Arguably – along with Chantelle Fiddy – Hattie Collins is widely considered to be a pioneer and leading light in British Urban Music Journalism of the digital era. Most notable for her work at Touch Magazine, RWD and championing Grime in the scene’s infancy, and highly influential for her contributions to the editorial dimension of building the scene we celebrate so much today, and a personal inspiration of mine.
After accepting an interview I was fortunate enough to head down to iD HQ (where she’s now Features Director) for an in depth conversation about the rough old days, RWD Forum, student life in Liverpool, working with Wiley, new independent media and much more.
T: The wonders of technology today. I actually only got a laptop recently. I used to write posts off my phone. But, back in the day you neeeded a computer! You lived through the hard days man..
H: I don’t even remember my first computer. I was working at ‘Touch Magazine’ with Chantelle Fiddy. I remember Chan had that ooold make – I can’t remember if it was Green or Blue. But I can’t even remember when I got my first computer. I think we used to share a computer. I just remember saving and saving for a big black Macbook…
T: Rah you were into Mac then?
H: Yeah, straight to Mac. And I got it for cheap coz I was in New York on a trip or something, So I got it for like $400/$500; which was a huge amount at the time. But compared to back home that was nothing..
-HATTIE, TERROR DANJAH & FIDDY (CIRCA 2004)
T: That was when getting things from New York for cheap was a ting!
T: It’s like culturally obsolete now. Times have changed and we’re gunna talk about that somewhat. So, seeing as you spent some time on the Merseyside. So, talking Liverpool. What was it like culturally? Was there anything about Liverpool that stood out about it that you really liked? Because it’s the one place in the UK that I would go next. Like, if London starts failing me, the Merseyside is where I’m going…
H: I think Liverpool was always overshadowed by outside opinion (by Manchester), but actually when you lived in Liverpool, for me it felt like the most vibrant exciting centre of the Earth. I mean, I was young. I just had left home so anywhere I’d gone had maybe felt like that. But what I loved about Liverpool was, like when I got on and the bus driver said “This doesn’t go there girl, but d’you know what, if no one minds I’ll just drop you up there.” and that kinda sums up Liverpool for me. People went out of there way for you… But on the other hand, it was rough!
T: Yeah, but London was rough at the time…
H: Yeah yeah, I mean, I’m from Birmingham so I was used to it. But what I remember about Liverpool having come from Birmingham was how White it was. I dunno if it’s as White now, but that was something I was acutely aware of. The school I’d gone to was majority Muslim, so for me it was like ‘Woah. This is very very White’. And the two Black guys that were on my course, if I was with them and saw other Black people whether they knew them or not they would say hello. And they explained to me that that was a thing. So, for me at 18 or 19 that was quite eye opening for me, that you could have an immediate connection with some based on culture.
T: Do you feel like there’s a stronger working class in Liverpool. Because I was watching a documentary recently about Liverpool and there was this girl in the queue for the club and she’s like “Yeah, we’ve all got shit jobs! But on the weekend we dress up and go out!” and I felt like that summed up Liverpool.
H: That felt like Birmingham for me as well. I used to work in the Market and get like fifteen quid a day or something like that. And somehow I would go out HARD that night. And I’d still have a few quid left at the end of the night…
H: *laughs* Yeah somehow…
-CREAM NIGHTCLUB, LIVERPOOL (PRIOR DEMOLITION IN 2016)
H: … Liverpool’s like that. Girls would go out with not much clothes on. Guys would get super dressed up. We’d go to the clubs like ‘CREAM’ or whatever and it wouldn’t be like “London Dressed Up” necessarily in designer stuff…
T: It was more Style over Fashion?
H: Yeah. In London you had the Moschino and Versace. You got a bit of that in Liverpool, but it was more about getting your own personal sense of style. Customising stuff, like I had a friend who used make all her own clothes. There was just this attitude of ‘Can Do’. I mean there wasn’t much money there, but I did feel like a place of opportunity.
T: Everything was a labour of love in Liverpool?
H: Yeah. It was all a labour of love.
T: Rolling on… RWD Forum!
H: Oh man.*laughs* The wild west!
T: Yeah, exactly! As 15 year old – with my fellow generation of Grime kids ([particularly producers like myself).. We were all over RWD Forum and I feel like people forget about it because it’s in that 2005/2006 era where Grime died again. There was like a lul after Pow/FWD Riddim…
H: Yeah, basically it got so big that it just killed that site.
T: What, the server couldn’t handle the traffic?
