October 20, 2021 by Joey Birch


Editor-In-Chief, Complex UK / Founder, TRENCH Magazine  

Tell us about your journey thus far and how you got here. 

I started out by putting on raves under the banner ‘ChockABlock’, and the first one was held in Northampton in 2007 with Skepta, Tinchy Stryder, Logan Sama and more on the line-up. People still talk about that event all now [laughs]. While I was putting on the raves, which eventually moved to Egg Nightclub in London, I randomly decided to make a blog site to post up other people’s rave flyers and music videos that I was rating at the time. That was in 2008.

Once you do something for so long as a hobby, it eventually turns into a passion and that’s what happened with me. I didn’t grow up wanting to be a journalist; it’s not something me and the people I grew up with ever thought was a thing, and especially because I didn’t go to college or uni to study. So I just honed my skills, after many knockbacks, and eventually worked my way up to get hired by MTV UK and freelance for some top publications. Now I run two: Complex UK and TRENCH Magazine. I also media train some of your favourite rappers, and consult for a number of brands.

How has your time at Complex influenced your work? 

I’ve been with Complex for seven years, so it’s been a big part of my life. Humbly speaking, I don’t think any other mainstream platform covers our scene with as much care and attention to detail as Complex UK. To be an editorial-first platform and still be going — without any breaks — for nearly a decade, says a lot about us. Brands want to work with us because they know and respect the way we cover youth culture in the UK, and now that we’re about to step into video and audio, it’s about to be wild.

Where did the idea to start TRENCH come from? 

I wanted to launch my own publication for a while before I actually did, but the time was just right; I had an investor on board and it was during a time that the world’s eyes were on our scene following the grime revival. A lot of the coverage I was seeing wasn’t up to par with what the scene deserved, so I linked up with my old friend, Laura ‘Hyperfrank’ Brosnan, and made TRENCH happen in 2017.

How did you come up with the name for the magazine? 

Back in the day, me and Hypes used to spend hours going through ideas and pitches to send to editors and brands to try and move the culture forward, and we were some of the only writers who were fully immersed in the scene. We built solid connections with a lot of the artists to a point where they could trust us to tell their stories in the right way, and that hasn’t changed. TRENCH just made sense because we document the culture from a real grassroots level… We be out in them trenches! [Laughs]. 

Who is TRENCH Magazine aimed at? 

People who love and appreciate Black British music and culture, both past and present. And I feel that we cater to everyone; from your teenage drill fan to your middle-aged soul stan, we’ve got something here for everyone. I have to big-up our contributing editors, Yemi Abiade and Jesse Bernard, our senior editor James Keith, our news writer Blessing Borode and all the contributors who have contributed to TRENCH’s success so far. Four years later, we’re still as gassed to help push things forward. 

Community plays a huge role in the content and ethos of the publication. Why is this the case and is it something you wanted to stay true to from the start? 

I saw a tweet from Elijah, who runs Butterz, the other day which said: “Culture was the word of the 10s. Community is the word of the 20s.” That resonated, because it’s true: without a community of people backing your corner, who have the same vision and passions as you, you’re not gonna get far. I’m all about pushing the next generation forward whether that be an aspiring journalist or rapper, TRENCH’s main aim is to uplift and amplify those voices.  

What have you learnt in your time working on the publication? 

That a platform like ours was needed in this space. Our daily HERITAGE feature, which is handled by Hyperfrank, has inspired a lot of big projects that I can’t speak about just yet, and we’re also seeing a lot of other platforms doing similar things now. While some might get upset by others using their ideas and formulas, I see it as only a good thing for the scene. We don’t need credit because we see and know how we’re shifting things for ourselves. 

'Home' Issue of TRECH Magazine

Do you feel that print could be making a comeback? 

It’s already started to happen. The FACE is back in print and Rolling Stone just launched in the UK. With RS, I just hope that when they do cover Black British music and culture, they do so with the right team of people. I also want to see more Black writers and creatives on staff at some of these mainstream titles... I’m always on the lookout for up-and-coming creatives at Complex UK and TRENCH, so get at me! Like I said before, we’re about to step into video and audio on both platforms, so there’s a lot of work to be done.

