A skater, graffiti artist and model, this Peckham teenager has already appeared in a Frank Ocean video. Now he’s turning his hand to jazzy indie-soul
Gastbeitrag von „The Guardian“
Cosmo Pyke may only be 18, but he’s far from naive about the murky world of music that he’s entering: “I hate every industry, I hate ‘the big industry’ full stop.
“They don’t actually really care at all,” he continues, before launching into an impression of a scheming industry figure: “‘He’s half black, he’s a bit black. Let’s give him this pedestal.’ If I was white they wouldn’t want to know about it. But at the moment there’s a lot of racial tensions in these big industries, with the Oscars and shit.
“Then again,” he decides, “[I’m coming] from the perspective of this Peckham guy who wants to take up all opportunities. So I’m like: ‘Yeah, fuck it.’”
If Pyke sounds like a refreshingly different kind of artist, then that’s because he is. When he arrives for this interview, dressed in bright orange skater slacks and a baggy Adidas T-shirt, he explains that he needs breakfast before we begin – a slightly strange request given that it is 2.30pm. Still, there is no denying that a ham-and-cheese panini kicks his cognition into gear, and soon the south London songwriter, skater, model and graffiti artist is sharing his thoughts on a range of topics, spanning the pharmaceutical industry (“I’ve never had a jab in my life; my mum doesn’t even fuck with the NHS”), his past altercations with the law (“Eight big white guys with tattoos coming into my house, just for a kid who’s doing [graffiti] art? The British Transport Police are the worst, innit”), and a tenuous affiliate who demanded a cut of his royalties (“I got done over”). Such honesty is something of an anomaly in an age of PR-constrained campaigns and social media strategies.
It is still early days for Pyke, who studied at the Brit school (but hated its “drama queen” students) and is part of a south London contingent of ultra-accomplished creatives including Raye and King Krule. His unique look and sound – a fusion of jazz, 2-tone, Tyler the Creator and, inexplicably, the Kooks – has attracted attention from both the music and fashion industries. Off the back of one EP, he managed to sell out a headline tour and was tipped in 2017’s Dazed 100 list, the cutting-edge publication’s annual chart that highlights the world’s most exciting young cultural figures. Eagle-eyed Frank Ocean fans may have noticed Pyke in the video for Nikes, too; he was one of a handful of extras styled like 90s Calvin Klein models, drifting through the R&B star’s surreal dreamscape. It’s the sort of opportunity that would excite most people his age, but left him nonplussed; he had never even heard Ocean’s music before, and only did it for the £75 fee.
This, it turns out, is one of many examples of Pyke’s judicious relationship with the cold, capitalist world he now orbits. Although his songs don’t address politics head on, he is socially conscious, and anxious about his generation’s future: he paid £50 to hear Jeremy Corbyn talk last year, and is worried about Brexit and what it will mean for his Polish friends who live in London. The video for Pyke’s breakthrough track Chronic Sunshine is also a joyful celebration of his Peckham community: he greets market stall owners and smokes fags with a group of friends who look as if they have stumbled out of a Specials gig in Thatcher-era Britain.
Still living with his mum and dad in the house he was born in – his mum was a feminist punk who taught Pyke the guitar – he recognises that gentrification of his neighbourhood is damaging, but as a freelance musician who dresses like a hipster, he often feels as if he is part of the problem. Class and social status is something that occupies much of his mind, particularly the way in which his peers appropriate working-class culture in order to follow the zeitgeist. His debut EP, Just Cosmo, was named after Just William, Richmal Crompton’s famous chronicle of a middle-class boy. It is a curveball character to glorify. But then Pyke is an extraordinary personality: like his musicianship – simultaneously catchy and slack – he possesses both the brilliant confidence and unconstructed thought process of someone still figuring things out. He is far from the much maligned posh-wave of the 2010s – such as Mumford and Sons and Noah and the Whale – yet is keen to tackle his privilege head-on rather than shirk behind a costume. “The fashion nowadays is that everyone has to be some working-class rapper talking about how the struggle was for them,” Pyke says. “What if you’re not? What about your music?
“I’m just trying to show that middle-class kids – it’s fine to be who you are. You don’t have to change that for everyone. You don’t have to change your whole aesthetic. I’m sick of it, all the sportswear. When I grew up I would get told I was too black or too white. It’s the same thing: if you get told you’re too posh then you’re going to act like you’re not as posh. So many kids from south-east London, white kids who think they’re like some murderer or something because they listen to this dumb music and completely have adopted this working-class style, it isn’t going to get them anywhere. It’s going to get them clout now but maybe in 20 or 40 years … people I’ve grown up with just think about the present and not the future which is annoying.”
Unlike Pyke’s blunt opinions in real life, his music is louche and languid, full of wonky guitars and lyrics detailing hazy observations (“This spliff is really nice, but I need a light”). He’s also been compared to the aforementioned King Krule. But while he shares the same affection for jazz, his love of noughties indie reveals a more accessible side. Soon Pyke will head back into the studio to record with Grammy award-winning producer Fraser T Smith, who has recently worked with the likes of Stormzy, Sam Smith and Kano. Tonight, however, he faces the awkward prospect of playing a gig in front of media luvvies at the launch of a new private members club. He looks less than enthused about it, but as both a cynic and a hustler, it is one of many obligations he approaches with an opportunist head on.
“I just got invited to a Gucci party,” he says of his strange relationship with the celebrity world that beckons him. “I’m just trying to bring in my friends who aren’t so lucky. I’m trying to get them modelling jobs, give them plus-ones to my parties,” he says.
“I’ve got this mentality: anything I’m asked to do, I do it,” he concedes. “I’m trying to get famous, get my name everywhere, make sure everyone sees. It’s a lot like graffiti: you want to get as many tags as you can all around the city until you own the city,” he says determinedly, one foot trapped in the jaws of the Big Industry, the other kicking out.