From spitting bars in the playground to landing a BET award and two MOBOs, south London hip-hop duo Krept and Konan are on track to dominate.
Deciding to release their debut mixtape RedRum as an unsigned act from the backstreets of Croydon in 2009 told the world that, from the get go, it was Krept and Konan's way or the highway. In turn, breakout single "Don't Waste My Time" form their grime-heavy second tape, 2014's Young Kingz (featuring bars from the likes of Giggs, Ghetts and Wretch 32), remains the higgest-charting British release for an unsigned act. Everywhere from the grotty wasteland of Visions Video Bar to Cafe de Paris buzzed to those skittering 808s and rumbling bass rolls. With a debut album, The Long Way Home, out in July and clothing line I Play Dirty to their name, the pair are ready to chat to Rollacoaster.
Rollacoaster: You're both members of expansive hip-hop collective Gipset - but how did you meet?
Krept: We both went to different schools in the same area, then our schools played each other at football.
Konan: It kind of took shape in 2004. It was the era of sending music via Bluetooth, and that's when we did our first song together. That's when we got the first taste of it just being us two. We put out the mixtape and then it evolved.
R: So tell us about The Long Way Home - how long have you been working on it?
Krept: Over a year and a half. We talk about loads of different topics - it's a journey and we want people to experience that when they listen to it.
R: I bet there were some late nights in the studio. How did you manage it?
Konan: When we go to the studio and do a song, it will never take us a day. Because we're such perfectionists, sometimes we start a song all over again. If we didn't have a deadline, I bet we'd still be changing stuff on it now. There was a shower at the studio, so we basically lived there. I had to get a root canal because I was eating too much junk food. Then we went back to our old studio - the main studio that we record at - and I literally had to go to Argos and buy a sleeping bag.
R: Where did the inspiration for the more personal songs on the album, like "Roses" come from?
Krept: My friend told me he was dying while I was listening to the beat on "Roses", he was saying [that he couldn't] find a donor and he had two weeks left. Konan's cousin was going out to war and he didn't want to go. These are just things that we were going through at the time, so we put it into music.
R: You've collaborated with some huge American names on the new album, as well as French Montana previously. How did you build these relationships?
Konan: When you make noise and people come to your city, they hear about you. When those artists came here, they just caught wind of us. When French came here, he wanted to do a remix of "Don't Waste My Time". From there, we went to America and shot the video, and Chinx jumped in on the song. Then French did a version of it and put it on his Mixtape Coke Boys, which is massive.
R: Branching out and working with American artists isn't typical for London-bred hip-hop talent. Why make that bridge?
Konan: The ambition, man. You want to become massive. We don't do music just to stay here; we don't do it just to go to America either. I feel like we want to be everywhere. So if there's a chance we can reach out to someone in Japan or China who raps, we will. The bigger, the better.
R: I see that Konan's mum also features on the album...
Konan: Yeah, we did a song called "Fell Apart". Basically, it's an interlude. My mum used to be a singer. She messaged me when I was recording the album saying, 'I've got a recording of you singing with me when you were younger.' She sent it, and the topic of the song is the same as the song we had made already. So we put it in so you could hear the balance. You see it elevate.
R: As for the other British artists who appear on The Long Way Home - names like Skepta and Ed Sheeran - did you always know you wanted to collaborate with them?
Krept: We had worked with a few UK artists, so we thought: Who can we collab with that makes sense? The last time we worked with Skepta was a while back, and it just made sense to do it again. Konan just randomly hit Ed Sheeran up and he came down to the studios. There was a verse on a song that he liked, and he asked to put a hook on it. When we hear the end track, we just knew this would suit Emeli Sandé.
Konan: When we heard the beat, we were like, this is an Emeli beat.
R: Ok, last one. What's the next step for you two, creatively?
Konan: We're going on our first-ever tour in November in the UK. It's gonna be crazy. We put out the music and random things happen. We've shot a few videos already, so we're going to be putting them out and surprising everyone with what we've done.