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Loyle Carner interview: growing up fast

Henry Lewis caught up with the South London rapper to talk about his busy festival season, an appearance on LFC TV and his cookery class for children with ADHD.

Jimmy Coultas

Last updated: 8th Feb 2017

Image: Loyle Carner

Which ever way you look at it, Loyle Carner isn't your average rapper. The boy born Benjamin Coyle-Larner, along with the help of friend and collaborator Rebel Kleff, is best known for his laid back styling which takes influence from East Coast maestros like A Tribe Called Quest.

So what's so unusual about that? On the surface of it nothing, but a closer listen to the words he spits unveils a sensitivity that is missing from UK hip hop. There's no bravado, no gunshots and no mention of nameless notches on a bed post.

It's refreshing to hear someone telling a different story. 'Florence', for example depicts a life where Carner has a younger sister, something he has always wanted whilst 'Ain't Nothing Changed' opens with the eternal lyric: "I kind of miss my student loan/I miss sitting in a student home."

There's many more strings to the bow of the 21 year old however; at age 13 he had a small role in the film 10,000 BC and received a drama scholarship to the Brit School.

Whilst an acting career was brushed aside to focus on music, the rapper is now also focusing his attentions on his culinary skills and is curating cooking classes for children with ADHD, a condition from which he suffers himself.

We spoke with Ben amidst a busy festival season, where he recently supported supported Massive Attack at Hyde Park alongside the likes of Patti Smith and Young Fathers, before he heads on tour later in the year.

Loyle Carner tickets.

Hey man, how's it going?

Hey, I'm not too bad. I've just walked my dog, made some food. I'm chilling, I've got a day off. It's good to have a day off from shows, I'm trying to finish this album off, there's a lot of stuff going on.

Yeah you recently played British Summer Time didn't you, how was that?

Yeah it was fucking ridiculous. It's the first time I've ever played a main-stage so yeah it was a bit of an eye opener really, a nuts day.

What was the crowd like? BST is a huge gig...

Yeah it was alright, it wasn't packed out but I had no illusions that I was gonna fill out the whole of Hyde Park but yeah it was good. I didn't get chance to stick around to see Patti Smith or Massive Attack but it was good, my mum did though, my mum stayed.

Yeah I saw on Twitter, what happened?

We had another festival in the evening, a festival called El Dorado in fucking Herefordshire or Hertfordshire or something, far far away so we had to leave earlier. My mum stuck around, she was on the side of the stage with Patti Smith which is kind of more important in my eyes.

How are you finding festival season, are you enjoying it?

Yeah I am, it is enjoyable. It does get a bit overwhelming when you've got like fucking six in three days but I love it. If I'm honest, it feels like one long holiday.

I saw you back in February at Outlines, it's been a long festival season for you...

[Laughs] Yeah I've been trucking on. That was cool, I was just excited to see Roots Manuva.

That was the first time I've seen you live, I was taken aback by how humble you are as a performer, have you always been like that?

I think that's how I've always been. I just think that's how I was raised by my grandparents. My mum was an actress, she's a teacher now, and my dad used to make music, not professionally just for fun.

I think it was always like performing or just creating art or performance art whatever you call it, was more of a hobby or a personal thing. It's never been a showy thing to us as a family to show off, it's just kind of what we do.

In that respect you differ massively from grime artists, who like you are from London, and are part of the UK hip hop scene. Do you ever look to those artists and compare yourself? 

I've been a fan of grime for a long time, it was the first form of rapping I really latched on to from an early age before I started hearing the likes of Jehst and Roots Manuva and Skinnyman and whatnot, all the UK hip hop guys.

It influenced me a lot but I was surrounded by so much music that it wasn't the only thing I was hearing so as much as I was like 'ok cool these guys are rhyming' other people were rhyming too.

I was listening to Mos Def and Common all at the same time so I guess it was a blend of the both. I try not to compare myself to them or to find too many differences, we're all writing rhymes and there should be a place for all of us.

Away from grime, you're seen as the shining star of UK hip hop, do you feel any pressure?

