“My eyes and ears are waiting”: Headie One reveals his new record label
The UK rap star talks us through the silky neosoul, dancehall-inspired drill and the OFB crew members on the One Records roster.
Headie One is on an epic upward trajectory. Last year, the Tottenham rapper made history, scoring the then highest charting drill single in Britain with his Dave-assisted track 18HUNNA, which peaked at number six on the UK Official Singles Chart. Eighteen months later, Headie dethroned his former feat by dropping his surprise Drake collab Only You Freestyle. With the Canadian superstar declaring Headie to be the “best drill artist in the world” and referencing Maya Jama on a distinctly UK-sounding beat, Only You Freestyle sent social media into a frenzy, landing at number five in the Singles Chart.
Now, Headie’s spreading the wealth and knowledge with his newly-launched label, One Records. A partnership with Sony Music Entertainment and their subsidiaries Relentless Records and The Orchard, One Records has been in the making for years. “It was always a passion for me to help others to progress,” Headie tells The Face. “Even if I’m not progressing myself, whatever the circumstance, I like to see my people do good.”
As Headie began to enjoy the fruits of his success and recording material for his forthcoming album Edna, his desire to make One Records a reality intensified last summer. “Something was missing, I had to do it then.” Headie is nonchalant as he remembers the near-seamless process. “I was drinking Ciroc, and life was good. I thought to myself ‘I wanna make this label… now’. I told my management and in the morning it was a green tick. One Records was created, one phone call.” As he talks me through the label’s current roster, he’s already excited about his goals for expansion into other services, such as management, in the near future. “We’ll see where [One Records] sails. My eyes and ears are waiting.”
Headie One is hands on with the imprint, often trusting his gut when it comes to signing on new talent. “The universe is already gravitating me towards what’s meant to be for [One Records],” he says. Currently, One Records has a plethora of public facing signees — with more acts to be announced in the future. Here’s who’s on the roster so far.
A juggernaut producer in the UK drill scene. “[Sykes] used to send me beats before my first mixtape,” Headie One admits. “But, I’m the type of guy that has to listen to instrumentals a few times before I decide whether I like it.” Alongside producing Headie One tracks such as Live In The T and Hard To Believe over the years, the north west London native has worked with UK drill pioneers including Harlem Spartans and Frosty. Sykes was the first One Records’ debut signee, as Headie One felt that it was “only right” to sign his right-hand man first. Earlier this week, Sykes released the One Records launch single Chop It, featuring both Headie One and label affiliate OFB Dezzie.
Headie One declares Dezzie as a rapper with one of the “sickest flows” on his roster. “He’s distinctive. I can’t think of anyone that’s like him right now.” Reigning from Tottenham, the adolescent MC and OFB member has emerged as a future drill prodigy over the last year and a half. Releases such as Buss It and Just Cool display his expensive habits and disdain for creased trainers, which balances his lethal and comedic approach to the mic. Earning his stripes quickly, Dezzie has already scored collaborations with peers Abra Cadabra and Bandokay, easily holding his own with both leaning into his charisma. Amongst his menacing bars is a youthful and polished appeal — both in his visuals and sonically — earmarking Dezzie as a drill lyricist to watch.
Lowkey raps in patois with deep tone, making him standout amongst his contemporaries within the UK drill genre. “[Lowkey] is very passionate about his sound, he’s willing to always experiment making him multidimensional as a rapper,” Headie says, choosing Red Card as his favourite Lowkey track so far. With half-sung lines and West Indian references, the OFB member brings a touch of dancehall to a hard-hitting drill sound.
It was always Headie’s vision to sign female artists to One Records. “I want to motivate more women to come out and feel as though they can do well in the music industry,” he tells me. 22 year-old south Londoner Qianbih quickly caught his attention. “[Qianbih] has a super strong personality, she knows herself and dominates a room. We needed someone diverse like her.” Perched between hip-hop, drill and trap, Quinbih embodies self-confidence. She often delivers her hooks and flows via AutoTune, sonically bringing to mind the likes of Asian Doll and Young Adz. On her recent track Hell’s Kitchen, Qianbih vents about her naysayers, confidently shedding her vulnerabilities, showcasing her introspective lyricism.
Also residing in south London, Amora has been an instrumental part of Headie One’s journey to date, first aiding him on his 2018 mixtape The One, on which she sang gently in the background on the project’s intro track.“[Amora] is so humble,” Headie says. “She’s always been there for me musically when I’ve needed her, so I wanted to give back to her. I want her to have a platform to speak.” Returning for Headie’s The One Two mixtape, Amora provided an alluring hook on Blessings. Her debut single Overdose is a silky, soulful R&B track, proving that One Records’ music policy extends beyond UK drill and rap.