By Geoffrey Rowlands
“I honestly cannot believe this day has come. I wrote Barking as a freestyle and now it’s gone top ten in the charts. Not the rap chart or the R&B chart but the official UK singles chart.”
These are the words of 20-year-old Ramone Rochester, better known under his stage name of Ramz. His reaction is perfectly understandable. Having issued several tracks since last February, Ramone was getting used to his work receiving little attention from either music fans or critics. But last September saw him release Barking and things began to change.
“The video went viral. I couldn’t believe the numbers. It had millions of views. Significant sales took a little longer but I could barely believe it when Barking debuted at number 41 on the UK chart in early December. When you’ve had no previous chart success, it’s overwhelming to see your song in the listings.”
A steady increase in sales over the next three weeks saw the song climb to number 30. Cause for celebration as this may have been, it was nothing in comparison to Barking becoming the number one trending song in Britain and rising 22 places to number eight.
Ironically, Ramone could have released the track much earlier in his career.
“Barking was one of the first songs I recorded. People told me it would be a hit and I should put it out but I wanted to try some of my other songs first. I wanted to live a bit, keep writing and rapping more before I dropped Barking. I thought it was a banger when I created the track but I did lose some of my confidence when my other songs didn’t do so well.”
Barking was created during the one year Ramone spent at university.
“My friend and I lived in this house. He was downstairs and I was at the top. But I’d often go to his place to chill out. I was in there talking about music with him and he asked what sort of beats I wanted to work with. I said I wanted to do a kind of Afrobash rap track with a J-Hus or MoStack sound.
“My friend just typed J-Hus or MoStack type beats into the computer and the beat for Barking was literally the first one that came on. I started doing a free style about what I’d done over the past weekend meeting this girl who happened to be from Barking.
“I realised it sounded pretty good so I decided to take it into the studio to do the song properly. I firstly did the chorus properly and then free styled the verse. I heard it back, fixed what I didn’t think sounded right and made sure it was a proper track. The finished lyrics combine meeting two girls, the one from Barking and another from Portugal, so it’s a kind of fusion.”
The genesis of Ramone’s career dates back to his childhood.
“Everything began when I was in primary school. I used to mess around with different things and film myself on my mum’s video recorder. It was in my secondary school years that I started to take music more seriously.”
Despite this, Ramone did not study music at university. A talented footballer who was coached at the Fulham academy, he was taking a degree course in sports development when his life changed, though initially not for the better.
“I’d released my early, unsuccessful tracks. I could have continued my education but just decided university wasn’t for me.
“With no music success, that meant I had to get a job. I applied for so many jobs and kept getting declined. I finally got a job at Sainsbury’s when Barking started to blow up. This couldn’t have happened at a better time. I was able to ditch a career at the supermarket to work full-time on my music.”
The reaction to Barking saw Ramone given the opportunity to tour with artists such as Lotto Boyz and Cadet. It also attracted the interest of major labels. A deal was signed with Polydor Records.
“Choosing a label was really difficult. I didn’t want to upset the other labels who wanted to sign me. I took advice from friends in the music business and had a long conversation with my mum before making my choice.”
Ramone’s success with Barking has inspired him to work even harder at his craft.
“I’ve written so many songs since Barking started to blow up. The problem now is getting somebody to give me an honest opinion.
“I wonder if friends will only tell me a new song is good because of my chart success. They might think I have this big ego now and I won’t want them as my friends if they say a song is not good. I think it might be better to ask a stranger on the street what they think of my new songs.”
His new material should appear later this year on Ramone’s debut EP, mixtape or album. In the meantime though, he is the featured vocalist on a Mad About Bars track by DJ Kenny Allstar.
“Kenny is from south London, like me. It was an honour to work with him and I think we’ve created a great song. I actually sing on the track rather than just do my usual melodic rap so I pushed my vocals that little bit further.
“I’m looking forward to whatever might happen in 2018. Last year was crazy. I still can’t get over performing Barking and having the crowd sing it along with me word for word. It’s an amazing feeling and something I’d love to experience with many more songs in the future.”
The Black Eyed Peas
The Black Eyed Peas have released no new material since June, 2011. The third single taken from The Beginning, their 2010 sixth studio album, Don’t Stop The Party was described as a hot club jam and sold well in numerous countries around the world. But it only peaked at number 86 in America becoming the group’s lowest-charting single.
Whether this much reduced success in their homeland had any influence on the group’s lengthy hiatus is open to question. But they are back now with Street Livin’, a song which returns to their hip hop roots and is effectively a protest track against the problems faced by America’s black citizens.
The group posted a message about Street Livin’ on their Twitter account. It read: “We have the POWER to make change together. Prison Industrial Complex. Immigration. Gun Violence. Police Brutality. These issues are critical for our families, friends, communities and world. Stay Woke. Take Action Now.”
The video for Street Livin’ is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EC8lBwroOc
The song does not feature Fergie. It’s doubtful that the lyrical subject matter has anything to do with this. Black Eyed Peas have always been an inclusive rather than exclusive group so Fergie’s caucasian race would surely have played no part in her non-appearance on the song or in the video.
Her continuing membership of Black Eyed Peas has been speculated upon in recent years. At one point, will.i.am actually said she was no longer part of the group though this statement was quickly retracted. Having released her second solo album, Double Dutchess, last September, it is likely that Fergie was simply working on this when Street Livin’ was recorded.
Justin Timberlake will release his fifth solo album on February 12.
Entitled Man Of The Woods, Justin says the album is by far the most personal work of his career. “The album is really inspired by my son, my wife, my family. But more so than any other album that I’ve ever written, it’s about where I’m from.”
Justin’s Tennessee roots are clearly evident in the trailer for his album. He grew up in Shelby Forest, a small community north of Memphis. His time spent in the Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is depicted in the trailer.
Not that Justin’s recently released new single has anything to do with his Tennessee heritage. Certainly not in the video for Filthy which is actually set in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, ten years into the future. This is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=gA-NDZb29I4
There is also a one-minute behind-the-scenes video in which Justin talks about the making of Filthy. It can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5Ylu4tRgk8.
Justin’s new album will be issued two days before he performs the half-time show at Super Bowl LII. With a television audience of countless millions across America and around the world, the half-time performer traditionally enjoys a massive surge in record sales after their show.
Although his set list has yet to be finalized, Justin has a clear idea of what he hopes to achieve.
“What I really want to do is put together a performance that feels like it unifies. I feel like that would be the ultimate accomplishment.”
LEAVE A COMMENT Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*
“I liked the idea of being out of control”
Group of people in film industry conspiring against me: Govinda
Celebrities flee their homes to escape California wildfire
‘Good guys’ more violent than ‘bad guys’ in superhero films
Dream come true
NMS organises beach cleaning drive
Johnny English gets new lease on life
My father is Youth Icon of Year: Alia
Remake gone all wrong?