In the lead up to his recently released single 4 4 2 featuring Keeya Keys, I sat down for a catch up with the one and only Conducta, the Prince of garage, who over the last few years has taken the scene by storm alongside his Kiwi Records label by the age of just 27. We spoke about lockdown, Irish artists, Kiwi Records, alternative careers and more.
Conducta, whose real name is Collins Nemi, has collaborated and remixed some of the UK’s biggest artists including AJ Tracy on the massive hit Ladbrook Grove which now holds the title of the most streamed garage track ever. Other artists he’s remixed or worked with over the last few years include Jorja Smith, J Hus, Stormzy, Wiley to name a few. These massive collaborations have not only helped bring Conducta’s name to the forefront of the UK’s scene, but also played a massive role in something Collins has passionately taken on, the rejuvenation and push of garage music in the UK and further afield.
Reconnecting over a Zoom call, Conducta and I chatted candidly about Covid-19, Kiwi Records, fashion, Irish artists, football, and finished up our call with a brief quick fire questions round. Our conversation kicked off full of laughs as we began to discuss the last time we had met, which funnily enough ended in the old Four Four office for a nightcap. In December 2019, Conducta joined forces with Frazer Ray (formerly Soundbwoy Killah) for a double header in a collaboration between SafeHaus and Notions in Wigwam.
Following on, we discussed how, during the pandemic, specifically, he’s been keeping busy, which he most definitely has been. Conducta is one of the artists who didn’t shy away from staying active and engaging during lockdown. ‘Every day it’s just about adapting really, after the initial shellshock or realisation of how things weren’t going to be happening for a while, the last year has really just been trying to adapt but also trying to create a sense of community and that all the hard work over the last few years don’t disappear’
We carried on to discuss adapting, and how hard it is to try to adapt to something like Covid-19 which is ever changing, and with no end date in sight, how it’s harder to not only carry on but to run a label in these times. ‘For me, I’ve never looked at it like we’ll have a set or exact return date (to the clubs) it’s more about thinking what can we do in the present time, with no shows, how can we feed stuff to people and make it relatable for them to engage in this new environment‘.
The ‘return date’ of 21st of June, which is set to be the full reopening of the UK economy and the music industry then came to the forefront of our discussion. Although, similar to here in Ireland, these dates are more something to look forward to than concrete reopening dates, and that’s something Conducta himself feels saying ‘I’m not really looking at that as something that’s definitely going to happen’. We chatted about the difficulty of the ever changing goal posts with government announcements. ‘I think shows will return this year, 100%, I’m just not so sure about June, even now it’s difficult with Brexit fucking things up already and then quarantining there’s a lot to consider’’
Collins looks at the current situation through a more empathetic way than many, saying that people have got slightly lost in the idea of returning to normality, when “in the bigger picture in terms of the world being okay, for people to be able to travel and then spread the sound, that’s why June 21st doesn’t mean as much to me.” This perspective is very understandable coming from him as just prior to the pandemic, Conducta was about to set off on his American tour, as well as a Kiwi Records European tour, both of which were sadly postponed.
‘The pandemic has obviously taught me about hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst, that’s just the way I’ve tried to approach things, whether it be scheduling releases, Kiwi has been a bit quiet’ ‘For me, I feel like I’m in a position where it’s about striking right and not striking fast, making sure it’s whole hearted and not just dropping tunes for the sake of dropping tunes.” He then continues to explain how with both his own and with Kiwi releases, how he tries to make it a moment, pulling point and creating a ‘feeling’ with the releases.
Furthering our discussion of travel, we discussed how both the Irish crowd and Japanese crowd were some of his favourite in the world. ‘The Show I played in Tokyo was one of the best i’ve ever played, I don’t know if it’s a thing of being away from the UK, Although I have good shows in the UK, I feel like there’s more of an appreciation of electronic music outside of the UK, except in London, where you’re spoilt for choice with so much going on’ C then went on to take a wider look at nightlife in the UK and a lot of underground music culture has been taken over more by people just wanting to go out, and lesser about the appreciation of the music. ‘The thing I prefer about DJing to just being a producer is that you get to be an educator or a teacher and bring people on this journey through styles but weave it all together’.
