Straight out of Brighton (via London), the dynamic duo of Jordan and Harley made an immediate impression with the song Down With The Trumpets (the video was shot on Brighton seafront and featured the iconic beach huts) which became a summer smash – a top 10 hit – while concurrently they also featured on Olly Murs Number One hit ‘Heart Skips A Beat’.
Family friends from the age of four, Jordan Stephens and Harley Alexander-Sule both moved to Brighton independently and apparently re-met at a Sunday league football match. They both ended up going to The Brit School where Jordan studied Media and Harley studied Theatre. It was while Jordan was in the process of making his mixtape Minor Breaches Of Discipline – where he rapped over samples of artists such as Lily Allen, Arctic Monkeys and Gorillaz – that he asked Harley to sing over some of the tracks. From that, Rizzle Kicks was formed. Via the internet, YouTube in particular, they posted lo-fi music videos to their channel which eventually caught the attention of record labels including Island who signed them up. Sadly, the pair have recently moved back to London. “We love Brighton for obvious reasons. We only moved back to London for the music. We spent the first 10 years of our lives in London, and the next nine years in Brighton.
“It was getting a bit repetitive [in Brighton]. We love it to bits, but because we wanted to pursue a career in music there is only so far you can go in Brighton. At some point you have to move to the Big Smoke,”Jordan reasons. “But Brighton will always be a special place for us.”
Recalling the golden age of paisley/daisy hip-hop era of De La Soul, Ultramagnetic MCs and Jungle Brothers, their sample-driven/live instrumentation hybrid is joyous, positive, witty and very mature for a pair this young (they have only just turned 20). Throw in plenty of Lily Allen stylings (whom they playfully satirised on their X-rated mix of LDN) and their old skool sensibilities have been transplanted to the ‘12 just in the nick of time…
“When we first got signed we got chucked in to work with a few producers, but then as the songs developed we thought about who would be the producers the songs would work best with. They turned out to be Future Cut, who made Lily Allen’s first records, and Ant Whiting, who is predominantly a pop producer, working with Pixie Lott and Diana Vickers, but he got our sound immediately.
‘I can find my place in my dreams/I don’t care what you choose as fact/I’m going to take myself to the moon and back/In my dream’
– ‘Dreamers’, Rizzle Kicks
Fatboy Slim doesn’t do records any more, and very rarely remixes or produces. But he couldn’t resist working with his fellow Brightonians for this classic Fatboy Slim-style beats and sample-heavy feast. “We made it at his place [Hove seafront] – his house is awesome!”
Their debut album, Stereo Typical, has certainly caught the imagination of the record buying public, who are perhaps in need of some cheery fun in these increasingly pessimistic times, and Stereo Typical supplies the medicine in big doses. From the big beat style of Mama Do The Hump to the jazzy trip-hop, drunken swagger of Miss Cigarette and the piano-driven sound of Stop With The Chatter, Stereo Typical is crystal clear and full of bounce; energetic without being hyper; smooth without being soft – it’s the distillation of the history of hip-hop (perhaps missing out the menacing gangster-style rappings of much of American rap) combined with touches of indie, jazz and plenty of pop nous. For many, it was the feel-good record of the year, and eventually it peaked at number five.
The boys’ Brighton connections run very deep: they cut their musical teeth at the Brighton-based youth music organisation AudioActive (“they are all legends”), and since then things have happened very quickly for the duo, to the point where they are now being featured in The Sun (‘Caroline Flack Gets A Rizzle Kiss’). “We didn’t expect this – when we released ‘Trumpets’ we had no expectations whatsoever, and it’s continued to grow. We haven’t really adjusted or realised the position we’re in. We’re having to roll with it. The main thing is that we have managed to get the album together and it’s what we wanted to make.
“We had ‘Trumpets’ as the first single, and Fearne Cotton of course, legend of all legends, picked up on it and it got A-listed and things were going nuts… we didn’t know what to think. But as it got stronger we had to re-think our plans and keep adapting to the situation.
“We got so excited that we were allowed studio time. We just wanted to get out all this stuff we’ve been making. It wasn’t the same old method as before where we make a song, make it really good, and then make a video. You have to plan stuff, we cant just upload anything to YouTube anymore!”
Mainly the work of Jordan, the so-called ‘mixtapes’ were a big factor in getting Rizzle Kicks noticed. “I used to look up instrumentals and just have fun with them. We’ve got a mixtape in the works – it’s got a different vibe… it’s more of our take on old swing tunes and stuff…
“When we started getting our stuff together as Rizzle Kicks I wanted the old stuff taken off and start afresh. But people were like, ‘no, no, no, you can’t do that’. People like that mixtape stuff. You know, I see tracks online that I made in 2009 and I think I have come on a lot more as a rapper since then. They were getting like half a million hits on YouTube, it’s really weird. But I recently listened to the mixtapes for the first time in a long time, and I didn’t dislike it that much. But at the moment the album is where we’re really at.”