Nightfall in London’s Homerton district. V9 slips on his ink-black Deadpool mask and bursts from a cloud toward an enemy estate. Some lads are smoking and chatting. “Konnichiwa, it’s the Homerton Sensei.” A swing from his samurai sword showers his hoody in warm blood.
The Homerton sensei dances on the border of violent fantasy and cold-hard realities.
Ever since V9 dropped his landmark single ‘Charged Up’ in 2018, the rapper has been murking the underground of London’s drill scene with his forceful bars and sinister demeanor.
Having dropped two viral mixtapes, Yudokuna and Homerton Sensei, and teaming up with Homerton rappers like Unknown T, KO, Billy Billions and more under the banner of 98s—V9 continues to drown audiences with brutal vibrations and left-field beats.
Last month, I interviewed V9 about his thoughts on drill and tried to get to the heart of his shadowy persona.
What are you up to today?
About to go studio, still.
How do you pull together your lyrics?
More time I’ll freestyle then write it down and just go in the booth to try shit. If it works I just keep it there innit.
When did you first decide I’m going to take this rap thing seriously?
When I started to take music serious? Cool. I think after I dropped ‘Charged Up’. I wrote ‘Charged Up’ in 25 minutes. I heard the beat and I was just clicking with it. Went booth the next day and boom.
When Charged Up took off?
Yeah and then after ‘Andy & Dwight’, I was like ‘rah, it’s a music ting’.
What was it about Drill that made you want to take that path?
Bruv you see Drill is just hip-hop. You get it? I don’t know who called it Drill music. This is hip-hop. If you ask man was listening to hip-hop and that. Because you see when I was younger, I wasn’t doing music. I literally started rapping four years ago. So I seen my boys do music, it was Drill. So I thought I might as well.
What were you doing?
I was out here. You get it?
Rap and hip-hop isn’t the same though, it’s different. How is drill different to rap music?
Drill is hip-hop. Rap is different, I hear that. But Drill is hip-hop. It all falls under one category. You know why? When people from the UK are talking their shit like ‘oh drill music it’s too violent.’
Brother, you got niggas like Eminem who be talking wild on songs it wasn’t called Drill music it was called hip-hop, even when hip-hop first came out they were going ‘hip-hop’s too violent’ and ‘we got to stop hip-hop.’
It’s like every time there’s something new that’s doing well there’s backlash. Even with Grime, Grime came out and they tried to ban Grime. It’s the same shit. Drill is just hip-hop. People can talk violence on any type of beat, bro. It ain’t got nothing to do with the beat. Give me an R&B beat and I’ll still talk my shit on that, would you still call it Drill?
True. It’s the themes, though. Why do you think we like listening to violence?
I don’t think we like listening to violence. It’s a good song. If someone makes a good song, you don’t take it in for the violence, you take it in because it’s a good song.
It adds something to it though?
Obviously, it’s a thrill. It’s like a little adrenaline rush. You think, ‘oh did he say that?’ Rappers are just rapping, doesn’t mean it’s all true. It’s entertainment, we’re entertainers trying to get some money. Doesn’t mean it’s actually true. Doesn’t mean we’re going to go out there and do something mad.
Why do you think we love the real-life gritty shit, like the ‘No Censor‘ thing?
See when Drill first started. It was rude. It was this and that. Then they made a song called ‘No Censor’. Everyones thinking, ‘fucking hell, there’s no censor.” It’s like nostalgia. We all reminiscing thinking remember the good days you know? Talking smack on tracks.
In another interview, you said rappers know what they’re supposed to do and what they’re not supposed to do. What did you mean by that?
When did I say that? Haha. Obviously, you know what you’re gonna say and you know what you’re not gonna say. You can’t really talk too much stuff. You gotta keep it entertainment. Don’t incriminate yourself and all that. Out here is scary. They don’t want us to do good. They’ll do any little things to bring us down.
Yeah, I’ve heard about a lot of people doing big sentences because of rap in the UK.
Not just the UK, America as well. It’s stupid, man. Any little reason. They don’t want you to do good in life but they don’t want you out on the streets as well. What the fuck do they want?
What’s the situation like with police for you and the 98s?
Listen, I stay out of their way. You can’t beat them. I just stay out of their way. Avoid them, innit? They’re the biggest gang in the world. Haha.
Was it something about breaking that old code, like some people think you’ve got to keep what happens on the street and what happens in music separate?
