Get To Know Ragz Originale [Interview]

Kieran Kohorst

As 2023 begins to fade away and the most climactic season of the year comes to a close, the looming end gives way to reflection. As lists are accumulated through personal opinion or media perception, it becomes inevitable that a pivotal work will be overlooked or omitted. As we look back at all the music that has informed our habits, memories, and small pleasures, let’s not forget the insatiable album BARE SUGAR, the debut LP from North London do-it-all musician Ragz Originale. Having cut his teeth producing for the likes of Skepta and BenjiFlow, his latest solo release proves he’s a master of his craft, pulling all the right strings on an album as wide-spanning as it is deep. Among an ensemble cast that includes Bakar, Tiana Major9, Dua Saleh, and Sampha, Ragz’s perspective cuts through, with his delivery as cunning as it is charismatic. 

Where Ragz’s presence is felt most is in the visuals that illustrate BARE SUGAR. In addition to intoxicating music videos for “pay ur bills” and “radio silence,” Ragz has recently shared a video for the soulfully forlorn track “Wrist Froze.” To discuss his process in formulating music videos as well as the direction behind BARE SUGAR, the themes that drive the album, and more, Ragz Originale graciously participated in a back-and-forth that reveals more about one of 2023’s most underrated and unrivaled records. 

You’ve mentioned that you stepped away from the music industry and other influences in pursuit of crafting BARE SUGAR. What did you feel like you gained through that separation, and how did it materialize in the music?

I gained a lot of clarity about the artistic contributions I want to make and the legacy I’d like to leave behind. I know that sometimes the noise of life and the industry can cloud your decisions - I wanted to ensure I gave myself enough time to gather my thoughts and head in what would be the right direction for me - it’s so important as an artist to be clear on your direction and seeing my work through this lens means that I can have a greater capacity for understanding and collaboration with the artists I work with. 

What stood out most to me in my listen of the album is how self-assured the music sounded in all aspects, from the production to lyrics and delivery, all of which you contributed to heavily. On what you consider your debut album, where does the self-confidence and clear sense of direction we hear on BARE SUGAR come from? 

You're listening to someone who is doing everything they can in order to be 100% themself, so I think this is how I project my confidence.  I’m passionate and understand the need to push sound and music culture forward - that’s my direction. BARE SUGAR is the outcome of this mission - it’s my life's work to see it through. 

The album sways and oscillates in its genre, innovating on sounds and bending norms to show your real creativity as a producer. Additionally, you’ve called this music “the most honest sound I’ve ever made.” How did that honesty find its way into the music so naturally? How is it different from the work you’ve done before?

So much of my work is for other artists. When I get the chance to work on other people's projects, I intentionally think a lot about how I can contribute to their world and their story -  which sometimes comes with barriers. It ultimately has to be about what they feel comfortable with. The freedom I get when working on Ragz world is different….there are no rules ever. We can do what we want and take it as far as possible! So honesty comes across naturally. 

A big part of the scene you’re building on BARE SUGAR is expressed in the album’s visuals for “pay ur bills” and “radio silence' . What was the process like of putting the videos together, and how do you feel they fit into the music? 

As the music develops, the visuals come to me. I see the vision and am a director as well so I’m heavily involved with the editing process. The video always matches the feeling of the song and vice versa - they work together to create this world of luxurious sound that I live in. Being able to draw listeners in with a great visual is part of the process that I love. 

The forces of love and lust are at the center of the album, coming up in different forms and contexts throughout the songs. Your are very much working through the intricacies of both on the album, and it's easy to confuse one for the other. Do you feel these forces are able to exist simultaneously, or is there a clear differentiation between the two?

I 100% believe they can both exist at the same time. Sometimes you have to go through one to find out the other too.

A big part of this album includes the featured artists, all of which bring different attributes to their respective tracks. How did you go about collaborative process for the album, both in choosing the artists and in placing them in certain contexts?

I’m not someone who just collaborates for the sake of getting a collaboration out and I think that brings the right collaborators to me. I really took time and spent a lot of it thinking about how to do what's best for each track. It’s always only about what's best for the song, nothing else. Every feature is considered from all angles and has to come together in a great way or there's no point – we need 100 or nothing.

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