If there’s one truth about the UK today, it’s this: our city is back on the music map, in no small way.
Manchester has never lacked artists and potential, but it’s only in relatively recent times these ends have slowed and even stalled the talent drain that has historically seen so many heads flock to London, Berlin, New York and Amsterdam to find fame. If not always associated fortune.
As we discussed in our feature on the Unconvention music conference earlier this year, while some infrastructure remains lacking there’s plenty of belief in the ability to shine regionally, nationally, and internationally using the sprawl of Cottonopolis as HQ. At least half the battle won, rising MC Tays agrees things are improving in this area, with the urge to relocate to secure success becoming less evident.
“I think there’s a big belief in the city right now, because it has shown it can happen. I feel Aitch and Bugsy [Malone] literally made the blueprint which shows it can happen,” he says. “Now there’s no reason anyone should think that they can’t achieve the same. It’s been done, why can’t someone else do it, too?
It’s no surprise to hear him reference those names when checking today’s Manchester mic stars. When we speak, Tays is preparing for one of the defining gigs to date — supporting Aitch at Victoria Warehouse amid a wider tour that sees the pair sharing stages in more than 15 major cities. The pair have been close for several years
“To be fair, I was surprised to get on the tour. Most nights at home we’ll jump on ‘Pro Clubs’ or ‘FIFA’, and start messing about. We were on FaceTime one evening, and Aitch randomly says to me: ‘What dates are you doing?’ I was like: ‘What?’ He’s like: ‘What tour dates are you doing? You gotta do the tour’. I was just like: ‘What are you on about?'” Tays recalls with audible excitement.
“He was talking like he’d already mentioned it or spoke to me about it. I was already buzzing just for the tour, watching him go and play all these mad places,” he continues. “I had done some cities before on a tour with Shutdown Events. So I felt prepared, and thought: ‘OK, you’ve performed in front of people before so you’ll be sweet. But obviously Aitch is on a different level, and the tour is definitely the biggest opportunity of my career.”
Although definitely a new name on what seems to be an ever-growing list of Manchester hip hop and grime faces to remember, Tays hasn’t exactly got here from nowhere. Growing up in North Manchester, the 19-year-old cut his teeth way back while still at high school, although for some time he kept his love of penning rhymes something of a secret.
“I didn’t tell anyone in school I was writing music at first, apart from two friends. I’d just go home and sit in my room writing lines, music. I first showed someone my words when Aitch launched a verse challenge, putting an instrumental out and asking fans to write bars,” Tays says, explaining he went downstairs and revealed his effort to mum and dad. The latter is now his manager, and both were “buzzing about it… they thought it was actually pretty good.
“When I say I didn’t tell anyone, me and a couple of other mates at school were all writing every evening, then coming in the next day to spit [lines] at each other. One of those, a kid called George, was like: ‘Yo, we should go to a studio’. I was like: ‘Well, I’m not going on my own so you better come with me’. We’d both write a song at home to a YouTube beat, then go to this place, 258 Studios in Middleton, which we paid £25 an hour for. We’d hire it for two hours at a time, and record one track each. We absolutely thought we were Drake and this was the best stuff in the world. We were there maybe three times a week,” he continues.
In his own words, music has become much more serious for Tays since those days, and his decision to pursue beats ahead of his other passion: handing out beat downs as a promising boxer. We ask about major turning points, and it’s clear looking for a specific spark that started the fire is unrealistic, and instead his mindset has driven things to this point.
“I think things change in terms of what you want. Like, when I first started I wanted people to see me drop a track and for that not to be weird. That was my first aim, just for people to look at me putting out music and not be like: ‘Why is he dropping a tune?’ Because nobody had seen me drop music before, I was scared of that,” Tays tells us.
“Now, I want people to actually like my music. So it’s like this change – all these little things that just keep building. I want to be one of the biggest artists to come out of the country, you know? I want to blow up,” he continues. “It’s a big one, but why not? Let the boy dream, you know what I mean?”