you start making music in the early days?

I used to be part of East London Centre for Young musicians and orchestra. I’m classically trained on the piano although later on I rebelled and just played jazz for years on in. I also play the clarinet. I started composing music with my neighbour who’s now in Rudimental “Piers”(@piers_rudimental) .We started producing on a DAW called “Reason”making garage grime and experimental music. All the local MCs from East London used to pass by Piers’s house and we would do DJ sets but more time artist voiced our beats. This then developed into me DJing and attending the youth clubs. When I started secondary school I started to use logic more and made a lot of beats with my good mate jammin (@jamminmc).

Were Fruity and Grime a part of your humbled beginnings?

I didn’t really get into FL studio at the time. I just figured out my way of making Grime or whatever I wanted to make on reason and logic.

Some of my early grime songs are:Big H ft President T JME- real on road

President T ft Jammin- Dreams; Big H- Behind The Scenes; Bloodline – Snakes In The Grass (Big H / Bossman / Prez T / Paper Pabs); Frisco, Jammer, & Jammin – Levels; Ruff Sqwad – SoS; Scorcher Wretch 32, Mercston, Messy & Dymunds – My Magic

A song that did really well for me, was Bombsquad – I just wanna. The tracks was playlisted on Channel U and all the girls at school and at the back of the bus had it as their ringtones..(Made me feel like the man for a minute lol,I swear I used to walk in slow motion flicking my hair and doing cool poses as a result of the song doing well and getting over 250k really quick on youtube ;).

There was a more recent track with General Levy & Fekky which unfortunately didn’t make it out that you had your hand in. Shame it didn’t come out, but it definitely tore down Carniva!

You’re a producer who’s worked with quite a few of the UK’s rising stars – namely J Hus, MoStack & Big Tobz. Which track are you most proud of from your back catalogue and why?

Currently I would have to say mostack ft J hus “Dealers and Robbers” as that was part of the mixtape that charted number 16 in the official charts. However I’ve got some summer bangers coming with Big Tobz and Mr Eazy so look out for these. Definitely gonna do damage in clubs instagram and snapchat lol. Personally I want you guys to hear a song I did with J hus which is going to shut down clubs! Period..So look out for that!

I see you got ‘Chris Brown’ and ‘Leona Lewis’ as production credits. How did they ceome about? As well as your relationship with Island Records?

I am part of group called Fastlane. We specialise in production, songwriting remixing and Djing in the dance genre. Our debut single“into you”which quickly received millions of plays across various platforms as well as being featured on MTVs Geordie shore lead to use signing a deal. So the production credits are for remixes that the label sorted out. The Leona Lewis one is out now YouTube, Spotify and all the usually places. Chris brown one drops summer time I think. We have also done remixes for Krept n Konan – Freak of the week (over 1 million plays of spotify).

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Seeing as your a preoducer who’s played a contributing role – How do you feel about the growing sound of ‘Afroswing’?

I am feeling this Afroswing genre. It works in clubs and its good vibes. I think J hus and Jae5 his producer are playing a massive roll in it. They dropped a big album and it’s good to see them doing so well. Mostack killed it with his mixtape and all the artist and producers on the mixtape went in, glad I could be part of the charting mixtape. I’m happy the sound is growing and the sound is being accepted at festivals like Glastonbury, wireless and lovebox. Its also good when artist from all over the world reach out and collab with as a result of liking the sound.

Do you have any feelings about the name? And is it something you’re consciously trying to pursue making, along dabbling in other types of music.

Not fussed about the name tbh. I make whatever I like. Which means I can go from Afroswing to house, funk, grime or bashment.As long as it sounds good I don’t care. My latest single – Rowntree –“Got you ”is totally different to anything I’ve released before (Out now btw)

Looking at the young blood in the UK. Are there any underground or unknown artists you’re watching or working with that we should keep an eye on?

Yh working with a few young artists mainly Culprit, Esko, Raylow, Maddz and Shawty Paid. Culps and I got about 4 videos dropping over summer. I think, “Watch me roll” is the next video. Shawty Paid and I got a video dropping for a track we did called “I know”dropping any time now.

We saw producers Steel Banglez team up with Sevaqk and Zeph Ellis (AKA Dot Rotten) for Mostack’s banger ‘Screw & Brew’ – which is a rare thing these days. Are there any producers you’d like to work with?

Yh one of the most underrated producers in the UK is a guy called Merlin. So I would love to work with Merlin.

Upcoming producers I want to work with K Moses KMC), Terah and a female producer called Aquarelle are going in right now. So a collab is pending. Spoke to Sevaq and Steel Banglez and we going to get in the studio real soon. I have a session lined up with Lish (Produced Big Tobz- I love that feeling) next week. Going to get a few dates in with Jae5 aswell a TSB and IO.

So I’m open to collabs tbh many hands make lighter work and it’s always good to fuse the ideas of producers together. I mean some songs are written by 4 songwriters so there’s nothing wrong with producers collaborating. I encourage it to be honest.

What’s next on the agenda – got any projects or new music you’d like to plug?

Currently shooting a video in Ghana for a song I previewed on my instagram “oehmaa” which features an artist called Moelogo. Once that’s ready it will be out in time for summer. After that the plan is to release an onslaught of videos and songs from the EP i’m working on as well as collaborations with established and unknown artist. So, make sure you’re following me on all the socials to listen out for the latest news and sneak peeks of future releases.

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