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He is talking about Church End in Harlesden, north-west London. Nines has propelled the sprawling estate in which he was raised into British rap folklore by weaving subtle social commentary into punchline-rich street diaries. The title of the new album alludes to the tensions and difficulties of leaving his surroundings: last summer, Nines was stabbed in Maida Vale, a few miles from the estate. Church Road, as it is known locally, wrestles with some of the worst levels of deprivation in the borough of Brentand unemployment figures well above the London average.
On Lights, he shares early memories of women selling themselves by traffic lights. He hustled to try to outrun his surroundings, and started selling weed aged Nines pushed his American-dream rap fantasies through a London filter. So he turned more seriously towards music. Back inBritish rap was a few years away from its current golden age and participation seemed more like sport than a commercial career.
Across 20 songs, he shares experiences in Church End over mellow, drum-light instrumentals. Early videos cast him as a big-hearted baron of north-west London — in My Hood, for example, he passes out Christmas turkeys to estate residents.
He was told on a Friday afternoon that he would be sentenced the following Monday, and knew a stint behind bars was looming. He turned around 15 songs in a frantic weekend. The Gone Till November mixtape, released while he was away, remains among his most celebrated, with candid reflections on friends and family lost to street warfare or serving decades in prison, and how, amid the chaos of his lifestyle, he one day hopes to be free.
Nines served five months, writing TV scripts to pass the time. His prison address was posted to his Twitterand prison officers would have to empty bin liners full of envelopes into his cell. The mail came from Bournemouth and Bermondsey, Luton and Liverpool, and he gratefully read notes from supporters eager to pull him through his sentence.
After release, Nines secured a deal with XL Recordings and scored his two hit albums as he flitted between life in Church Road and national recognition. That tension is echoed throughout Crabs in a Bucket, an of uncomfortable adjustments as old habits are left behind. He sees his stabbing last June as a consequence of that wider tension. The upheaval of new money and fame demands rappers like Nines pivot, and break routines that have become an instinct.
But Nines is adapting. As well as music, writing and releasing short films has given him focus, with comedy-drama shorts Crop Circle and Crop Circle 2 offering takes on life in Church Road. Aniefiok Ekpoudom.
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