You guys are aware that the United Kingdom is bigger than just London, right? I’m low-key guilty of getting caught up in the bubble that is our capital city as much as anyone else, but it’s more than important to stay aware of the endless dope shit that’s popping off all over our little island. Case in point: Manchester’s GREY collective.
Sitting down with GAIKA at the crew’s studio space in the city’s Northern Quarter, he was quick to inform me that as much as he dislikes the term 'collective,’ it is the most straight-forward way of describing his eclectic squad. As a clique of like-minded individuals, GREY bounce off of each other to bring their individual projects to life in their fullest possible forms. Although their primary output is music, it’s much deeper than simply producing Soundcloud bangers.
With the room lit by the dim glow of neon lights and a MacBook, GAIKA explains that his background spans multiple areas of the music industry, from promoting shows to producing music videos—information that made sense to me immediately, given the heavy visual counterpart that supported “Blasphemer,” the lead single from his new mixtape, Machine. He goes on to explain that each individual associated with GREY brings a similar, broad range of experience and knowledge to the table. In combining their resources and passion for their craft, they incubate their talents to help each other grow. It’s collaboration in its purest form.
Their approach to music as a business is best described as guerrilla. Through building their own platform, their intention is to give as little control as possible to people outside of their circle. GAIKA makes it very clear to me that he personally wants very little to do with the traditional music industry. In his opinion, there are too many distractions and politics involved when taking the typical path of an artist trying to launch a career in music. In other words, there’s too much unnecessary bullshit.
Given the rise of social media in our generation, GAIKA sees very little need for the support of a label or PR to enhance his brand at this stage. If he can pool GREY’s resources to bring his vision to life, and connect it directly with his audience via platforms like Instagram or Soundcloud, where’s the need for outside assistance? Sure, a label advance would allow for help in the cash flow department, but at what later cost? Right now, GAIKA is content with distributing his music under his total control. In fact, GREY’s entire movement follows a similar formula.
We were soon joined in the studio by fellow GREY associates Jazz Purple, Bipolar Sunshine and August+Us—at which point I got a first-hand look at how the guys bounce off of each other creatively. Passing control of the AUX cord around the room, they naturally start sharing music with each other. Jazz Purple digs up a old beat that he was working on a little while back, admitting that there’s something in there, he just can’t quite figure it out yet.
As if lighting a fuse, this immediately starts getting the others fired up. Ideas start flying around excitedly. Jazz loads up another song. I can’t remember the artist, but August+Us notes that it reminds him of the French new-wave pop band Phoenix, and for that reason he instantly fucks with it. I agree that it’s a vibe. For the next 20 minutes or so, it’s beyond clear that the crew are wholeheartedly passionate about music, and a diverse array of genres at that.
It takes me back to something GAIKA was telling me before, about how people often try to label them solely as a rap crew, or a hip-hop collective. It’s simply not accurate. The music that they produce isn’t limited by genre in the slightest, in fact, that’s what makes GREY a force to be reckoned with. Each individual exists very much on their own wave, be it electronic, rock, hip hop, pop or otherwise. Despite calling themselves GREY, their output is a colourful, vibrant web of contrasting and complementary sounds.
Back in the studio, GAIKA shares one last song before we hit the streets of Manchester. Plugging in his hard drive, he reaffirms the vibrancy of their influences with a drum & bass remix of the aforementioned “Blasphemer” joint.
“It’s just too raw, isn’t it?” he exclaims, while nodding his head to the bass line. The rest of the crew agree. It’s old school jungle to the core, and it bangs.
Now that we’re fully acquainted, myself and our photographer Jordan Green are led back outside by GREY as they introduce us to a few of their favourite spots within a few blocks of their studio space—namely Afflecks indoor-market and Twenty Twenty Two, a local club venue. Wanting Jordan to capture them in their natural environment, this suited us perfectly.
In typically Northern fashion, the weather aligns itself with the collective’s name almost poetically, with a blanket of grey clouds enveloping the city. Given the impending rain looming above, we dip from location to location real fast.
Through this brief and personal insight into GREY’s world, it reaffirmed my outlook of them as one of Britain’s most exciting young crews. The combination of them building their own atmosphere in which to create, along with their individual and diverse range of talents, it’s no doubt a blueprint for future success—or at the very least, a breeding ground for even more ill music.
I’m certain we’ll be hearing a lot more from their camp as they continue to develop and refine their sounds, with GAIKA’s dark new mixtape leading the charge. Stream / download the project for free at gaika.co
To delve further into the grey, hit up the following links: