Hailing from South London, rapper Sam Wise stands out from the crowd. A key member of the seminal London collective House of Pharaohs, the young poet has captured the attention of audiences around the world with a jumpy and tongue-in-cheek style, versatile lyrics and laid-back flow. In an era of violent street rap, Sam Wise radiates a certain positivity and youthful essence often missing in the London rap landscape, showcasing his refreshing yet familiar sound.
His latest project Free Game sees Wise clever dissecting life in London and the pursuit of getting paid, staying low key and getting the most out of his life over laid back instrumentals, Sam Wise shines on the track with his personality shining even brighter.
On a zoom call between London and Melbourne, we caught up with Sam Wise to chat Free Game, nature vs nurture and Guy Ritchie films.
Sam Wise, how are you, man?
I’m good, Cass. How you feeling? You all right?
I’m good, man. You’ve had a busy year so far, bro, lots of music.
Yeah, blessings, bro. Yeah, it’s been quite a hectic one, a strange year, but yeah, busy for sure.
Congratulations on the new mixtape, Free Game. How are you feeling with it out in the world now?
Thank you, I appreciate it. I feel relieved and I feel content. I’m actually really enjoying it right now myself. I’ve had a lot of the music for a while, I’ve sat with it for a while. Had a break before releasing it and I’m just being able to listen to it now when I’m driving and stuff. I’m really enjoying it. I love it. So I’m just really happy that it’s out. And relieved as well because it’s been a long time coming.
What did you want to do differently with Free Game? Is there a different approach you took with some of this music that’s on the project?
Yeah, Free Game, hmm, was there a different approach? In some senses, yeah. So my last project which I put out, my first official project, which is an EP called, Sorry, You Were Saying, that one I felt was nice. I thought it was sick, musically, but it was an EP. With this project, I was trying to give a mixtape vibe a bit more. I feel like I put a few more tracks that are a bit more from my jumpy, trappy side, or element of me. But ultimately, it was just to put out another body of work that is able to embody some of the features I like within my music and expression. That was the real aim. And I think I achieved that with Free Game.
What is the title referring to? Is that just about you spitting some knowledge for free?
Yeah, it’s just playing on the free game, like giving out game. I’m just playing on Sam Wise and wisdom. I wouldn’t say I’m the person that’s always got load of game to say or drop knowledge. I’m learning along the way. But I feel like as a person, I was given the name Wise for a reason. I felt it was easy to remember as well. So I was like, “Yeah, Free Game makes a lot of sense.” It alludes to being me, Sam Wise.
I feel like you paint a different picture of London and your lifestyle, compared to a lot of other rappers from there. Do you think that comes from maybe your situation being different, or more from your mindset being different?
Oh, that’s a very interesting question. I question this every day. This stuff confuses me even. What is it? Because I’m very, dare I say, conscious about my community, the world, and where things are going. And I’ve always just been aware of these sort of things. I’ve always questioned a lot. I’ve always been fascinated. I’d say maybe it’s a combination, I think, of the two. Most people that are raised in my area, who present their music or their lifestyles very different to me, have been in a lot the same places as me, kicked football in the same places as me, went to the same schools as me. But their circumstances was different. I don’t know why. Is it nurture or is it nature? I think it’s a bit of both. I think I was fortunate enough to have good nurture, that being parents, and my mum, who was able to facilitate a good upbringing. That question there’s interesting to me.
So what do you think helps you see things in a positive lens?
Right now, it’s keeping positive protocol in my lifestyle now. So I think in general it was my mindset, and me craving just to see goodness in the world. Wanting to be a good person, wanting to contribute good things with every action or breath I take. You know what I’m saying? Especially when looking at me growing up in an environment where not everything is like that. So yeah, I think that is important. But then, it’s positive protocol in a sense of training, keeping healthy, trying to eat healthy, keeping people around you that are going to feed you with things that are going to make you work harder, challenge yourself. But also people that are good for you.
