Ragz Orignale talks ‘Woah’, musical influences and his vision for 2021
God has blessed me in a myriad of ways but being able to make music is certainly not one of them. I spent many summers as a teen trying to make beats on Fruity Loops but they often ended up sounding like a broken doorbell. Despite this, my love for music has never waned, if anything it increased my affection. I sometimes find myself listening to some artists and think if I had a smidge of musical aptitude then my music would sound like theirs. One artist whose music does this for me is north London’s very own Ragz Originale. Gearing up to release his new mixtape ‘Woah‘, Ragz and I had a chinwag over the phone.
Answering my call a bass-heavy loop is what greets me first as Ragz is in the studio perfecting a new song. He’s laid back and polite, both traits, in my biased mindset, have attributed to his Ugandan heritage. 2020 and now 2021 has been a difficult time for us and we’ve all separately found ways to stay centred in spite of, dare I say it, “unprecedented times”.
“Prayer has been my whole sanity throughout this whole thing. Music is currently in a crazy state and it’s hard to function as an artist now cause you can’t really shoot videos, go to the studio, can’t meet people; you can’t connect. So for an industry that’s based on being outside, it’s definitely tough. For an up and coming artist trying to achieve when there are so many restrictions everywhere, it’s hard. So I guess prayer has been getting me through this. Just faith”.
Alongside his faith, music has been Ragz’ outlet during the various lockdowns and has culminated in the creation of his new mixtape, ‘Woah‘. “The whole project started during [the] lockdown – it was my only outlet throughout the madness. I was kind of isolated by myself in the studio and just made some music”. One of Ragz’ hallmarks is his ability to make infectious melodies and this was something Ragz looked to dial-up on ‘Woah‘.
“I called it ‘Woah‘ because that’s what I want someone to say when they’ve heard it. Conceptually, it’s explaining my current mind-state. It’s explaining my vision, it’s explaining my time after now, I know where it’s going to be; I kind of self-predicted my own future. ‘Woah‘ is very beat-heavy, very bassline-heavy. It’s very listenable music but with some energy, I really wanted to approach it in that way, that’s why it’s different. ‘Txt ur x‘ was a conceptual project about a girl, this one is more about the energy, I really want those basslines to hit your chest. This is very feel-good, I want you to feel good and feel fresh. That’s the first thing I want to come into people’s heads then the lyrics and what I’m talking about after. Like actually go back to this song and hear what I was saying but it’s definitely for people to go wild from the jump of every song”.
Listening to ‘Woah‘, it felt as though I was invited to spectate Ragz’ bachelorhood lifestyle unfold as his nascent stardom takes off. Ragz’ affection for women is clear throughout all his projects. “Women rule the world, man, everybody in some shape or form, no matter what they’re doing or where they’re going there’s always a girl at the end of their day that they’re thinking about and it shapes us. It’s the common theme that runs through [his music] because there’s always someone we’re thinking about so with me it’s always stuck with me, the inspiration I’ve got through friendships and relationships with women, there’s always a way to tell that story”.
His imagination isn’t limited to music, Ragz’ music videos are an extension of his creativity. It’s the subtleties that make his videos an engaging watch like Dragon Ball Z being on screen as his lady-friend dances to get his attention in the “brush u” video. “I just try and make the video look like the song. That’s it. How can I match the emotion of this song correctly? It’s like another way of translating it because some people might have missed the exact type of energy I was trying to bring [on the song] but you can feel it and see it through the video. It’s the only outlet I have to bring people really into my world. So I never really play around with videos”.
Sing-along hooks pervade the mixtape and instantly stick with you after one listen, a feat Ragz has perfected as a songwriter. One song where this is most prevalent is “OG Lullaby”. “It’s like a lullaby for OGs init. What would an OG sing? They just sing about the closer I get to gold, my problems multiply”, Ragz explains. Now understanding the sentiment, I butt in mentioning the phrase ‘more money, more problems’. “Yeah, it’s more money, more problems it’s something that, as OGs, that’s what we sing, in any situation, in any realm. We’re all trying to get closer to the gold and your problems multiply as you’re trying to get closer to it”.
I was intrigued by how Ragz’ sound came about, his musical influences present a very clear blueprint to what we hear today from the artist. “As a child, I liked a lot of Disney soundtracks. That was something I recognised that was odd about me when I was younger. I loved melody, a lot of melodic sounds. I feel like growing up all my masculinity came from old rap projects like Mobb Deep and 50 Cent. The music I make now is a blend of both. The sweetness of Disney and the masculinity from an old 50 Cent CD. I’ve got a playlist on Spotify and that has basically everything that I listen to now it’s a crazy wide range of what I listen to from Swedish music to house music. It’s hard to say who I’m listening to now because I’m listening to everybody and everything”.
It would be very remiss of me not to discuss our shared experience of being first-generation Brits of Ugandan heritage. The primordial needs of Ugandans are to have a good time and this custom has filtered through to Ragz’ music. “Ugandans really love basslines and my music is all bassline. I definitely try and reconnect the dots to Uganda and try and build a bridge in the middle of that understanding and this one. I always try to make music that my dad would love and play at his parties. And growing up at Ugandan parties and hearing what they used to listen to has had a great effect on my music, so what’s my aunty going to listen to? What’s my mum going to listen to? What can get them into their zone as older Ugandan people? I’d love to be at a Ugandan party and just play my tunes. That’s one of my dreams to play a show in Uganda.”
Ragz’ vision and sound isn’t an island, he’s part of the lauded collective named Mini Kingz that includes BenjiFlow and Oscar #Worldpeace among other burgeoning artists. “They’re my rock, we’re each other’s rock. We’re each other’s distant fathers, we’re each other’s everything, we’re a family. We’re working on a project together which should hopefully be out this year. [This is] the first time we’ve got together and had the time to do it. It’s more of a movement, more of a culture. There are five or six of us some who aren’t out of the woodwork just yet, some we’re still developing their talent. Anything you see from us will be at a certain level, we pride ourselves on that”.
Already thinking ahead, Ragz promises to drop a full-length project by the summer; as he and the Mini Kingz collective look to take over 2021. There’s a sense of irreverence I get from Ragz as he aptly describes there are “no rules” to his sound and because of that he’s able to make music that is nonconformist but that is undoubtedly rooted in “London”.
Ragz Originale’s new mixtape ‘Woah‘ is scheduled for release on 29 January 2021.