With a quiet confidence, M1llionz sits comfortably in an echoey, yet charming London-based room, dressed in a jacket and hoodie, Zoom ready. His soft tone and calm demeanor is an interesting contrast from the fast and punchy flows of his rap persona.
Ahead of his debut mixtape launch, he had spent the Bank Holiday weekend performing at Reading and Leeds Festival, as well as at DLT Brunch. Whilst many artists would perform at Reading and Leeds slightly later in their career, for M1llionz - whose career took off at the height of COVID - it was not quite the same; “That was actually my first time on stage. I hadn’t done performances like it before. It was really eye-opening, I’d done the first on Friday and then the rest after so it was just.. Yeah, really eye-opening.”
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Two years ago, the Birmingham-hailing rapper debuted his single ‘North West' which introduced him to the limelight, with the Drake-endorsed ‘Y PREE’ following shortly. Artists often discuss dreams of their career from a young age, but for M1llionz he follows a “go with the flow” mantra, admitting he had not thought ahead when he first began rapping: “I don’t know where I thought I’d be now ‘cos I didn’t think [that far]. It was actually a couple songs in, around 'Y PREE' days, that I thought about rapping seriously. Really I just did it to do it, I didn’t really have any plans. People were telling me I should make a video for 'Y PREE' and then I went from there.”
Throughout 'Provisional License', samples and interpolations from 50 Cent to Brandy and Monica can be heard, but despite this range, M1llionz insists his influences do not come from any one source but from a range of cultures and genres: “I grew up listening to grime, I also listened to dancehall and bashment, but I wouldn’t say any one necessarily influenced my sound as I have my own.. not in a way where I don’t want to pay homage but just because my sound is mine. Where I’m from in Birmingham there are a lot of Jamaicans and then UK street is what I was listening to so I’d say Jamaican culture and street culture were the biggest influencers.”
Previously, M1llionz had discussed not wanting to be confined to UK Drill and with Clash he spoke of how he wishes to progress musically: “I’m open to doing any genre, I don’t actually see myself as a Drill artist and that’s not to belittle it, but it’s just how I see myself. I’m still trying to figure out what I fit into.” Although there has been discourse around the maintenance of UK Drill, M1llionz also emphasises that the genre still has a lot more to give: “At the beginning, UK Drill was a bit more hardcore but now, there are variations [within it], it’s expanding, it’s charting, it’s everywhere. It’s definitely not on it’s way out.”
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Discussing the choice for the mixtape title, he outlines the symbolism behind a 'Provisional License': “This is the introduction, I haven’t got my full license so I can’t complete the full journey, it’s to show this is the first phase. There’ll be obstacles, ups and downs but I’ll reach the next step”.
Comedically, he also shares that he doesn’t actually have a full license at the moment: “I’m actually on a ban,” he laughs, “Wrong place, wrong time situation but it’ll be over soon and I’ll have my full license again.”
Across the 12 tracks we hear M1llionz’s classic charismatic cadence but in addition to this, he also experiments more than on his previous singles with skits in between tracks to bring the underlying story to life. On standout tracks such as ‘Mobbin’ fans will hear both 'Smooth Criminal' and 'Billie Jean' interpolated vocally without contradicting his usual inflection. In addition to the production, the mixtape’s themes also show a nuance in writing, with singles such as ‘Jail Brain’ and ‘Hometown’ touching on themes such as self expression and upbringing.
When asked about the decision to write on these areas, he speaks of how ideas of masculinity can impact how men communicate their needs: “There’s been a lot of talk around being seen as an ‘alpha’ - men don’t want to be seen as weak, they want to be able to protect but at the same they have their own issues, so that’s what some of those lines were about.”
Speaking of how he manages his own feelings he details the variation of methods that can be used: “Listening to music is a good one for me, maybe even writing it down. Some people smoke, some drink. I think it’s also really important to talk to people, to have at least one person to confide in. I know I can talk to my mum about stuff, I don’t tend to but I definitely know I can.”
Despite his debut mixtape just coming out, he’s already in the process of creating his sophomore tape with plans for launch in early 2022: “I’ve actually kind of finished the next one. There’s not really a theme but you could say there’s more depth, the production is different to this one, so yeah - another tape soon.”
In just two years, M1llionz has proved himself to be not only one of the Midlands’ most distinctive artists, but amongst the most idiosyncratic in the UK. For years down the line, he highlights aspirations of world domination, wishing to conquer audiences across Africa, South America and the Caribbean. Speaking of the near future, he details plans to tour and to continue providing the best possible content for his fans: “It’s my first tape and I put a lot into it but I’ve still got many more to come - this is really just the beginning.”
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'Provisional License' will be released on September 17th.
Words: Tochi Imo // @TochiChels
Photography: Shot By Nee // Oray
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