What impact has music had on your life? 

Music’s always been around me. My dad’s a pastor so I grew up on gospel — I can probably still hit a couple notes, I can’t lie [laughs]. My older brother, the rebel, was the one that introduced me to rap music early on. He was heavily into US rap but growing up in South London at the time, it was all about jungle, then UK garage, and he went on to become a local rave MC. So yeah, music’s always been about.

 Joseph 'JP' Patterson (Left), Potter Payper (Right)

What’s your favourite music genre? And who’s on your Mt. Rushmore of music artists? 

I’m a grime kid at heart. Always will be. I listen to more old-skool grime these days, especially pirate radio sets — they never get old. But I’ve always got my eye on the current scene. Grime got me to where I am today so you’ll never hear the words “grime is dead” come out my mouth. The culture it birthed is what you see today; how we talk, how we dress, how we carry ourselves, so it can’t die.

Musically, things could always be better, but for me, it’s still grime for life! I’ve always supported the UK rap scene. I was the first club promoter to book Giggs back in ‘08 and the first to interview him, for SUPERSUPER Magazine, that same year. The road rap era of the early 2010s was epic; the K Kokes, Joe Blacks and Blade Browns of the world really laid the foundations for a lot of the success you’re seeing today with the drill guys and artists like Dave and Fredo. UK R&B is vibrant as well, and I’m still a bit of a house head. Jamie Jones’ “Hungry For The Power” remix got the gang hooked! [Laughs] 

OG Colourways of the Nike Huarache   

What’s your favourite sneaker? 

In secondary school, it was all about Dunk Lows, Huaraches or Prada Cups [laughs]. Nowadays, I’m more Jordan 1s, Air Force 1s, or still: a designer crep.

Sneaker culture is a massive part of US hip-hop. What do you think of the relationship between sneaker culture and the UK music scene? 

For as long as I can remember, sneaker culture and our music scenes have been closely linked. From the Nike 110s my olders used to rock with their off-key Moschino, to the early grime days where we’d rock Dunk Lows with our Akademiks tracksuits, I feel that the two have always been interlinked over the years. And with stores and platforms like Kick Game about, it’s gonna continue growing. I think the resellers market’s an interesting one. 

What will the UK music scene look like in 10 years’ time? 

As long as artists don’t lose that hunger by getting caught up in their own hype, then things should continue to work in their favour because a lot of our music/culture is considered mainstream now, and that’s unlikely to change. I’ve noticed that it always goes bad when artists start getting a few big cheques and go “Hollywood”, and don’t put as much effort into their craft as they should. The fans get tired after a while, and I can give you plenty examples of artists whose careers have gone downhill due to that behaviour. Never forget why you started because that drive should keep you wanting to always improve and do more. 

What does the future of TRENCH look like? 

Greatness only.

Back in 2015, you curated a mixtape of your top 10 rising MC’s for Complex UK. Who would be on your mixtape in 2021? 

Yeah, it was called #GRIMETIMEWARP. I’ve been seeing a lot of new names pop up recently, like Tia Talks, SBK, Squintz, Duppy and those guys, but if I was to do another tape, I’d probably draw for some drillers and mix it up a bit. Imagine V9 or Offical on a gully grime beat? Mazza. 

What would you say is your proudest achievement to date? What advice would you give to young people trying to break into the industry?

My proudest achievement is becoming one of the few Black bosses in the UK music media space. It’s not been easy and I’ve had to prove myself to what feels like the world because, like I said, I didn’t go uni to study any of this creative stuff so it’s all been me honing my skills with the help of God. To be able to live off of a passion is a blessing that I don’t take for granted.

My advice to anyone coming up is to not jump the gun. One article, one campaign, isn’t gonna make you the boss that you’ll hopefully become one day, but keep working hard and show that you’re in it for the right reasons. Some people just want to be seen and not put the work in for it, which doesn’t make sense. Your work should always back you up in anything you do. 

The 'Home' Issue of TRENCH Magazine is now available to buy at Kick Game Covent Garden.