Welcome to a weekly instalment of 100%, where we ask some our favourite rising musicians a bunch of questions to get to know them (and their weird habits) a bit better.
Rapper Strandz knows a thing or two about romance.
“Yeah, I’d call myself a hopeless romantic,” he says, Zooming in from the driver’s seat of his car (don’t worry, he’s parked). The 21-year-old is dropping in for a quick interview before hitting his local London gym.
Over the past few months the German-born Strandz has blown up on TikTok with his single Us Against the World. It’s a Smokey Robinson-sampling earworm reminiscent of golden era ’90s hip-hop that just so happens to sound like a love letter to his girlfriend: “It’s us against the world /Us against the ghetto /Us against the police /Us against this hellhole /Damn, I love you girl”.
Determined to reach virality, Strandz has used the song to soundtrack almost every video he’s posted on the platform – usually ones of him and his girlfriend visiting Amsterdam, London’s Winter Wonderland or climbing in the Peak District. You know, #couplegoals stuff. And his fanbase can’t get enough. In fact, Strandz just got back from shopping for his girlfriend’s birthday gift. “I got a couple things…” he says, coyly.
The rapper’s grafted hard to get his music heard. After moving to a “rough area” of South London from Nigeria as a kid, Strandz decided not to partake in some of the “stuff” that was going on around him. Music was more important.
“I didn’t have that mentality that a lot of people around me had, that the ends or London is the world,” he continues. “I think that helped me from early on. I ended up being the guy that was fully legit.”
And so, aged 14, he took up part-time engineering by working in a recording studio, then later enrolled at the BRIT school, around the corner from his house. Strandz learned the piano just for the audition, and got in. “That opened my eyes to different genres and I started to understand music from a technical perspective. From there, I’ve been working, working, working.”
Strandz’s own musical taste is unexpected, running the gamut from Afrobeats legend Orlando Julius to R&B princess Jhené Aiko and, unexpectedly, Canadian folk-pop singer, Feist.
“That’s thanks to my mum!” he says, laughing. “I didn’t used to be that into her, but when I rediscovered Feist a couple of years ago I was like, damn, this is actually hard. Her music just calms me down.”
Less of a wild card, but no less exciting, the Digga D remix of Us Against the World dropped yesterday. Stream, share, go wild – there’ll be plenty more where that came from. But for now, get the lowdown on Strandz below.
10% Where were you born, where were you raised and where are you now based?
I was born in Germany and lived there until I was around five or six. Then I moved to Nigeria for six months – I learned English there. Then from Nigeria I came to South London, where I’m based now.
20% If you were cooking food to impress someone, what would you make?
I’m a bit of a cook, actually! So probably some jollof rice, honey and garlic lamb chops, avocado and garlic-infused mayonnaise or something.
30% What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?
I don’t know if there’s a specific piece of advice that changed my life, but definitely reading [classic 1937 self-improvement text] Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill [and Rosa Lee Beeland]. That had a big impact on how I see stuff.
40% If you ruled the world for a day, what would go down?
I’d probably focus on the motherland, you know, stopping a lot of the corruption there, the extortion, neo-colonialism and that.
50% What’s a bad habit that you wish you could kick?
Sometimes I can’t enjoy my free time. I always feel like I should be doing something, like I’m on overdrive. I need to stop doing that.
60% Love, like, hate?
I love my girl, I like food, I hate parking tickets.
70% How did you celebrate your last birthday?
My girl took me out to do bare things that I enjoy. We went to some VR place, for food and ice-skating.
80% Do you believe in horoscopes?
I love that stuff.
90% If you could go back in time and watch a musician perform, who would it be?
Either Michael Jackson or Fela Kuti, ideally both at the same time. Or Bob Marley.
100% What do you think artists can do to help save the world?
Call out the bullshit and be the voice of the people.