Don’t get the streets mixed up with music. Yeah. Music is your job. If you get paid for it, it’s your craft, don’t fuck up your talents. Just leave the streets to the streets, you ain’t gotta say shit you did in the streets in songs and that bro. Cause more time people don’t even care. People just want to hear a good song. You could come on a song and say yeah, I’ve done this a million times, no one gives a fuck if your songs shit bro. You could be the realest guy but if your song is shit no one’s gonna get the band bro. It doesn’t make good music bro.
The thing that strikes me about 98s is that you all have these reputations for being from the streets and that’s what validates you as an artist.
Yeah. That’s what I was saying. We keep in the streets and people will hear innit? Mandem don’t come to songs and talk wicked, nah bro mans here to make good music. That’s all it is. I’m not here to talk about what’s happened in the streets.
Who were your boys that inspired you to do rap?
He seems like he is the kind of guy that would write his lyrics, really sit down, and think about his bars.
Yeah, that guy takes the piss. Haha. That guy will be in the studio for eight hours and get a fuckin’ four-bar bruv. With his thing, he’s different. He’s on a wordplay ting. So he can just take time but when it comes out in the end it’s magnificent, you get it? That’s KO’s thing, nice and slow. Slow and steady wins the race. Sometimes. Unless you’re tired in the booth.
What were you listening to when you were growing up, I read somewhere you were into Michael Jackson and Linkin Park?
Yeah, no cap. Obviously when it comes to Drill and that I was taking in like South London’s 67 and 150 and that. They started Drill in the UK, innit? Well brought Drill to the UK cause it’s an American thing, innit? Other than that, I was just taking in 50 cent and all them people there man, trust me.
In an interview you said you moved from Somalia to the UK?
Hahaha. I’m not Somali bruv I was trolling them. I’m from Homerton. That’s it.
What’s it like in Homerton then?
It’s like Dubai and London. It’s like Melbourne and Sydney.
Sydney’s not like Dubai though?
I know that, but Homerton is like Sydney. Haha. You get it? It’s just normal, isn’t it?
Maybe normal to you isn’t normal to me?
I went to school. I played video games and that. Sports. You get it? Trust me, all of that. I was a video game head. Anime.
What games were you playing?
All types of games, mate…Dragon Ball Z, old FIFA Pro, Sonic, Getaway. Copious games.
When did you first link up with KO and Unkown T and all those guys?
In Homerton. It’s not like a music ting. We grew up together, still.
When did you decide to form the 98s?
It’s two different things. It’s my lot; Unkown T, KO and that. And my other friends from Holly street; Stally, Billy Billions. So 898’s together is 98s. It came about like the start of last year. That was KO’s thing, he thought of it.
Groundworks was big, first time I heard Billy Billions and he killed it.
He killed it, innit? Free my boy.
What are the key lessons you’ve learned as an artist?
I’m still perfecting my craft. I’m getting better at my craft innit. Now I take it serious, I’ll actually think about what am I saying? You get it. Does it make sense? If it don’t make sense, you don’t get paid. When you actually want something in life, you’re going to work on it.
In the 98s, do you give each other feedback and work on it together?
Of course. If it’s not nice, we’ll tell each other I don’t feel that. We’re all friends. We all want to see each other do good. I’m not gonna tell you it’s good and I’m gonna leave and say it’s shit. I will tell you straight up bruv, do that again. It happens, we tell each other that. Not to disrespect, we’re all friends.
Can you remember a moment where that happened to you where someone in the studio said do it again?
Man can’t tell me nothing, man. You dumb? Man can’t tell me anything. I’ll tell them to ‘low it. Haha. Nah, the other day my manager trying telling me I don’t like that so I told him ‘I like that.’ After that, he was like it’s hard, yeah it’s hard. More time, I feel something and I’m gonna stick with it.
Any advice for people getting into music?
Focus on yourself. Always stay down! Stay low and do you!
Any final messages you want to leave your fans?
Just put #crazygang and seedy settings for life.
What is the seedy setting thing you’re always going on about man?
I can’t speak on the society. It’s secret. It’s like the Freemasons. You know about it? We don’t know about it like that. That’s our thing innit. You know about the Freemasons, you know about seedy settings. But what is it? We’ll never find out.
Follow V9 here for more and stream his latest single ‘Hole In One’ below.