Keeping family around you, keeping a level of responsibility. These sort of things allow you to just keep a grip on life, I think, which allows you to then be your best self. And through that, you can see through a positive lens. However, when you’re introducing other things into your lives, like we all experience, particularly myself, excessive use of the phones. Or mixing with certain people, or indulging in certain lusts too much, or whatever, then you can be on a downward spiral. But I think when you got positive protocol, it allows you to be at a place where you can perceive life, and then take life the best way, and appreciate what’s around you. So where I’m at now is that I really try to add the positive protocol. Because as I’ve got older, life hits. It’s not as easy to stay positive if you know what I’m saying.
So speaking on Free Game, do you have a favourite track on the project? Is there one that you feel best represents you as an artist right now?
I’m an ever-evolving artist, one way I’m this way, and one way I’m that way. And I think that’s what the project shows as well, but I think it shows it in a cohesive way, which is so beautiful. My favorites range, they change. I’d say it’s either Bankroll Intro, I just love the Intro so much, ‘My Block’. Right now, it’s out of those two, I think.
‘My Block’, that’s an instant stand out for me, bro. Can you talk to me a bit more about the track? I feel like it’s really effortless, but it’s powerful at the same time.
Thank you, I appreciate that. I love that track. I went to Yung Fume’s studio, me and Fume make a lot of music and I went to his studio. We went back and forth, we’re pretty good at bouncing off each other. Then the woke up on my block thing came. And I was like, “You know what? Let me just lay that.” Because sometimes you can overthink music, man. And I was like, “Let me just go and jump on a mic. Woke up on my block, woke up on my block.” And I said, “Let’s just keep it going now. That is nice enough.” Fume added some layers. We’re just coming back and forth doing layers. Fume done his verse, he’s chilling. Then I come and done my verse as well. And just that was the track. Then I remember we drove home, I was banging it in a car, and I just think it’s so atmospheric.
That’s one of the things I was going for with this project as well. The music needs to feel atmospheric. The instrumentals need to give you feeling. I think that’s what I go off more than anything is feeling. So sometimes people get a conscious vibe off my music or very positive, but sometimes I’m not even saying conscious stuff about the world. But I’m just into it in terms of how I’ve put together the music. And that’s my thing I’m happy about. That’s my thing I wanted to do with my music. Do you know what I’m saying? There’s a sense of awareness in it.
I saw you tweet that the maddest part for you is that you know how much better you can be. Do you want to speak on that at all?
I think I’m just quite ambitious. I make good stuff, but I’m always challenging myself to be better. And there’s so much music as well that I’ve made that quality wise is crazy as well, but I just haven’t pulled it out yet. So it’s come together, putting stuff out as an artist, bringing a whole project together or campaign. I feel like Free Game‘s amazing, I’ve done well. But I’m learning so much that I know how much better I can be at creating the music and then rolling it out as well. It’s not to take away from anything that I’ve done so far. I’m just always feeling like, “I want to do this. I want to do that. I want to do this. I want to do that.”
I wanted to take it back to the start for you, can you tell me a little bit about growing up? What kind of music was being played around the house? What are some early memories of discovering music for you?
I would say it’s very typical to a lot of other people from my community. So I grew up with my mum, mostly, and she would play Jill Scott, a lot of reggae, a lot of different music in the house. My first introduction to hip hop would probably be from my older brother. I remember having a range of stuff, like Ginuwine down to Nelly down to Lil Wayne. And then my older brother, Kwame, I mentioned, actually bought me an MP4. This is when you had MP4s. He bought me MP4 and he put a load of projects, and he put Lil Wayne, He put classic Snoop Dogg albums on there. What are them people called again? DJ Quik and Kurupt.
I feel like all those different elements, that appreciation for music, hearing it in the house, then going to my secondary school. So that’s when you had like Sneakbo. That music was emerging then, we was literally going through these areas every day to go to school. Section Boyz were doing their thing. I was in school, listening to them, and now Swift is on our project. So things come around full circle. So there was a lot of stages to the journey of me getting introduced to music. Even to the point where, there was a stage in secondary school, where I only listened to conscious rap. So very interesting journey, but I’ve had a lot of different flavors.
