Potter Payper, real name Jamel Bousbaa, is reeling from the highly-anticipated release of his new mixtape, Thanks For Waiting, which came out at the beginning of the month. Dedicated to his die-hard supporters, there’s a clear sense that this is a cathartic body of work – one the UK rapper has been waiting to get out into the world for a long time.
After being released from a three-year stint in jail for drug charges last June, Potter put out the third instalment of his lauded Training Day mixtape series, which shot to no.3 in the UK charts. With a taste of proper commercial success fresh on his tongue, Thanks for Waiting is the ultimate redemption arc.
“For the best part of my career, I wasn’t ready to be a musician,” he says via Zoom, riding solo in the back of a spacious car. “I was so involved in street culture and this stupid mindset of like, ‘Oh, I’m not making a song with that guy, he’s a dickhead in these ends.’ It was all about streets and I was mixing the two. I couldn’t separate music and road.”
Thanks for Waiting is a versatile project. The 18-track mixtape boasts 12 features, from the likes of drill pioneers Digga D and Unknown T, as well as Afroswing collective NSG and north London rapper M Huncho.
And now far less burdened with the hardships of street life, Potter’s pen is sharper than ever. A storyteller at heart, his lyrics are gritty and uncompromising, detailing his ascent from darkness and isolation via dizzying prose and wildly energetic beats: Fresh outta jail, tryna buy me a crib/Where I’m from they’re just dying to live on Catch Up featuring M Huncho; I ain’t tryna go jail, it’s cold in there/I was banged up with Flex, I had cold to spare/Mans blowin’ up now, it’s only fair on Eastender with Unknown T.
“Music was my way out, my hobby,” Potter continues. “It was never my main source of income. But people who listened to my music, they all believed in me and they were already buying it […] while I was rotting in my cell with a tin of fucking tuna to my name.
“As soon as I took it seriously, my life and music have come full circle. I’m trying to be an artist, not just the hardest rapper. So yeah, thanks for waiting.”
Scroll down for your 100% fill on one of UK rap’s most exciting voices, from his friendship with Giggs to the weirdest DMs he’s ever received.
10% Where were you born, where were you raised and where are you now based?
I was born and raised in Barking, and I now live in London still.
20% What was your favourite moment from putting together Thanks For Waiting?
We did a week-long writing camp where we got a lot of the features and most of the solos. It was an intensive week of recording and producing – the first time in my life that I lived and breathed music every day, which is my dream. I was in awe, it inspired and motivated me to keep going.
30% What kind of emotions and experiences influence your work?
Whatever I’m feeling on the day. I go through a lot in my own head. I’ve lived a different life to a lot of people and it’s obviously affected how I think and feel, my reaction to things. How I empathise or not is all part of that emotional writing process. If I’m in a good mood, I’ll write something a little more lighthearted; if I’m angry, I’ll write something aggressive. I don’t make vibe music, I make soul music from my heart. Mundane or massive – either way, once I get into it, I’m going to try and paint a picture with my words that people can see in their brain. It comes from inside me and I’m trying to get it inside them, without the sexual connotation!
40% What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?
My friend said to me, “You don’t have to be the richest. You’re the realest and everyone knows that.” Just before I went to jail, music-wise, I wasn’t in the best situation. I was around the wrong people, I was being taken advantage of. Within that, the silver lining is that I got to meet Giggs. He saw my situation straight away, recognised me and my attributes, where I was coming from. He probably saw a likeness to himself. After we built a relationship, he ended up doing the Landlord tour. He could have chosen so many bigger artists who would have added something to the show, but he shouted me to open up for him. I couldn’t believe it. I said I’d do it for nothing, but he told me never to do anything for free, no matter who asks you. Know your worth.
50% If you ruled the world for a day, what would go down?
I’d make everyone’s money in the world go in one pot. Then a master mathematician would divide it all up so that everyone’s got an equal amount, every single individual. Then the world could carry on as it is, but with everyone on an equal playing field.
60% If you could travel back in time to see an iconic music act perform, who would it be and in what era of their career?
That is a peak question. There’s too many. I’d go and see James Brown in his prime, not in the later years. I’d like to go and see Prince, just to see him do Purple Rain. I’d have loved to be at that show where Biggie, Tupac and that little kid were on the stage together. I’d definitely be in that crowd.
70% What’s a bad habit you wish you could kick?
Not calling people back when I miss their call. When I see a missed call on my phone I’m like, the time’s passed now.
80% What’s the most pointless fact you can share?
Sweet potato isn’t actually healthier or better for you than a normal potato. Same with brown sugar. It’s a conspiracy.
90% Can you break down your typical day at work?
Being fucking hungry. When I wake up, I don’t really have breakfast. I have a mint tea. Food’s the least of my concerns, I’ve got shit to be doing. I smoke good weed, stay hydrated. I’m in the studio, on Zoom calls, having meetings. I’m thinking of video ideas and treatments, revising content, editing content. I try to be involved in everything as much as possible. I took a backseat in the early days and cheated myself out of millions, honestly. I wouldn’t have gone to prison. My family wouldn’t have had to go without me. I’m earning my money, no one’s giving it to me on a plate.
100% What’s the strangest DM you’ve ever received?
I’ve deleted Instagram off my phone because I keep giving people verbal. The maddest DM I’ve received is when someone messaged saying, “Potter, I’m your biggest fan, you’ve got me through so much.” It was very heartfelt and I was getting engrossed in the message. Then when I got to the bottom it said, “So please can you send me £20k?” Fucking hell, mate.