Tiffany Calver knows a thing or two about UK rap.
As the host of the BBC Radio 1Xtra Rap Show, she’s championed countless acts and played a pivotal role in boosting the scene over recent years.
So when she offers some friendly advice to artists and labels about breaking globally, it’s well worth listening. As we revealed last month, Calver has launched her No Requests label in partnership with Polydor and signed rising rappers Bandokay and M’Way.
As part of our Spotlight interview in the latest issue of Music Week, Calver highlighted the growing European opportunities for UK talent as a better option than trying to break into the huge US market for hip-hop. Below she expands further on her theme.
Central Cee has recently collaborated successfully with Italian rapper Rondo. The UK star’s No.1 mixtape 23 cements that partnership on the track Eurovision, featuring Rondo and a host of other rappers from Italy, Spain and France. The video has 10.5 million YouTube views.
Asked if UK rap can be a truly global force, Calver said: “Funnily enough, I was on a FaceTime with Headie [One] about an hour ago. This was a very similar conversation I just had with him, because he's in Amsterdam at the minute doing some sessions over there, which I'm so here for. Because something that I've been saying for the past five years to my musical peers, especially rappers, is stop looking for the American co-sign.
“If you look around you, you've got French neighbours, you've got Italian neighbours, you've got Spanish, German, It’s incredible what you can do if you tap into these neighbouring countries that are closer to us, and that actually have invested already and are passionate about the music we make. We should be tapping more into that. So then watching someone like Central Cee getting so much success, it's almost like my point was proven.”
With huge European rap scenes thriving, Calver has looked across the channel for guests on her Rap Show.
“We've had a lot of French artists on the show,” she said. “We're trying to tap more into Europe and make it just a place to celebrate rap music.”
Dave has been making inroads into the US, while Young T & Bugsey made an impact in the Hot 100. Calver acknowledged that the US will always be a goal for British talent.
“America is a massive territory and to have the acknowledgement is a really special moment,” she told Music Week. “But I don't think it's the be-all and end-all. Japan is also a massive player when it comes to global success. Look at Skepta, even when he was releasing Konnichiwa he was going over there and doing the Boiler Room. I think we've just got to be more creative with how we break into the global aspect of things, instead of just doing the same blueprint.”
Calver suggested that streaming and TikTok have shaken up the entire industry’s approach to exporting music into new territories.
“The whole industry is adapting to this new world of how you break a hit record,” she said. “I don’t feel like the old world fits into that; the old blueprint and the old bullet points of how you do things.
“We're going into a completely new space where technology is a massive part of it, and your access to artists across the world, to consumers across the world. Look at someone like Dreya Mac, what she got to do from TikTok is just incredible and so exciting.”
As she moves ahead with her No Requests label alongside the team at Polydor, Tiffany Calver is confident that she can bring new thinking to the business.
“I'm really happy to be going into this new venture because I represent, I guess, the new world of the music industry,” she said. “I don't come from a classical [label] experience or CV. I'm a consumer, I'm a fan of music, I am a fan of what I play. And I think that's the most important thing these days when it comes to breaking records, because the power is in the consumers’ hands constantly. All they need to do is love a record. So you need to make records people can love, and it's as simple as that.”
Subscribers can read our full interview with Tiffany Calver here.