(UK Spotlight is an ongoing column designed to introduce GRAMMY.com readers to artists making waves on the other side of the Atlantic. You'll learn about the artists, their music, where they came from, and where they are going.)
From freestyling with friends on the blocks of North London to selling out shows and topping the UK charts, Wretch 32 — real name Jermaine Scott — has emerged as one of the biggest rappers Britain has seen in a long while.
Starting out as a grime MC in 2005, Wretch 32 has built a respected name for himself with his intellectual, heartfelt bars and relaxed delivery. He's managed to find a home outside of the close-knit underground music scene, and the mainstream world has now embraced the "grime-rapper-soul-musician" with open arms.
In 2008 he released his debut album, Wretchrospective. His innovative delivery and poetic metaphors caught the attention of label Levels Entertainment/Ministry Of Sound, which released his breakthrough album, Black And White, in August 2011. Impressively, the album peaked at No. 4 on the UK album chart and spawned three Top 5 hits on the UK singles chart, "Traktor," "Unorthodox" and "Don't Go" featuring Josh Kumra, the latter of which topped the chart. Last February he was the support act for Levels Entertainment/Ministry Of Sound labelmate Example on a tour of the UK.
"It's been absolutely mad because there are so many different levels of things that I've done over the past couple of years that I didn't expect," says Wretch 32. "But one of the main highlights has to be when I was at Wembley singing 'Unorthodox' with Example. That was a great feeling."
Wretch 32's talents have caught the ears of artists ranging from Adele and Nicki Minaj to Jessie J and 50 Cent. (He's even put his own spin on Adele's GRAMMY-winning "Someone Like You.") He's also shared the stage with GRAMMY winner Sean "Diddy" Combs. Wretch 32 enjoys the spirit of collaboration, and has his sights on more.
"Right now, I'd love to do something with Jessie J and Damian Marley," he says. "I think that me and Damian would come up with a good vibe and a feel-good song that would mean something. Jessie J has the swag and I think we could come up with something great."
After recently topping MTV UK's Best Of The Best: UK MCs 2011 list, Wretch 32 has not only arrived, he is becoming a new inspiration for up-and-coming lyricists. In the immediate future, Wretch 32 will embark on another UK tour with Example in April, with headline dates to follow in May.
"Over the next six months, we're gonna push one or two more singles off Black And White," says Wretch 32. "I'm also currently recording a new album, which I'm really excited about. With me, I evolve musically and lyrically and I'm always open to trying out new ideas. Sometimes I come up with some random stuff that you just can't do."
(At left, watch Wretch 32 perform an exclusive rendition of "Please Don't Go," a track from Black And White that he co-wrote with Jay-Lee Hippolyte [pka the J.F.L.O.W.S] and Darren Boachie.)