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AT FLANNELS:    with Abnormal Sleepz

AT FLANNELS: with Abnormal Sleepz

“When one person breaks in Manchester, there’s a big community of people in the city that’s going to be looking up to them.”

Born and raised in Moss Side; rapper, producer and songwriter Abnormal Sleepz has built a sound based on integrity. 

His passion for music making began on the playground of Hulme’s Trinity Church of England High School, where every day he’d arrive prepared with a fresh 16-bar verse - ready to win the respect of his peers over tinny instrumentals bursting from the very limited speaker of a Sony Ericsson mobile. “Back then I was just little old me with my glasses,” he remembers. “I didn’t look like the sort of person that spat bars, but when I did it was like: ‘Yo, who’s this kid?’”

While he’s since established his reputation as a rapper, he still likes to take people by surprise with his style. "I love my dress sense to make sense. I love the colours to work together,” he says. Transitional dressing is important to Sleepz, who needs to be ready for whatever the Manchester weather has to throw at him. “I think the main thing is layers.” he says, demonstrating autumn style in Palm Angels and Represent. “I need to make sure that I’ve got every type of layer because you don’t know what to expect with Manchester weather.”

Sleepz’s focus shifted from playground bars to song craft alongside a community of like-minded creatives in youth clubs like the Millennium Powerhouse. “When you come over to say South Manchester in Moss Side within that area, it’s very bright in Black talent,” he says. “It’s a place where if you speak to a lot of people - these youths, these elders that I grew up around - you get a sense of welcoming.”
Having grown up with his father, a sound man, playing reggae, lover’s rock and soul at home, Sleepz’s own eclectic sound would begin to take shape when he discovered the art of sampling. Previously, his production had been focussed around slapping basslines, but sampling allowed him to incorporate other styles - including his favourite old school R&B and jazz - into his music. The mellow hybrid of boom bap, soul and future beats that has become his signature, feels very authentic to himself “I’ve started to make my sound how I see it in my head,” he says. “From then I had more control of the vibrations I was putting out.”

The sonic breakthrough gave Sleepz the confidence to be more candid lyrically. He admits that he’d previously written quite generally, but began to delve deeper, be more specific and commit his personal experiences to wax. The result has been a much more rewarding exchange between Sleepz and his listeners. “I feel like my sound changed once I started actually being very honest in my music, and giving people music which is a part of me,” he explains. “I’m giving people a message and an energy to carry. I need to have fun whilst creating music.”

Interview by Grant Brydon 

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