I dunno, I think there's loads of people doing exactly what I'm doing I just feel like I'm one of many. Little Simz is really pushing and really flying the flag for us for example.

I think a lot of guys I'm cool with who are making music, who I guess maybe don't have as much of a following as I do, are still doing the same thing. I'm happy to be part of that conversation definitely because I feel that it's important, it's something that has been happening especially in the south, it's been around forever so it's nice that it's finally getting a bit of light.

Do you think your sound is developing with the more praise you get and your confidence grows?

Interesting point. Yeah, it did a little bit when I first started playing live shows. There was a little period where a lot of my stuff was quite laid back and playing it reflected that and that transferred well, but it was the more hyped up songs that to me felt more fun to play at first.

The real power of being onstage is actually not to get a crowd jumping but to silence a room and to get people to listen, so I think maybe it's a thing now where I'm maybe maturing a bit.

When I first dropped my first EP I was like 18, 19 now I'm 21 almost 22 so I feel like I've grown up a lot in that short space of time. I feel like the music has evolved a bit and grown a bit more mature, it's a little bit angrier than it was before, I'm not sure why but that's just kind of how it's happened.

Hip hop is one of the best ways of voicing what matters to young people, what do you think is important to your generation right now?

It's difficult man, I think absolutely everything. It's a tough one, you're bridged in the gap between two different worlds, you're not a kid any more but you're not really actually an adult, as much as you are by labels.

I can't really speak for others other than me and my friends. I mean it's a weird time, a lot of my friends who like me are hopeless romantics and growing up from 14 to 18, 19 I think it's the first time you've been through a few loves and losses and your heart becomes a little bit tougher. That's kind of where I'm at, the naivety has left my music a bit if I'm honest.

You've started to feature on other artists' songs, Tom Misch being the most recent, how much have you been influenced by these collabs?

Massively so, I think that's the only way you can move forward. I mean I'm lucky, I've got Rebel Kleff who's a friend of mine and obviously Tom and a lot of other people.

Without a collaboration you can't move forward cos all you're doing is putting your same ideas in a blender but the second you add someone else it changes the outcome or how you approach things. Tom's a genius, obviously we're very good friends now but when I first heard about him I was just a big fan of his and it's weird that he says the same about me.

We've spoken about music for a bit, now I want to have a quick chat about football. What on earth happened to England man?

Oh for fuck's sake, I didn't think you were gonna talk about that. I was thinking 'yeah great Liverpool'. I dunno, the England team...I mean I'm kind of over it, I mean I'm not over it but I'm kind of over England in general.

For me it's a difficult one cos I'm usually one who stands up for managers cos I always think it's as much the players' fault as it is the manager's but not this time. Sterling I fucking hate anyway cos he left Liverpool, he couldn't finish a pack of crisps man, that guy is a waste of time.

I saw a video of you rating Benteke performing 'California Love', what was that all about?

[laughs] It was the fucking weirdest thing. I had an interview on LFC TV and I had no idea what I was letting myself in for but yeah halfway through the interview on live TV they were like 'yeah so we got a few of the Liverpool players to rap for you, do you want to judge them?'

I lost my shit a bit, I really freaked out but it was wicked. It's annoying actually cos I couldn't get hold of the video. I'd say for me it's the coolest thing I've ever done but I need to get my hands on the actual footage.

Your own tour is called the Cantona tour, does that not hurt you as a Liverpool fan? I know it goes much deeper than that...

It's quite funny, I get that a lot. It's the question I get asked most especially by the male fans, followers or listeners. Yeah it's because of my dad but what's quite brilliant is that it's a bit deeper than that.

What's quite beautiful about Cantona is that he kind of removed himself from just football, Obviously he's United's king, legend, hero or whatever but as far as football goes he's just a legend. In terms of art and expression in general he's one of the few players you can like without being a United fan which is very, very rare.

Other players you can think of I would say would be Steven Gerard, possibly Beckham I suppose if I'm talking about UK players but there's only a few who come round every now and again who you can appreciate.

