Can I have your attention?
Updated: Mar 14, 2022
An interview with Aberdeen-based rapper, Chef
By Daniel Hesp
@peeohvee via Chef
‘Can I have your attention?’ This is how Aberdeen-based rapper Chef begins acclaimed single, Blessings. 25 years old and already a leading artist on the Aberdeen hip hop/rap scene, an economics major at Aberdeen University, and shortlisted for two SAMAs at the 2021 awards, I met up with Chef at the University’s Union Brew for a chat ahead of his much-anticipated 2022 releases.
Chef’s popularity throughout the pandemic coupled with his work ethic and vision, has led him to performances all around Scotland. Beginning the interview, I asked the obvious question, why the name, Chef? Sitting back, comfortable, he answers: ‘I used to always cook food for my friends because they used to just spend money on KFC really to be honest and ridiculous stuff, so I was just like yeah, I’ll cook the food, and I was always making music, and they used to always come in and say “what you cooking Chef?”’ The name Chef adopted fittingly represents undertones of level-headedness, generosity, and recalls time spent providing for his circle. It’s an ethos that is consistent in his music (Chef looks across at me and laughs when he realises that he's only collaborated with one other artist outside of Aberdeen).
Choosing to shoot his music videos predominantly in Aberdeen and other locations around Scotland, Chef is striving to showcase the talent that Scotland can produce, and the landscape that the country has to offer. Excited, he explains to me:
“I love using what we’ve got and no matter how big certain artists are, there’s not many that have the resources of having natural land like we do.”
And this is partly what makes him a stand-out artist. Where others rely on chains and cars, Chef draws his richness from his surroundings, the Scottish landscape, and the people. When you listen to his music, references to the Hebrides and areas of Aberdeen are threaded together with skilful wordplay and intricate beats in a refreshing take. Chef’s ubiquitous ’20 Gang’ adlib doubles as a nod to the community that he’s curating and, crafted to keep a clear vision and strive towards your goals, ‘20’ is an ideology levelled at a state of mutual success. ‘It’s more of a mindset that anyone can take up which is just about staying focussed and not letting your vision stray like knowing what you want and knowing how to get there.’
The group of Aberdeen-based artists to which Chef belongs does things as a team, and Chef himself is keen to stress their motivation to help each member achieve their goals. He believes in people pushing each other to better themselves, which is also something that he tries to emulate in collaborative projects.
‘The best thing about rap is that you have to prove yourself every single time. That’s why I love collaborations as well, you really have to get the best. You can’t just let things slide because the other person won’t either.’
It’s part of Chef’s skillset that he can bring out the best in himself through working and connecting with others. His consultancy company, Cooked With Chef, helps to connect creatives with people to further their projects. ‘Most of the time we just link people together and help their projects, managing them when it comes to any services they need.’ Chef’s consistent co-operative approach to the branches of his career stems from his ability to identify and work with the available tools. To this, he explains that ‘I like doing it and it’s one of those things where you have to accept what you’re good at, work on what you’re bad at, but use what you’re good at right now.’
And this approach has 2022 shaping up to be an exciting year for Chef. Intent on building on the momentum gained from 2021, he has a series of collaborative EPs dubbed In My Element coming later in the year. This series, he hints, will see him pursuing some different sounds, for example, the R&B vocals we heard on Presidential Mistakes.
Tipped by BBC Radio 1 as an artist to watch in 2022, Chef is looking forward to being established. ‘It took the pressure off… I think I’ve proven myself enough now that I can take a second and make sure everything’s perfect for these next ones because I want my level to be way higher than what it has been before.’
The new album that he is currently working on as creative director with fellow Aberdonian producer Louis Seivwright will reflect that. The project, Wonderland, Chef describes to me as ‘a mix between Frank Ocean and Billie Eilish’ and continues with a chuckle, ‘it’s a very strange album, but you’ll get it’. If the eponymous lead single is anything to go by, the album looks to be equally successful and is hotly anticipated.
Chef continues to carve out his piece of the future, not content to rest on his laurels, he knows there are exciting things to come. Still, sitting across from me, he does allow himself a moment of nostalgia. Grinning, Chef leans in conspiratorially:
‘I’m actually so happy right now. I said to myself when I was younger, like 12, that when I finally start doing music, the first festival that I go to will be the one I perform at, and I’ll do it by 25. I finally am that age, and I just booked the festival, so I’ll be going to my first festival this summer.’
That’s Chef’s whole brand: dreaming big, setting goals to meet those dreams, and doing what it takes to achieve them. Chef has repeatedly proven to himself and others that he has what it takes to reach his goals, all while helping to grow the Aberdeen hip hop/rap scene. With his collaborative, team-led approach, Chef is poised to achieve big things on the national and international stages in quick succession. When he demands, we listen; Chef doesn’t hog the spotlight; his voice is a chorus. So, Chef, you have our attention… What are you going to say?