Emcee and producer Savvy, aka Asaviour, has spent years honing his skills alongside some of UK hip hop’s finest. Initially releasing music with YNR Productions and Low Life Records, Savvy now runs his own record label, Saving Grace Music.

Not one to follow the crowd, Savvy carves his own path. This originality is evident in his newly released album, The Battle For Hearts and Minds, with its otherworldly narration and unique sound.

Wearing his heart on his sleeve, Savvy endeavours to write lyrics which hit home and isn’t afraid to be himself.

Savvy chatted to Now Then about his brand new clothing line, social enterprise projects and a crop of gigs on the horizon.

When did you start making music?

I got a little computer, an Amiga, and I was messing around with beats. Then I went to college and linked with Jehst and Taharka. I used to rhyme with my mate, Antony, and this guy called Philly Blunt. Then we got access to the music room at college and there was a sampler in there. I taught myself how to use the sampler and taught the tutor a few tricks.

Which came first? Rapping or producing?

I think rapping had to come first, because I couldn’t afford the equipment. No disrespect, but I think producing, in the early days, was definitely a middle-class pursuit at that age. You had to have a little bit of support from your parents. If you were a black kid in Huddersfield, you were generally rapping, maybe DJing. All you needed was a pen and a piece of paper.

What’s your approach to writing lyrics?

The main thing I’m trying to do as a rapper now is write lyrics which are to the point. I’ve kind of gone full circle. You know, you can learn all the words, learn how to place them, how not to place them, internal rhyme schemes and all the rest. Then it’s kind of finding the truth within that, so it’s not just bars.

What inspires you?

My inspirations are things people have said that have resonated with me. I remember reading an interview with Ghostface Killah and one of the things he said was, “I just say shit that sounds fly in your ear”. I was like, yeah, that’s what it is! No matter what you’re trying to say, it’s got to sound good. It’s got to have a ring to it.

What obstacles have you had along the way?

I’ve always tried to be original, so your climb up the hill is always going to be that much harder. Also, people are not necessarily less likely to help you, but they’re like, “What are you doing going off that way? This is the obvious route. Why are you going off that way? You’re a weirdo!”

Who would you like to work with?

Patrick Stewart – I was literally going to ask him to narrate the album – Childish Gambino, CASisDEAD.

What was the inspiration for The Battle For Hearts and Minds?

It grew from real interactions. ‘Refreshment’ is the first track I made, but it’s also a summary of the album. It was like, this is where I’ve been. I’ve come out of this place with music, especially hip hop, and I’ve kind of got to this point of TBFHAM. Some people messaged me about ‘Refreshment’ and were like, “Yo, bruv. That’s a bit honest!” I can’t just do bars. It’s got to mean something.

There are 19 tracks on the album. I still haven’t fully gotten my head around it yet.

That’s good. That’s what I want. I want people to return to it. I still believe in the album. A lot of people are like, “Nah, EP/single, mate”. And that disheartens me. Kendrick Lamar’s made some amazing albums. I feel like it’s getting lost with hip hop, because of the disposableness of culture right now, and always needing to move on to the next thing. I’ve actively tried to slow my process down, and I’m actively not dropping a video all the time.

I love Lisa Luxx’s narration. It gives it an epic feel.

Yeah, street fairytales. It’s a freak how it came together. Personally, I think all her bits fit perfectly with the tracks, and the overarching theme, but when she wrote it she’d not heard a song. We just met up for a chat so she kind of got a grasp of where my head was at and what I was planning. I told her the concept of a couple of tunes, and then she came up with it. I composed the music after she’d done her thing. I wanted to treat her like a tangible piece rather than, ‘I’ll do this and then she can add to it’. Lisa is totally accomplished and knows exactly what she’s doing.

Savvy by Robbie Jay Barratt

Which are your favourite tracks on the album?

Erm, it changes for different reasons. ‘The Only Way I Know’ is kind of like, “I am somebody, tear my white vest open on top of a mountain,” so I like that. I like doing it with a PA, but really it’s a song for my band, Savoir Faire.

‘Forfeit’. I’m glad that I wrote it. It’s weird ’cause that was a bit of a battle in itself. I made the beat, then lost the beat. I remade it, and it was better than it was in the first place. It’s an honest track. People have asked me if I was dissing anyone specifically, but no. It’s about human interaction and being a better person.

Then there’s Lisa’s spoken word as well. She’s done her own thing and I get excited about that. And even making the music to what she did. I felt like it fit. I got it right.

I really like ‘Goodnight’.

D’you know, I’m most nervous about this song. Someone said it’s like the audio version of Stranger Things. There’s something ’80s about it, but there’s something very modern about it.

It’s the whole thing of presenting all the elements of your personality. I hear a lot about people’s honest albums and, yeah, you can be honest about the things you’re saying, but even the music – the influences from the guilty pleasures are all in there. Goodnight is me pushing things forward, being honest and seeing if I can make something a bit different and still have a message in there.

You’re a designer by trade. Can you tell me about your clothing line for TBFHAM?

I wanted to blur the lines between fashion, art, music, design and community. People who buy the clothes get to hear the music for free.

What’s the social enterprise side of your label Saving Grace?

Saving Grace has a collective of different musicians working in the local community. We give young people opportunities and experience in the creative arts through workshops and outreach projects. We also provide mentoring for young artists under the Saving Grace Collective.

Have you got any gigs coming up in the future?

I’m playing Love Music Hate Racism later this month and a few more dates. I’ll be announcing more dates over social media shortly, so keep an eye out.

Savvy is running a competition to win a test pressing of his album. For details, visit the Saving Grace label website, here.


Photo inset by Robbie Jay Barratt.

Red Hen