He was an idiot as well and to get away with the things he got away with, that kind of sums me up a bit. My mum's a Palace fan as well so he really, really wasn't that popular in our house for a long time.

When you played Manchester, you lost your Dad's Cantona shirt didn't you?

Yeah, yeah I really freaked out man. It's ridiculous cos it's my dad's Cantona shirt, a big extra large garish thing with loads and loads of patches on it and yeah I misplaced it just before the show in Manchester.

I was crying. I've lost it a few times before and everyone has been saying to me 'you've gotta stop bringing it you've gotta do something else with it, you've gotta frame it, you've gotta put it in a box' but I don't want to turn it into a gimmick cos right now it's about the comfort of having him there on the stage with me.

I've gotta think of something cos it was terrible but I found it literally as I was walking onto the stage. I was almost sick, it was ridiculous.

When will we see you and Eric Cantona playing football in one of your music videos?

Man, as soon as possible really. If I'm honest, that's the conversation I've had like a thousand times, it's all I want to happen. I've gotta make sure I come at him with enough clout so that he actually wants to do it. When the time is right then I hope so. I'd be honoured to just meet him and have a conversation cos he's a big part of the reason why I'm doing what I'm doing.

You've got to make it happen, I'm sure he'd be up for it.

I will try my best, I mean it is something that's been in my mind forever. I'm kind of cool with Daniel Sturridge as well so I reckon he could probably be part of that.

The tour is later in the year, will there be more new music by then?

Yeah course there will. I'm working on my album at the moment but I've got another single coming which is one that I've been playing quite a lot in my live shows as like a preview but I've been playing it for years.

I've never got chance to finish it off cos I've been running around doing so much else that it never got recorded out properly, it was just an idea that we used to love playing live but we finally got it done and recorded so yeah it'll be dropping in August.

Does it have a name?

Yeah but I can't tell you it [laughs]. Nice try though. 

How's Chilli Con Carner going?

Yeah brilliant, we're kind of close man. It's a bit of a shame, we lost a lot of the funding for it which has meant I've had to fund a lot of it myself. In the long run that's better cos if there's anything I'd want to spend the little money I've made from music on, I think it would be this. It means I kind of own it, I'm not in anyone else's pocket.

It's my cooking school for kids with ADHD and having ADHD myself it couldn't be closer to home so yeah it starts in two weeks, 18th July til the 21st and we're doing a pop up restaurant on the 4th of August which is open to the public.

You can buy tickets for that; come down and get food cooked by me and the kids and there'll probably be a gig at the end or something to that effect.

Is the Con Carner your speciality dish then?

It is, I'll tell you who's got a good one though, Rebel Kleff that he stole from Heston Blumenthal. You make spiced butter and you don't put it in until the last minute and stir it in with all the spices and that's where all the flavour comes from. I reckon the best person to ask is him actually.

One last question, what's rocking your stereo at the moment?

New Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn, they're friends of mine from Brighton. They dropped a tape called The Flowers In Your Room so yeah that's what I'm bumping right now. Check it.

Loyle Carner plays Kendal Calling and Parklife this summer, find tickets below.

