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Meet the MC: Rushy

West London MC Rushy has climbed the industry ladder from the outskirts of the city. Following the release of his latest single, ‘Koko Krazy’, he speaks with DJ Mag about his come up, SoundCloud rap, and occupying a “middle lane” in the UK’s thriving rap scene

In London’s westernmost borough of Hillingdon, beneath a sky criss- crossed with contrails and jumbo jets flying to and from nearby Heathrow airport, sits the town of Hayes. It’s referenced in the Domesday Book, it’s where Old Vinyl Factory pressed The Beatles’ most iconic albums, and it’s home to one of the rising stars of the capital’s rap scene: Rushy. The young hotshot went viral last summer with clear-headed trap anthem ‘Pressure’, and then cruised into 2024 on a jet ski alongside AntsLive for the visuals of the irrepressibly boastful, catchy ‘Estelle’.

“How can I explain this?” Rushy asks himself, pondering on how to describe his hometown, where he’s lived since moving across the city from East London’s Walthamstow, age six. “It’s one of those areas that everyone else acts like isn’t part of London,” he tells DJ Mag over Zoom. Cameras are off but the flick of a lighter can be heard sparking something into life in the background. “Like everything that London has, bad and good, is here. But because we’re on the outskirts, people think we’re on the other side of the world.”

This sense of being on the periphery has posed its challenges; historically, Hayes has not been a hotbed for UK rap. It’s not Brixton or Tottenham. “In a lot of other places there’s an older. There’s someone who’s made music. They’ve done their thing. They’ve established themselves and they know people in the industry,” Rushy explains. Think Giggs, the Landlord of road rap, bulldozing a path for the next generation of artists from Peckham to follow. “There was none of that for me. There was no link. No one really understood the game. I would say it’s been harder because of that.”

This lack of accessible knowledge makes Rushy’s rise even more impressive. And perhaps he can become that trailblazing figurehead for his manor. “Yeah, because everyone else has to pay attention now,” he agrees, full of confidence.

Photo of Rushy wearing a black shirt and cap against a plush, red curtain
Credit: @pavvfx

“In a lot of other places there’s an older. There’s someone who’s made music. They’ve done their thing. They’ve established themselves and they know people in the industry. There was none of that for me.”

Rushy began uploading music to SoundCloud back in 2016, when he was still in school, with his day ones Lano (“the barrer”) and RomyJo (“he’s got the melodies”), with whom he forged the Straight3 collective. “SoundCloud was the fun stage. It was like our training ground,” he remembers. A year later, Rushy recorded ‘Trippidy Trap’. It really captures his essence; an infectious hook, crystal clear delivery, and lyrics born of the streets but not consumed by them. He brags about the loud he’s smoking and the woman on his lap, but admits he doesn’t like the risky life he’s living.

The way those around him reacted told Rushy he was onto something. “So I sat on the track for like two and a half years, trying to find the right place for it to sit,” he remembers. “Because I had no real idea about what the music industry is.” When it did land in 2019, it popped off, speeding to million views on YouTube in just two months. “If it wasn’t for that song doing what it did, I don’t know if I’d still be making music.”

That wave carried him on tour with Nafe Smallz and to the stage at Printworks with M Huncho. Unknown T had just performed ‘Homerton B’. “I saw how crazy the crowd had gone and wasn’t expecting anything like the same,” Rushy says. “So when I stepped out and it did go crazy, everyone had their lights up, they were singing the lyrics back to me, I knew I was doing something right. “I probably should’ve celebrated these things more, but I was learning on the job,” he adds. “That’s what I’ve been doing since 2019.”

Rushy’s approach to music is less of a calculated formula, and more like pouring the sounds and styles he grew up with into a pot, whipping them up into new magic. He was raised on grime and the iconic Channel U anthems beamed in from his television screen. “I wasn’t spitting bars or tryna write at that time,” he says. But the clarity in his raps are reminiscent of the best grime MCs. In a lovely full-circle moment, the video for ‘Trippidy Trap’ was directed by Nu Brand Flexxx’s Boya Dee. “I used to listen to this guy’s music, then there he was directing my video,” he remembers. “And I didn’t even know it was him.”

By the time Rushy started writing, he was listening to the likes of A$AP Rocky, Tyler, The Creator and in particular Joey Bada$$. “His thing was beats, brand, the way the whole crew was dressing. It kind of reminded me of what me and my friends were like,” he remembers. “And Pro Era were from the hood in New York, but they weren’t swaying that way too much.” This is reflected in Rushy’s own lyricism, which is aspirational and avoids the nihilism of UK rap’s darker strains.

Photo of Rushy wearing a grey jumper on a maroon background
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His beat selection, most notably on 2020’s ‘Stress 3’ EP, leans heavily into American trap. “Pi’erre Bourne was a big influence. My main thing was trying to take these Pi’erre Bourne-type beats and make them British,” he explains. The aforementioned producer’s beats sound like they were built by an alien who landed on earth and downed a gallon of lean, often complimented by rappers who woozily mud-walk across the weird soundscapes. In contrast, there’s an energetic sharpness to Rushy’s trap-adjacent songs. “I sip my Henny, don’t need the wok,” he raps on viral hit ‘Pressure’, disavowing the Wockhardt codeine syrup that Yachty crooned about taking to Poland on his own viral hit. “People are basing a lot of their music around it now,” he says. “So I put that in there like, ‘Yo, you don’t have to start making songs about lean to sound cool.’”

Both geographically, and musically, Rushy has positioned himself in a unique space. His output so far has used collaborations sparingly. On the few occasions he has connected with other artists, it’s made sense on both a personal and stylistic level. Last year’s joint ‘RUSH HOUR’ EP with North-West London’s Ashbeck traded in the trap sound for lush, rich productions and oozes coolness. “I was listening back to it the other day,” he says. “And people might say I’m crazy but when it comes to collaborative tapes in the UK, it has to be top three. It’s hard.”

‘Estelle’ with AntsLive developed from a mutual appreciation of one another’s work over DMs and a quick conversation after a show. “We lined the studio session up there and then,” Rushy says. “Honestly, the song got made in an hour and a half. It was just natural.” Rushy describes the space he occupies in UK rap as the “middle lane”, between the mellow backpack rappers and trap-wave surfers on one side, and the drillers blasting through brooding, dark productions on the other. The thing about the middle lane is you can take everything in. “Because of what I’ve listened to and the variety I’ve got in my own music, I feel like there’s a middle lane to the scene that nobody really runs,” he explains. “People might slide in there sometimes but no-one really is the middle lane guy, running things. That’s what I need to be.”

Before DJ Mag wraps up the conversation with Rushy, and with dinnertime on the horizon, there’s one more tough question to answer. His dad is from Barbados and his mum is from Iraq. So which cuisine would he choose, if he had to? “Ohh,” he laughs. “I like both, but if it’s the top tier of each... I’ll probably go for Caribbean. The levels of both are crazy, though.” But this writer knows from experience that Iraqi dolma (stuffed vegetables) is the best of the best. “That’s so weird because my mum was literally saying that to me the other day,” he says, the sound of a smile spreading across his face. “Slap that in the piece. She’s gonna read it and get gassed!”

Want more? Read DJ Mag’s Meet the MC with AntsLive

Robert Kazandjian is a freelance music and culture writer. Follow him on X @RKazandjian

Pics: @pavvfx