ENNY: “Conscious rap really stuck with me and I gravitated towards it”

One of the UK's most hyped new artists talks social media, learning from collaboration and her rap inspirations

Perhaps one of the easiest choices for our 2022 Breakthrough was ENNY. Since her landmark track ‘Peng Black Girls’ kicked off in 2020, the South London rapper has been the talk of the town for her sharp, socially conscious rap brought to life with a vibrant mix of instrumentals.

Ahead of a packed summer schedule of festivals, we caught up with ENNY talk her journey so far…

It’s been a mad couple of years for you hasn’t it? Was there a certain point when you realised, “OK this is all happening”?

I think it was when the first single dropped. There was a bit of interest about it, and then during the pandemic things moved from there with ‘Peng Black Girls’ and the remix. I think that’s when I was like, OK wow, this is actually happening!

As you say, that all happened for you during the pandemic. How did it feel for that to get such a buzz when you couldn’t really experience it up and close?

It still felt as amazing. There was so much transpiring behind-the-scenes during the pandemic. When everything opened up a little bit more I was actually able to do things, like make the music videos or fly to Berlin for the COLORS session and stuff like that. So even though it wasn’t as intense, it was still a mad moment for all this stuff to be happening.

ENNY ft. Jorja Smith - Peng Black Girls Remix | A COLORS SHOW

Did you find your relationship with social media changing much over that time? Obviously you would have felt a lot of the love at the time through it, but there was some misunderstanding from fans when you included Jorja Smith on the track, so I can sort of imagine you having mixed feelings on it…

Yeah, I think during that time everyone was so caught into their screens trying to socialise, so it was very intense for everyone. That was the only form of expression, the only form of community and I think it got a bit overwhelming for everyone and people didn’t know how to handle it. Even now, relationships with social media is weird. You’re on your phone but there’s so much going on now and it’s about finding that balance.

For the millions of people that are on social media, there are millions of people that aren’t.

You were living with your parents at the time, how did they take to it all?

My family were really supportive, and I think it felt most real for them when we shot the ‘Peng Black Girls’ video in my living room. There’s this whole team and crew and my mum’s looking like ‘Wow’. She was even in the video, so I think she thought then that this is actually happening. But my family were always supportive, they always knew I was a creative kind of kid, so it wasn’t a shock when I wanted to be a rapper.

I know you’ve said at the beginning when you started out around 2019 you found it daunting performing live, how easy has it been getting used to it?

I think I’m still finding my feet. I reckon at the end of this summer I’ll be able to answer that question much more clearly, after playing so many shows. It’s been amazing to perform with these gaps and have sick moments at festivals and intimate shows, but it’ll be a different experience when we’re doing 11 shows in a month. I’m interested in seeing my perspective shift.

Well I saw you at All Points East last summer and it was a great vibe, particularly with ‘Same Old’. That’s a song that seems to air frustrations, but also kind of let it go right? It must mean a lot to see people sharing that sentiment…

Yeah it does. I love how everyone likes to get involved with that one, it’s one of my favourites. And it’s also one of the first proper songs I made made from scratch with other people. So it’s always gonna have a special place in my heart.

That track deals with topics such as gentrification – has your writing always had a social commentary do you think?

I think so, because initially I wanted to be a writer. I’m a bit literal. But I think being a fan of music and of hip hop changed that. I’ve always loved storytelling rap, catching a bar and thinking ‘Wow that’s really deep’. Even R&B, Mary J Blige and Ja Rule songs, but later in my teen years I got really hooked into J Cole and Kendrick Lamar. This new age conscious rap, that’s the stuff that really stuck with me and I gravitated towards. I always wanted to be like that. Even Drake as well. He’s really honest and literal when telling stories and sharing his own experiences.

The recent track with Mychelle is super chill — what do you look for in a collaborator, does it help your development as an artist do you think?

When you collaborate I think there’s less pressure; with your own music you want to have a concept, to make sense, to make sure it’s sick and all that. But when it’s other people’s tunes you kinda just come to flex on what they’ve already done, add your little flavour and dip out [laughs]. So it’s more fun in that respect.

Everyone has their own way of doing stuff as well, and that’s something I’m learning. I come from a very independent way of working, so sometimes I like to get in studios with people and watch how they create. I get astounded seeing them make their art.

Mychelle - Forbidden Fruit ft. ENNY

What’s your process of matching your lyrics to production, as obviously your sound drifts from classic 2000s sound on ‘Same Old’ to a very modern dance vibe on ‘I want’.

It’s just if it sounds good. Sometimes I’ll write to something else and then I’ll find the right beat and go from there. The kind of flows I have tend to slip into anything, like ‘I Want’ wasn’t written to ‘I Want’, it was written to another dance track, but it’s just about hearing the right beat. The production is what catches people; you can have sick bars over a crap beat and it’s gonna be a crap song. But you can have a sick beat and crap lyrics and people will still vibe, because the beat’s banging.

Catch ENNY live this summer here.