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Kid Acne: Focused on developing his work
Interview: Kid Acne
The lad has been spraying the walls of SY for nearly a decade, lighting up faces with his cheeky hip hop lyrics, just released a new album, and is showing signs of becoming a globally recognised talent.
Kid Acne is a name you should remember, it's just a matter of time before he is a big name in his field as he's already making inroads. Ackers, as he's known has been turning heads with his music and art for a number of years, has designed T-Shirt collections for a top international brand, has his own brand of spray cans and at the time of this interview was designing his own range of toys.
His art is a familiar name to many in these parts and graces many walls locally. You can see examples on London Road, Nether Edge, and the back of the Yorkshire Artspace car park to name but a few.
His music has been banging out of the stereos of the hip youth of Sheffield and beyond for a number of years, kids that like to hear lyrics like "Dr Zhivago, full of pravado, breath like a wino necking Cinzano". A refreshing change from the gangster rap which critics accuse of bringing down the genre.
Ackers is well known for his witty lyrics
Ackers, got into music listening to a pirate radio station his friend used to run:
"I was into UK hip hop before American, 'cause of the pace of everything [UK hip hop had quicker beats and a rawer sound].
"My mate had this pirate radio station, who I used to paint with. I used to listen to the rave section, then the hip hop section like Hardnoise, Gunshot, Son Of Noise, Hijack, Caveman, Catch 22, Standing Ovation and all the UK stuff and I was really into it.
"Then I gradually got into American hip hop, through NWA 'cause that was a classic album that everyone had to have at school, but from there discovered BDP [Boogie Down Productions], Eric B & Rakim, Beastie Boys and everything.
"From that I was discovering the breaks and where they came from and all those different styles of music, so I've been into all sorts of stuff really for the last 10 or 15 years, not just hip hop."
Romance Ain't Dead
Ackers has released previous material on Lex Records since 2001, a cutting edge hip hop label. He released the Council Pop album in 2003 on Sheffield's Invisible Spies label, a label he and friends set up some time ago.
Acne's latest release is out now on EMI and Lex records, called Romance Ain't Dead and it took sometime to put together:
"For whatever reason this has taken a yonk to get together, but we started recording this album about three years ago and Req who made the beats happened to have lost all of them twice.
Black and white cover for 'Romance Ain't Dead'
"Then there was a bunch of problems with sample clearance... so yeah it was quite a convoluted process, but if you put it all together it probably took about six or eight months. In between that I was doing artwork and travelling abroad."
The album cover shows Ackers in a town crier's outfit holding an '80s style ghetto blaster, very funny but carries an important message too:
"I just wanted to look like an old school MC basically... we were like, 'let's take it back to the Victorian era' [laughs]. It's a bit of a homage to Wildstyle [a form of graffiti], the old British slang in there and humour, I wanted to make sure it looked British but still had the reference to American rap.
"But when you put humour into some lyrics, some people just can't abide by it. But at the same time as an MC that's what people used to do.
"It's punch lines, being witty and sarcastic. When I MC it's like in the frame of mind of showing off to your mates. Generally when you show off to your mates you make them laugh. But it was never meant to be a funny album, wasn't meant to be stupid, it's part of the personality that comes out.
"It's a fine line I guess... you get away with, on record you say things that you wouldn't say in real life. But it's all good, I think we got the balance right, so I'm happy with it, I'm pleased with the album."
Acne: The artist
In addition to being a fine lyricist, Ackers is also a well established illustrator, graffiti artist and designer. He has painted large murals in Sheffield and across the globe, designed Prada T-Shirts, skateboards, knitwear, has his own spray cans and is designing a range of toys for New York's Kid Robot:
"If you see any warrior women, or animals, or skeletons or whatever around town [Sheffield] they're probably by me."
Ackers has also painted a graffiti style mural to the side of the BBC Radio Sheffield studios, bypassers may recall the painting of Rolf Harris on the wall opposite the entrance on Shoreham Street.
"Yeah you can see it out of the window, the Rolf Harris one, and 808 State did the eight and the eight on it. Apparently Rolf did his character, and then a couple of years later 808 State came down and two eights either side of the sun.
"Then we left it up, so when I painted it I left that up and painted around it. But yeah I was on Rolf's Cartoon Club as a kid, there's some footage somewhere, in the archive of me and Rolf... I met Rolf, yes. I've always drawn.
"I've never been into stuff that's too laboured, my hip hop is pretty simple, and my artwork is pretty simple but I think they work because of that.
"I went to Azerbaijan last year, that was pretty interesting, Australia, New York, Helsinki, just did a show in Barcelona, I think we're doing a show in Berlin and New York before the end of the year, yeah all over, it's wicked.
"I went to Azerbaijan to teach street art for a week, and painted some of the first street art in Baku... it was dope!"
"I'm designing toys for Kid Robot in New York, they should be out next summer, autumn I think, I've just got to finish them off.
"It's gonna be a whole set of my characters in like a chain of trains... it'll be like those animal trains that go to the circus but with my characters... It should be fun!
"I do appreciate how I'm lucky with what I'm doing, but at the same time I just do it, I can't not do it. I feel compelled to make stuff and I always have done.
"After I did my degree in fine art I signed on for two years and just drew, constantly. Hooked up a bunch of work and from then on I've been doing exhibitions and this and that.
"When I worked in factories and that, I found that I didn't have time to do it, I just had to find another way to find money."
Biggin' up Sheffield
"I could have moved abroad but I was travelling quite a lot, at one point I was going to Paris every month, New York a few times, I never got around to moving. I'm in London twice a week at the minute, but I like coming back to Sheffield.
"As soon as you get to the station you feel at home, it's not like you have to get in your front door or your room, you're at home when you're in the city. I do like it here, it's got a nice warm vibe about it, a lot of good people here.
"The only kinda gripe with Sheffield is it doesn't really celebrate itself that much. It's got a lot to offer but kinda falls into an average, kinda mediocre category and I don't think it should do.
"All the good things that happen here you have to discover for yourself, it's all pretty underground, but I wish the people at the top of the tree saw that it's all the little things at grass roots level that is the excitement in the city... but it's a good place to live, I do like it."
last updated: 12/12/2007 at 16:22