A vivid amalgamation of hip-hop, jazz, soul and African influences, Blame It on the Youts is the product of a lengthy period spent finding his true voice.
Born in Tanzania, Tiggs – real name Adam Muhabwa – was raised by his mother in south London. Once a promising footballer, who was on the books at Gravesend and Northfleet, he discovered grime through a friend who DJ-ed on pirate radio stations. “Even though I loved football a lot at the time, I just didn’t have the money or the support to keep it up,” he says. “My best friend, he was called DJ Fingers, was one of the best young DJs who everyone knew in the area just because of how good he was. He was very old-school with turntables, switching vinyls, mixing, and wherever he went I was with him whether it was record shops in Brixton or pirate radio on the Old Kent Road, I used to be his sidekick.
“He had a room in his house where he had turntables, a computer, a piano and a bunch of records and I pretty much lived with him. Whenver he went out I used to go in that room and play around with things. It became a hobby. The same way someone would play Fifa, I would play with music programs, that’s how I got into it.”
By his own admission a “reserved, shy type of personality”, it took a while for Tiggs to find his feet. “When I was in school and everyone was spitting their bars in the playground, I just didn’t do it. My brothers didn’t even know I wrote lyrics,” he says. Initially influenced by Dizzee Rascal and Wiley – “I felt like those guys represented my day to day life” – he says it was seeing musicians playing while on a trip to Tanzania that made him appreciate jazz. “That’s where things began to change, it was almost like a moment of me finding my true identity,” he says.
Over the past six years there have been singles, mixtapes and collaborations with the likes of Nines, J Hus, Stefflon Don and KSI, plus tracks on video games and the soundtrack to the film Bridget Jones’ Baby. Now comes Tiggs’ debut album.
“Blame It on the Youts is a perfect reflection of my mindstate during my teenage years, and I’d like to believe I’m not the only teenager who feels that way in terms of living in a place, growing up seeing everything is against you,” he says.
“You feel like the older generation doesn’t really understand anything about the younger generation, so when you don’t understand something you just dislike it. Whether it’s the older musicians believing that the younger guys are not as good as them because they’re doing things differently, whether it’s parents seeing you hanging out on the street with your friends and believing that you’re just up to no good, whether it’s police feeling like they have to stop and search you all the time, you just feel you’re being stereotyped. So that’s why it was called Blame It On the Youts, it was like ‘let me save you the time, if anything goes wrong just blame it on the youths’.”
The album’s vibrancy is intended to represent the flavours of contemporary Africa. “There’s so many different sounds in Africa and of course there’s some sounds which are more in the forefront now like the West African Afrobeat,” Tiggs says. “When you go to South Africa or East Africa or Noth Africa there’s a different sound. For me, it was important to get influences from East African music because I feel like a lot of people don’t really know too much about what happens in East Africa. I was listening to a lot of old Tanzanian bands that my mum used to listen to like Kilwa Jazz Band who are so good, the music is just infectious, very melodic guitar lines, amazing bass lines and the rhythm of it is so good. I felt like I really wantwed to take a part of that and add it to my music. I’d like to think it’s Afro-soul.”
Blame It on the Youts is out now.