Parklife Festival 2017 tickets

Type of Ticket Price QuantityQty
Weekend tickets
Weekend General Admission
No under 17s - 17 year olds must be accompanied by a responsible guardian. Proof of age required.
£129.41
(£119.00 + bf)
TICKET SOLD OUT
Weekend General Admission
No under 17s - 17 year olds must be accompanied by a responsible guardian. Proof of age required.
£108.21
(£99.50 + bf)
TICKET SOLD OUT
Day tickets
Saturday General Admission
No under 17s - 17 year olds must be accompanied by a responsible guardian. Proof of age required.
£64.71
(£59.50 + bf)
TICKET SOLD OUT
Sunday General Admission
No under 17s - 17 year olds must be accompanied by a responsible guardian. Proof of age required.
£64.71
(£59.50 + bf)
TICKET SOLD OUT
VIP
Planet VIP Weekend Ticket
No under 17s. VIP Gate will be located at the Bury Old Rd entrance. See listing for VIP area details
£135.94
(£125.00 + bf)
SOLD OUT
Planet VIP Saturday Ticket
No under 17s. VIP Gate will be located at the Bury Old Rd entrance. See listing for VIP area details
£92.44
(£85.00 + bf)
TICKET SOLD OUT
Planet VIP Sunday Ticket
No under 17s. VIP Gate will be located at the Bury Old Rd entrance. See listing for VIP area details
£92.44
(£85.00 + bf)
TICKET SOLD OUT
Weekend Planet VIP Upgrade
Upgrade only for existing weekend ticket holders. No access without a valid weekend ticket.
£52.74
(£48.50 + bf)
NOT ON SALE
Saturday Planet VIP Upgrade
Upgrade only for existing Saturday ticket holders. No access to festival without a valid day ticket.
£27.73
(£25.50 + bf)
NOT ON SALE
Sunday Planet VIP Upgrade
Upgrade only for existing Sunday ticket holders. No access to festival without a valid day ticket.
£27.73
(£25.50 + bf)
NOT ON SALE
Transport
Travel Pass Weekend
Must exchange for wristband prior to travel. EXCHANGE AT: Minshull St or Cathedral Grdns 10am-5pm
£10.87
(£10.00 + bf)
NOT ON SALE
Travel Pass Saturday
Must exchange for wristband prior to travel. EXCHANGE AT: Minshull St or Cathedral Grdns 10am-5pm
£5.87
(£5.00 + bf)
NOT ON SALE
Travel Pass Sunday
Must exchange for wristband prior to travel. EXCHANGE AT: Minshull St or Cathedral Grdns 10am-5pm
£5.87
(£5.00 + bf)
NOT ON SALE

Embed Ticket Box   There are no tickets available at present. More tickets may become available shortly.

Kendal Calling 2017 tickets

Type of Ticket Price QuantityQty
Weekend tickets
Adult Final Release Weekend Ticket
Includes camping in standard campsites from 9am Friday
£147.66
(£140.00 + bf)
NOT ON SALE
11-15yrs Weekend Ticket
Must be accompanied by ticket holding parent/guardian (Over 30). Includes camping from 9am Friday.
£80.69
(£75.00 + bf)
NOT ON SALE
6 to 10yrs Weekend Ticket
Must be accompanied by ticket holding parent/guardian (Over 30). Includes camping from 9am Friday.
£19.03
(£17.50 + bf)
NOT ON SALE
Under 5yrs Weekend Ticket
Must be accompanied by ticket holding parent/guardian (Over 30). Includes camping from 9am Friday.
£0.00
NOT ON SALE
Thursday Entry Upgrade
Adult Thursday Ticket
Only valid in conjuction with a weekend ticket. Allows access to campsite from 9am Thursday.
£29.91
(£27.50 + bf)
NOT ON SALE
11 to 15yrs Thursday Ticket
Only valid in conjuction with a weekend ticket. Allows access to campsite from 9am Thursday.
£29.91
(£27.50 + bf)
NOT ON SALE
6 to 10yrs Thursday Ticket
Only valid in conjuction with a weekend ticket. Allows access to campsite from 9am Thursday.
£0.00
NOT ON SALE
Under 5yrs Thursday Ticket
Only valid in conjuction with a weekend ticket. Allows access to campsite from 9am Thursday.
£0.00
NOT ON SALE
Transport
Shuttle Bus Ticket
Return journey from Penrith train station
£10.87
(£10.00 + bf)
NOT ON SALE
Vehicles
Car Park Ticket
Required for all vehicles inc motorbikes. Purchase in advance to speed up entry. £20 on the door.
£9.79
(£9.00 + bf)
SOLD OUT
Other
Travel Carbon Offset Donation
Please join the Energy Revolution: 100% of your donation will be invested in renewable energy
£3.00
NOT ON SALE

Embed Ticket Box   There are no tickets available at present. More tickets may become available shortly.