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Charlie Sloth interview: no festival really celebrates UK rap culture

We caught up with the rap tastemaker as he brings Giggs, legendary Fire in the Booth live and more to Sheffield's Ponderosa for the first ever Fire in the Park.

Henry Lewis

Date published: 23rd Sep 2019

With U.K. MCs delivering at the immensely high level they are at the moment, it seems a massive shame to limit the consumption of the genre's best artists to simply just through headphones or in the club, when seeing them live brings a whole new level of enjoyment.

With that in mind, rap, hip hop and grime fans alike can rejoice, as this weekend (Saturday 28th September) the inaugural Fire in the Park Festival will launch at Sheffield's Ponderosa, bringing with it the best of grime, hip hop and big bass music.

The event is the brainchild of none other than renowned DJ and tastemaker Charlie Sloth, famed for his Fire in the Booth feature and a man who has helped break some of the U.K and world's best known rappers, and is one of the most distinctive voices on the air waves.

After moving from Radio 1 to Apple Music, it's been a busy time for Charlie Sloth - but the broadcaster is continuing to do what he does best in giving an opportunity to MCs old and new to spit their best bars, and with his new live music event, has created a chance for fans to get even closer to the artists they love.

Ahead of Fire in the Park, we spoke to Charlie about his time at the BBC, some of his favourite FITB performances and his must see acts at his forthcoming event in Sheffield.

So, the last 18 months be pretty hectic for you. Can you explain what's been going on, the change in career, how it came about that you left Radio 1, and what's the best thing about moving to Apple Music? 

C: Well, it's not really a change in career, it's a change in output, and where I house the content I create. So last year, obviously, I left the BBC after 10 years, and you know, I was very proud to be a part of such a great establishment. But in October last year, I announced that I will be leaving the BBC to join Apple Music and Beats 1, and you know, that for me, I just feel that the way people consume content has changed forever.

And the future is streaming. And I wanted to be a part of that. And, you know, I'm very proud to be a part of the Apple Music and Beats 1 family. And, you know, the fact that the content that we create is distributed internationally, the show goes out on an international platform, as well as all the content. It just feels like, you know, it was some progression in my career. 

And I'm just grateful that, you know, I had to 10 years in the BBC, and now I'm just very optimistic and positive about the future with Apple Music and Beats 1.

So can you say who your favourite guest on the show has been so far, and who has delivered the best Fire in the Booth?

C: I'll get asked this question all the time, you know, what's your favourite Fire in the Booth since you joined Apple Music? And it's impossible for me to answer that question because I like different Fire in the Booths for different reasons and they provoke different emotions, and cater for different periods of time. I mean, there have been some really amazing standout moments. 

Obviously Megan Thee Stallion, we did her Fire in the Booth earlier this year and she accredits it as being that tipping point in her career. Obviously she’s been the biggest breakthrough rapper in the world in 2019. 

Also Giggs’ Fire in the Booth Part 4 was a real moment. M Huncho, his Fire in the Booth was a real moment. Digga D, again, another real moment. I mean, there's been so many great ones, in this new chapter with Apple Music. 

Who's been your favourite rapper of the last 12 months? 

C: Again, it'd be hard for me to single out my favourite rapper, because I appreciate all the artists for different reasons. I mean, there have obviously been quite a few albums that have been real standout for me. Giggs’ album, was a real, powerful body of work, as was Dave’s Psychodrama which has been on repeat.

Also you've got Kano’s new album which has just dropped which again is an incredible body of work, which you always get from Kano. So I would say those three albums are probably my favourite albums of the year so far. 

So have you watched all of the new Top Boy? 

C: I've seen it and I'm a huge fan of the show. The whole production value, the writing, the acting. Everything had just gone up a level and I was honestly blown away. By the time I got to the end of episode 10 I was on the edge of my seat. And I was blown away. I literally had to reach out to the majority of the people in the show to congratulate them on how incredibly it was that I was that blown away.

So, tell us about Fire in the Park, where the idea came from, and how have you managed to pull it off?

C: Fire in the Park, obviously, being a DJ, I get to play a lot of festivals around the UK around Europe, around the world. And I just felt there was no festival that really celebrated UK rap culture, British culture, you know, like, even the ones that are doing a great job, you know, they’re heavily saturated were international artists.

So I just felt that I wanted to create something that really celebrated British rap music. And, you know, it's in the healthiest state it's been period since I've been alive. And I just wanted an event which mirrors that. Something where the artists can come, do their thing, and be celebrated. And at the same time, the fans of the music and the culture can come and have a real experience. You know, just like back to back performances from some of the people that they love.

So out of all the acts playing Fire in the Park, can you pick five that you're looking forward to or an essential track from each of those artists? 

C: I'll name the five artists:

Giggs - his live show is always incredible, always brings an amazing energy. 

The special Fire in the Booth live - that's going to be a real moment. That's going to be a real moment that will get everybody talking and just you know, it's going to be a real experience, a real… experience.

D Block Europe, again, you know, I’m just a huge fan of the lads and I've heavily deployed them for years just to see they come up and see how a lot them are like the hottest thing out there right now. For me, that’s a beautiful beautiful moment just watching that journey. So watching them step out on the stage, the Fire in the Park is going to be electrifying.

Stardom as well. You know Stardom, is someone I feel I on the cusp of being that guy. He’s doing crazy numbers at the minute and just about every record he's releasing is connecting. So I'm really looking forward to see what he brings to Fire in the Park. 

I’d also say Polo G as well because he has never performed in the UK. He absolutely be killing it at the moment, he's on fire. So watching what he does will be sick..

You can find Fire in the Park tickets below.

Tickets are no longer available for this event