-RWD FORUM [MK 2] (2007)
H: Yeah it was physically so massive, and partly because it got infiltrated by some massive internet Porn ring so the back end of it was a mess…
T: So there were technical issues that were above your head at the time…
H: Yeah. But, everyone was on that forum. Wiley, even MC’s that wouldn’t admit it. Everyone was there…
T: Yeah the whole scene was there. I referred to as a “Cyber Community” is a prior piece I wrote about the evolution of Grime, and also how RWD was the catalyst for introducing the rest of the UK into the community…
H: Yeah I think at one point it topped a million which at that point was insane. But I think RWD as a business failed to monetise that. But, was special about RWD Forum is that it became a barometer for what was good and what wasn’t. People would be fuckin’ outrageous! They’d called Wiley something, then Wiley would respond saying “Your Mum looks like a Mash Potato” or something like that *laughs*
– RWD FORUM [MK2] (2007)
T: This was the beginning of Anonymous commenting and Trolling culture…
H: It was very much about Trolling yeah. People would be getting trolled constantly and we’d have to speak unhappy MC’s and Producers saying “You need to delete that comment!” and then we’d delete the user, but then they’d come back with a new name. It just got more and more out of control, and the abuse…
T: Yeah, the core audience was like my age a the time (15ish) which was probably why it was complete chaos. But that was the great thing about it. Because as a low level Grime producer at the time if you dropped a beat in there you got honest feedback straight away. Either Way, I just feel like it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. I feel like it gets overlooked coz there’s no reference to it. ‘Mr Slash – Concerto Riddim’ is the only release associated with the era and the platform to some degree. It just seems to get written out of the history books.
H:Yeah, Logan, Wiley, Plastician where all heavily involved in the forum, and often people talk about Channel U which was great, Risky Roadz, Lord Of The Mics; all these differents things which is great. But RWD Mag and the Forum was a big part of that.
T: Couldn’t agree more. So, rolling on! Wiley’s autobiography… what happened? I left a comment on Instagram and this was before we were even connected on instagram and it was about the fact that were meant to edit it, but it subsequently became Wiley’s stream of consciousness (to some degree) and you liked the comment…
H: Yeah yeeeeah, I remember that..
T: I know Wiley is Wiley, so I’m expecting an interesting story here… *laughs*
H: “Wiley is Wiley” is a very good way to put it *laughs*. Basically, I was doing my book (THIS IS GRIME!) at the time and also trying to do Wiley’s. So obviously it was getting a bit much, and there was pressure from both publishers. And Wiley was saying “I feel like I’m being really unfair to you, putting all this pressure on you.” And I told him I really wanted to do it, can we not wait a little bit? But you can’t really tell someone to wait 6 months to put there thing out. So, what I done is, I’d spoken to his Dad and Sister and to him. So I said why don’t I just give you everything and you can do with it what you want and at the end if you need me I can come back and do some editing. Which I believe is why he gave me a really really nice thank you at the end.
T: So, moving on to current affairs. Generation Y in particular and new independent movements. You know when you think about TRENCH, Watson Rose, Wavey Garms (who have now launched their online editorial platform) and even Poundlandbandit whose social influence is steadily on the ascent.. There’s a wave of members of my generation who are creating new independent media platforms to champion our own culture. How do that firstly? And how that’s going to affect the editorial climate?
H: I think it’s nothing that’s not happened before. I mean when we started out we all got into blogging – I didn’t even know what a blospot was at the time. It’s nothing new in terms of journalism. It’s just growth. We’ve seen the move from blogs to fully formed websites. I see the rise of independent platforms as positive thing.
T: Yeah, every brand has its own identity and there’s enough bread to eat..
H: I think it’s good. A lot of magazines have gone since I started out. I mean it’s not good that people have lost jobs – I’ve lost jobs along the way. But I think it’s good that the cream rises to the top, if you like.
T: Yeah, and I guess you need to pass the touch (at some point)…
H: Yeah. It’s the way it is. RWD back in the day was the number one place. Now it’s GRM or LInk Up. Everything changes and in it’s time TRENCH could be number one, who knows? To me it’s just exciting. And the future is not yet written I don’t think.
T: I also think it’s time for a generation to be empowered on a social level. If you can get a platform to the influence of a GRM or Vice. Then the amount of social progression you can inform is what gives us something to really look forward to.
H: Definitely! That’s how ID started, that’s how RWD started, The Face started, Vice… Just a small group of people that just wanted to tell the truth. Then you get your shareholders and corporate responsibilities and when you get to a certain level, it opens for another thing to come. It’s just the cycle of life. There always needs to be agitators, destructers and new thinkers pushing the older ones.
T: Yeah and it’s good to see the cycle still rolling. And we’re at the beginning of a new one.
H: It’s exciting!
T: So to wrap this up! What’s the plans for the future following the release of ‘This Is Grime’?
H: I still feel like there’s stuff to do with the book. It’s not so much a snapshot in time, rather an evolving thing. So maybe a revised edition.. I’d love to do a Stormzy cover or a JME cover. I mean there’s so many people I didn’t speak to – Mr Slash is one of them…
T: So it could be a ‘This Is Grime Vol. 1’ etc etc…
H: Yeah yeaaah. I’d also love to see it in a visual sense. I mean even outside the book. Film and documentaries something I’d like to pursue in the future. I’m really interested in the people and what they had to say. That’s what drew me to Grime – the people. So, that’s something I intend to continue exploring, inside and outside of Grime.
Full uncut podcast of our candid 50min conversation covering where we also discuss: The Pre-Internet Urban music landscape, Gemma Fox, Katie Pearl, Grime singers in general, UK Drill, ‘The Outrage Marketing Conspiracy’, New UK Festivals & and more below:
YOU CAN ALSO DOWNLOAD HERE
POSTED BY: @TIMI.WATSONROSE