I wanted to talk about House of Pharaohs. I think the influence that House of Pharaohs has had on the UK rap scene is definitely underplayed. I wanted to ask, what are some of the ways the group has evolved since you first started dropping music, to the stuff you’re putting out now?
Yeah, we’ve evolved a lot, man. We were ranging from 14-17 when we started. I’m 25 now, I was about 16 when it probably started, 17/18 when it officially launched and we was putting out music and doing campaigns and stuff. House of Pharaohs has evolved a lot. There’s people that actually had been in the group that left before it even got to the stages where we was really putting out stuff. We started with 13 members, then it became a thing with 10 of us, and now we’re at 8. And an important member of the group, AJ, had moved on just before pandemic times. So that was a big evolution as well. But certainly from my mind, because I thought he was a crucial part of the group, and especially in its inception. And he’s just moved on. He felt like he was at his time where he’s got to where he needed to with House of Pharaohs, which we all appreciate. It’s all love still, regardless.
So we’re at a place where now, we’re much older, it’s a bit more concentrated, which actually helps as well. And we’re in a place where we just want to continue doing great things. And we’ve just been working on that. We’ve been in the studio a lot recently.
How do you go about writing your own music versus riding for House of Pharaohs, is there a difference?
Yeah, I think there is a bit of a difference. With House of Pharaohs, usually, when we’re working, of course, you’re going to be bouncing off each other. I think there’s often a thing as well, you’re playing your part to a whole thing. So when it’s my own track, I might approach it this way or that way. When it’s a House of Pharaohs track, I’m usually just writing a verse or a hook or contributing to a hook. So it gives me a bit more freedom as well. Sometimes I feel like I’m almost more confident when I’m jumping on the tracks surrounding my guys. It allows me to be Sam Wise in a clear way. And also everything’s just better. We just contributing stuff as a whole. Whereas when I make music by myself, it’s like, “I’ve got to complete this whole thing.” Do you know what I mean?
So just taking it back to Free Game for a moment, I noticed a few references to the movie, Snatch. I heard a sample in one of the tracks and there’s some visual stuff there in the ‘First Little Rollie’ music video. Can you talk to me about that movie and what you love about it?
Do you know what it is? Guy Richie films are sick, innit? I just always had a fascination with my environment. So I see these sort of characters in my everyday life. There was someone that used to live on my estate who really resembled Brick Top. In terms of the whole gangster thing, everything, cockney gangster. So it’s just that fascination with how them films are able to embody London or the UK. The sort of characters they have. That scene that I used at the end of ‘Pay Up Or Lay Down’, that’s sampled from Snatch, it’s just a hilarious scene.
It’s got the black gangsters, the yardies. When I look at them, I think of, “Oh, what’s it like in that period of time?” That’s the black yardies and understanding the history. And then seeing myself in it. So that was how it came to be, to have those references.
I’m with it. Do you think you’d ever try your hand acting or get into making movies in some way?
Yeah, I’ve done a few casting calls. I ain’t got a job just yet. But I think I would, I think I would. I think I was more driven about acting maybe a few years back when I was younger. Now I’m older, I realize with these things as well, there are big commitments. It’s not just you acting. I understand what’s behind it a bit more. But I think acting, yeah, I think I would like to maybe see how I am in front of the camera with a script. Maybe even if I want to screenwrite something in the future as well, that might be cool.
I wanted to mention a track from your previous project I just thought was really hard, the track you did with Blanco, ‘Follow The Leader.’ Have you and Blanco linked up since? I feel like you need to.
Oh, we do man innit. We haven’t linked up since, but we’re good. I’m a bit closer with his older brother, and it’s overdue. I think we’re defo going to get something in again. He’s from the same areas as well. So it’s all blessed. It’s all love. But it’s overdue and I think that’s got to happen. I might have to text him still.
Is there anyone in the US, or outside of the UK, that you’re wanting to work with? Or anyone you’re a fan of that we might not expect?
Oh, there’s so many people to mention. Shout out Cochise, because that’s my guy, we’ve been speaking for a while from long before. We was on SoundCloud days and we stayed in contact. And he’s doing very well so I’m happy for him.
