Meet the MC: Bru-C
Having made his name as a key figure in the bassline and drum & bass collective CruCast, Bru-C is now pushing himself further with a signing to the UK wing of iconic hip-hop label Def Jam. He talks to DJ Mag about the importance of keeping it real
Realness: the rarest commodity in these filtered and manipulated times. Forever sought after, impossible to synthesise; realness can’t be controlled or counted or rated by numbers. You either have it, or you don’t. And Bru-C has it by the bucket load. “I’m just Josh from Long Eaton, you know what I mean? I wear my heart on my sleeve,” grins the man himself from the comfort of his living room. “I feel if I’m not showing the real version of me, then I’m lying, and I don’t like lying. I like loyalty, I like realness.”
DJ Mag has caught Josh Bruce during a rare moment of downtime. Fittingly for someone who thrives off realness, shit has most definitely got real for him in recent years. Having squeezed the most out of 2021, making up for lost time on lockdown, he toured relentlessly (his own headline tour sold out within a week and he became the first rapper to ever sell out Nottingham Rock City), dropped a series of six singles (amassing well over 100 million streams), and finished the year with arguably the biggest label signing a UK MC could ever wish for. Once a firm member of the highly popular UK bass collective CruCast, where he rolled with the new generation of d&b and bassline headliners such as Skepsis, Kanine and Darkzy, he’s now a member of 0207 Def Jam, the UK arm of the legendary hip-hop institution where the likes of Stormzy is a label mate and the highly influential Boateng brothers are his bosses.
“Straight family from the jump,” says Bruce. “In this industry, it’s hard to differentiate between the people who really fuck with your shit and the people who just want to make coin off you. But I felt authentic vibes from the whole Def Jam team. I never thought I’d sign to a major to be honest, I like having full control of what I’m doing, but it felt right.” For added authenticity, he signed his Def Jam contract on his old street in Long Eaton. “Where I was born and raised,” he explains. “I’d have never done that five years ago. I’d have been doing that in London sipping champagne and all that shit. That’s not me, though.”
To get an idea of who Bru-C truly is, you just need to listen to his music. Bouncing a-mile-a-minute over a range of UK flavours, from bassline to d&b, all his talk of realness can be heard in his frank, heartfelt and witty lyrics. Capturing the multi-faceted human condition, he articulates the essence of what it’s like to be a millennial living in Tory UK, a young father, a hopeless romantic and a card-carrying raver, sometimes within one tune. Reflecting ambition without inflating his own ego, summarising his success without listing material wealth, expressing physical desires without demoralising women; he eschews any of the usual UK rave MC cliches with honesty and clarity.
“Like, bro, I love to party, I love to sesh, I love gyal,” says Bruce, his grin getting wider with each item on the list. “But at the same time, I love wellness. I know it’s so conflicted, but I’m not scared to go into that territory where people are thinking, ‘Well hold on, one minute he’s talking about getting fucked, the next he’s talking about looking after himself’. No shit — that’s what life is about!”
Such is the crux of Bru-C’s authenticity. But even beyond his honest approach to story-telling, there’s much more to his realness. Firstly, at 31, Josh is no newbie and has been grafting away at his career for 12 years. “There’s never been that one tune that’s been like ‘bang!’ and blown up, and I’m glad,” he explains. “It’s allowed me to grow at my own pace and, to a degree, have control over how things are going, and things aren’t running away from man.”
Secondly, he comes from the dance and remains a devout follower and fan of many styles. A huge amount of our interview is spent listing artists and influences as he runs through his musical history, from the R&B influence of his mum and sister to his love of grime, bassline and dubstep.
"I felt authentic vibes from the whole Def Jam team. I never thought I’d sign to a major to be honest, I like having full control of what I’m doing, but it felt right”
“Bro, I was a student for all these years — I still am!” he admits. “I was pilled off my nut watching Crazy D hosting sets for N-Type at Stealth and Dread MC host for Benga. Take all these influences and that’s me.”
He goes on to give a TED talk level of appraisal for bassline pioneer Jamie Duggan, laughing at his own unashamed fanboying. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that man, it’s as simple as that,” states the rapper, who can still remember the day his sister first played him a Jamie Duggan mixtape. “You know, it’s mad. I’ve been advised, and I’ve seen it in other interviews, where people don’t mention other people’s names as influences. I don’t think that’s even possible.”
Thirdly, and most importantly when it comes to understanding who Bru-C is and why his rise has been so phenomenal in recent years, is his hunger and prolific work rate. Prior to last year’s epic run of singles came his 2020 album ‘Smile’ — which boasted a whole range of collaborators, including Example, Monrroe and Massapeals — and less than a year before that, in late 2019, came his debut album ‘Original Sounds’. In fact, since 2019 he’s been responsible for upwards of 50 releases, features and collaborations. Impressive, considering a lot of dance music MCs don’t even have a discography.
“I am that urgent guy,” says Bruce, who hurtled into 2022 with another massive single, ‘Paradise’ — a collaboration with d&b chart-topper superstar Wilkinson — and is currently working on a more extensive body of work for 0207 Def Jam. “It’s why I’ve got the discography I have, I’ve got so many releases and why I collaborate with so many different people. It can be hard when you’re working with someone who’s not moving quite as quick — not everyone wants it as much as you.”
And here’s where we strike the heart of Bru-C’s legitimacy and realness. When asked what the cause of his urgency is, he once again bares all.
“A whole load of reasons, bro,” ponders Bruce, who, prior to going full time with music, was a plasterer. At first he pinpoints the moment when his father left the family home and how he and his mum would regularly fight bailiffs away from the doorstep. He then moves on to a turning point moment in 2017, just as he was beginning to breakthrough and become a known name on UK line-ups.
“The one time that properly sticks with me, when I thought, ‘you’ve got to make this work, you cannot fuck this up’, was when my son was two years old,” he recalls. “It was a pretty fucked up time to be honest, and I was living in a friend’s attic. I’d gone downstairs and then came back into the room and there’s a mirror in front of the wall and my boy has got an SM58 mic in his hand. He had bare long hair and he’s giving it a little bop with the mic in his hand. I just thought, ‘bro, there’s no way he can look up to some waste MC. I’ve got to be the guy for him. I’ve got to do it.’ That resonated with me hard and still does to this day.”
Realness: the rarest commodity in these filtered and manipulated times. Forever sought after, impossible to synthesise and seldom found in such quantities in an interview. Bucket loads of respect to Bru-C.