“Channel 4, you fucked up!”
So it begins, with Big Narstie’s opening words on his new Friday night show. But they haven’t. Far from it. Instead, Channel 4 may just have created a monster hit. Launched during a World Cup, when the TV world goes into hibernation, The Big Narstie Show is big and bold.
Narstie is multi-talented. This much we already knew. A veteran grime MC with a major following, a YouTube star with a sideline as an agony uncle, a popular guest on chat shows and panel shows, he has even made a World Cup song with actual John Barnes.
For his new series he has teamed up with rising stand-up star Mo Gilligan, who helps with the heavy lifting during interviews, and who Narstie describes as “the slaw to my main Nando’s dish”.
The show is a pick and mix of comedy, music and me. And it is very black.
The Big Narstie Show is a return to the Channel 4 doing what it does best. Just as The Word surfed the indie-dance / post-rave cultural zeitgeist when it took over Friday nights in 1990, so Big Narstie is representing the biggest British music moment in decades.
Grime is massive. And it emerged and took over right under TV commissioning editors’ noses in North and East London, before extending far beyond the capital. Yet there has been little or no representation or acknowledgment of its cultural impact on the small screen.
A talk show at 140bpm, in which guests barely have time to pause for a breath and Big Narstie works up a sweat? Surely that’s a move in the right direction.
The Big Issue: Is this part of your masterplan for world domination?
Big Narstie: Boy, step by step, it seems so. It seems so. I don’t know if Napoleon felt like this when it happened, you know what I mean? I’m telling you, but I am enjoying the journey so far. I never thought of having a TV show. This is all by coincidence. I fell into a good movie! That’s the best way to put it.
How would you describe the new show?
The show is a pick and mix of comedy, music and me! And it is very black. Very urban. And very street. It is not a politically correct show. It is for real people. This is real England. It is the first time really poor England will be on TV. Ofcom is pissed! It is for everyone.
Did you watch anything in preparation?
To be honest, I am just doing it how I see it. Because I am clearly not like Jonathan Ross or Graham Norton. This is BDL [Base Defence League] on TV, you know what I mean? Some real Asbo England shit. That is what we are going for. I didn’t have a plan to get here. Everything I have done keeps drifting me the right way and luckily I have a good team around me who give good advice. So it is all about making it happen.
You wrote for The Big Issue recently on quite a serious subject, the importance of role models and shortfalls in mental healthcare provision – does this new show showcase your lighter side?
There is a lot of fun, but there is still a lot of seriousness in the show as well, where I will be talking about issues like that. I am not trying to separate fun and seriousness, it is all a package.
Right now my big issues, personally, are housing, employment, legalisation of cannabis – free the herbs! And I’m Team NHS, gang. I still want to do a tour to help fund the NHS. I would rather give my money to the NHS than the fucking taxman. He can go fuck himself.
Your first show featured Ed Sheeran – how close are you two?
He is good. He is godfather to my daughter and he is on my album, BDL Bipolar, as well, which is out on 6 July. I kind of got it like Will Smith. An album and a TV show together, hand in hand. I can’t wait for the results.
And the actor OT Fagbenle was on as well – do you watch him in The Handmaid’s Tale?
I have been watching The Handmaid’s Tale. It is a deeper programme, very deep and dark. But it fucks with my mind because I have got a daughter. So it fucks with my mind, makes me want to kill the world. The fucking sick shit. It is all based on real stuff – and the Mexican president in that series is a woman, shame on her.
What else am I watching? Truth be told, I just want to play Fifa and smoke weed with my dog. That’s the honest truth. No, my dog isn’t a big smoker. He’s a dog.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
Look out for Izzie Gibbs, he is doing very well, the 96LS EP. Look out for Naughty North Twinz and Dizmack, they are great artists coming up. And Raleigh Ritchie [aka Jacob Anderson, aka Grey Worm from Game of Thrones] has a lovely voice. He is on my album as well, his voice is so nice. But I’m also listening to old school hip hop, Tupac, because sometimes you have to go back to the roots.
After all this time, you are only just unleashing first album – what took you so long?
I had to get the right body of work to display to the world as my first album. You have to start as you mean to go on, so I wanted to wait to put my album out in a way that I will feel proud about for years to come. It is definitely different to launching a mixtape. It’s Mister Kipling, exceedingly good cake. I just filmed my second single from it just now, 5am, featuring MoeLogo. We filmed it today – it is very action packed. We have Tamar Hassan acting in it. He is great.
Where do you go when you have time on your hands?
I just like to chill on the block with the mandem. When I leave this cosmopolitan world, I like to go back to what I know. Where everything is normal.
Are things increasingly un-normal for you now?
A little bit. Definitely. I’m just lucky I haven’t been consumed by peer pressure to blend in. It is like, out of nowhere I have been welcomed with open arms into this industry way of life but remember, I came into this by an unconventional route. By people power. Not by playing the industry game and being taken in. So even though I am in, I came by an unconventional route so you have to remember that.
Music, telly, agony uncle – what is next?
Oh, man, I dunno yet. I take one day as it comes and give god thanks. That is all you can do. Crawl before you walk. I am just crawling really fast. I am learning. It is like anything, when things are out of your comfort zone you sink or swim, really. But I am finding it easy to swim because it has been done naturally.
You were firmly behind the campaign to save the Brixton Arches – well, the government and Network Rail are now selling off railway arches around the country. Do you have an opinion on that?
That’s fucked. Quote that. That’s what it is, it’s fucked, innit?
- The Big Narstie Show airs on Friday nights on Channel 4 and via All4 / Big Narstie’s album ‘BDL Bipolar’ is out on July 6th on Dice Recordings
Image: Channel 4