Yeah, his stuff is hard too.
Yeah, he’s hard. I’m really messing with the TDE stuff. You know what I’m saying? That’s been a big influence on my whole musical outlook and perspective. As a listener, Kendrick Lamar, in particular, but I really appreciate what Baby Keem is doing. Of course, Ab-Soul. There’s so much, man, there’s so much pockets of people and elements that I really appreciate and take from, from across the spectrum of hip hop. So it’d be hard to mention everyone, I’d want to dap up everyone. So yeah, really, there’s a lot of talented artists out there, man.
For sure. Hey, so something that you hear a little bit on Free Game, and something that I’ve noticed across a few releases out of the UK in recent times, is the lush saxophone outros going on, artists like yourself. I noticed Knucks has been doing it. I really like the wave, but I’m curious to know a bit more about it. Where did this start? Is it somebody in particular who’s playing the sax on these tracks?
So the sax stuff, I’d say for me personally, musically, I’ve always liked them sort of sounds in my stuff. So if you go back to my SoundCloud stuff and earlier music, there’s elements of just that richness within the music, or samples that have that. ‘Cheque Came’ is a track you’ve heard that with it and then ‘First Little Rollie’. But there’s a lot of other tracks that I’ve made around that time with the sax.
And the guy who does it, most of the time, and he’s done it on my track, ‘First Little Rollie’, is a guy called Venna. He’s a producer as well. Very talented. So Venna, lucky for him, he actually worked with the likes of WizKid, Burna Boy as well. He’s the one that does it. So he’s the one that done it on my track, First Little Rollie. But yeah, Knucks is someone that I’d say has really made it a consistent thing of it. You would say almost that’s Knucks’ sound—you’re going to hear that sax at the end.
Another thing I noticed in some of your more recent lyrics was that there are some crypto bars popping out. Are you deep in the crypto thing?
Me? No. So it’s funny because I remember I wrote those bars and then by the time everything was dropping, the tracks were dropping, I was thinking like, “Oh my God”, like, “I wish I didn’t say it.” I heard 100 more people, 200 more people, talk about crypto ina their bars. And then I’m like, “Oh, the market’s in a dip right now, anyway, so I would’ve looked silly.” And then I noticed I’d said it on two tracks. So the crypto thing, I bought in at a good time to the stuff that I bought in, and I had good people in my ear filling me in. But I wouldn’t say I’m deep in, I wouldn’t say I know enough about it to even tell anyone. I’ve actually just bought in at the time that I bought in, had a little surface knowledge. And I might’ve watched a few people on YouTube here and there, and I’m in a certain chat, which does have people that are into it. They’re not idiots, it’s not idiots.
I’m in a group chat too. [Laughs]
[Laughs] We’re all in a group chat, innit? Yeah, there’s some serious people. But I’m at a place where I just can’t give myself the energy to apply myself to learn what I should. So I’m still holding some, I’ve sold a bit, but it’s okay. I’ve bought in at a good time to the stuff that I bought in. If I knew more, I could have been rich.
Okay, okay. So you’re about to go on tour as well. You got a show tonight, but you’re going on tour next month. What can people expect from a Sam Wise show? Does the gang come on tour?
Yessir. Of course, you’re going to get a HOP cameo, it’s only right, correctly. But a Sam Wise show is going to be powerful. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be inspiring, I think, all the time. And it’s going to be whatever you want it to be, what every person makes it. But for me, it’s going to be fun. We’re going to turn up quite a lot of music to perform and to enjoy with the fans. So if they ain’t got their tickets, they’re wiling out. And shout out everyone in Australia, Melbourne, man, because I’m coming over there soon. I see there’s a little fan base growing out there and there’s a little bit of love. I need to really come out there, link up, I know you guys will take care of me, Cass.
Yeah. Next year, we’re trying to go abroad a lot and put some plays together.
All right, Sam Wise. That’s it from me. Congratulations on the project. Appreciate you taking the time, man.
Thank you, Cass, man. Until next time. I appreciate the knowledge on what we’re doing, man. And the questions, I like them, man. Big up you. Bless.