On a surprisingly sunny, serene October afternoon, I sit on a balcony overlooking the sun-streaked buildings that dwell within the heart of Nottingham opposite one of Britain’s most refreshing and soulful young musicians, who goes by the name of Natty. His laid back demeanour and astute sentiments regarding music, life and society reflects the vibe and sentiments of his impressive debut album, ‘Man like I.’
His name and long dread locks encourage many to make the assumption that his music can be defined fundamentally as reggae; however the eclectic mix of influences displayed throughout the album stem from his musical diversity. When I questioned him about his childhood idols he explained with effortless charm that five of his major influences growing up encompassed the incongruous influences of such names as Jimmy Hendrix, Neil Young, The Streets, Common and Bob Dylan. As I find him with his feet up, staring thoughtfully over the city, the man displays an undeniable air of self-confidence- something he describes as ‘my biggest strength, and my biggest weakness.’ At the mention of the inevitable pressure of success he casually reasons that ‘No, I’m not really bothered by pressure, that doesn’t phase me’ and professes that his priority is to bring a ‘certain amount of positivity’ with his music.
His perceptive, narrative and insightful observations of both people and society display wisdom beyond his years and a notable affinity for being able to articulate these observations through his lyrics. When I inquired about this and its roots within his experience, he admits, ‘I’ve bin doin things I shouldn’t be doing from the age of eleven,’ and having left home at 17, he grew up fast and explains ‘I was always searching, yeah, I’ve done a lot of searching, so I’m a little bit old for my age I guess.’ His voice provides a commentary on ‘social injustice’ throughout the album, and while some might argue that at times he perhaps takes himself too seriously, his music is ‘mine but it’s also yours,’ as it certainly easy to listen to and contributes to his desire to ‘help the vehicle of change.’
Having supported such acts as Kate Nash, Hard-Fi and Bedouin Soundclash and releasing his debut album at the young age of 24, he will not be resting on his laurels as he is already writing his next record. Despite his undeniable talent, like the rest of us he can struggle for inspiration at times, and admits ‘yeah, I go blank, I mean, yeah sometimes I might need a quarter bottle of rum and then things just come to me, then other times I could be just sitting there focused.’ The North Londoner is content provided he has a platform where he is in a position to ‘sing, MC, harmonise or be able to do whatever I need to express myself.’
He recognizes that he has a voice, and he certainly has something to say. When I put to him the question of what he might abhor most, he is clear in his explanation, ‘what really vexes me is social injustice,’ and in particular, ‘institutional racism.’ Specifically, he draws attention to the way this country has a tendency to suffer from such accusations, citing various examples including the behaviour of Boris Johnson. This is perhaps a relevant topic for students at Nottingham when we look at Craig Cox’s now infamous ‘bring back slavery’ banner. So, whether you explore the album for its notable musical or political prowess, Natty is one who seemingly makes ‘the music I wanna make,’ blending ‘a bit of reggae, bit of folk, afrobeat soul, indie and hip hop.’ And as for the future? He replies; ‘I got big plans.’