‘I feel like with that Dublin show, there was less pressure and I could be more myself as a DJ and could just play anything across the board that I love, whereas with other show’s I was there as Conducta and to play that garage sound the whole way through. It’s nice going to different territories where you can explore a bit more and have a bit more fun with it.
We then had a laugh about one of the video’s from the end of that night in Dublin, of himself and Frazer Ray dancing to the closing track ‘D’angelo – Left & Right’ he commented ‘You’d be hard pressed to find a show where you can go and play a D’angelo tune at the end of the night with the people as still there as they were’ and then continued ‘with that show, I felt the vibes were perfect, the venue and crowd were amazing, that was honestly the perfect finale to a busy year of shows.
With so much praise for Ireland coming across from Collins, I wanted to ask what it was that made it stand out, the minute I asked him, he once again broke out in his signature grin and enthusiastically said ‘Honestly it was just a vibe, as soon as I touched down, it was just sick! I felt like there was just something in the air, from being in the hotel, to walking to Wigwam it just all felt really warm, it reminded me of the excitement of being a student and going to Fabric but I felt that feeling going to the club as a DJ, even getting into Wigwam, I just went to the bar, got a drink and was just chilling in the back.
Chatting about the lack of a green room in Wigwam to Conducta would make anyone reconsider chilling in the back instead of being out there in the crowd ‘skanking out with a drink and having it’ or soaking up the energy as he expressed his dislike for hiding in the back, as much as being out in the crowd is getting harder now as he becomes more recognised. He then went on to say how he can read different fan interactions instantly, but how he loves when he can chatwith fans about music and really vibe with them.
Bringing back the point of how busy he was in 2019, and then the drastic contrast with a year of no shows and touring, I asked if the break had helped him or if he struggled to stay inspired. He chatted honestly and openly how the year of touring was hard and by the end he was drained, then going on to say if he didn’t have the break in 2020 that he would’ve just burnt out, as he would’ve had an even busier year including the American tour he was due to set out on. ‘I wouldn’t have been able to cope really, It’s been good to reset, realign and rewire my brain in terms of how I get creative’. In terms of production during the pandemic, he’s focused on not being so rigid in terms of making music and bringing it back to having an open mind with music again.
Conducta has been hailed the Prince of garage, a title that was most certainly earned, I was keen to know if he feels pressure being given this title, to which he replied ‘I feel like pressure in this case is a privilege in terms of having the responsibility to put people on and act in a particular way. Everything I try to do is in terms of building on it from there’.
I was also curious, as someone who has parents from Nigeria, if there were more traditional sounds in his upbringing and where his inspiration came from. When he started creating music with his cousins at just 15, the sound was heavily grime and Hip Hop inspired. Collins mentioned how although his parents loved music, they weren’t musicians and how he was just inspired by the history of music and genres. I also wanted to know if his cousins that he started the journey with were still making music only to learn one of which is an accountant and the other studying medicine, Conducta joked about being the ‘rotten apple’ but how he’s glad he chose to follow his passion. A path which was definitely not easy, and in turn lead to a rough patch with his parents, which I was glad to hear is over now and they’re good.
Speaking on alternative careers, I asked, if not Conducta, what would Collins Nemi be doing right now. After discussing being thankful for the opportunity to attend a private school and being lucky enough ‘to not slip through the net in terms of going down a different path. Daily I think about a lot of the people I grew up with, my friends, super super talented and intelligent but because they were in a school that didn’t care about them, or because they were black they weren’t able to fulfil their potential or went down different routes, like there’s people on my football team who are now in prison, Something I would’ve wanted to do was to provide a safety net for them’
‘I think i’d be doing something like grassroots or I feel like I would probably have been a teacher, I love teaching and would’ve probably been a history teacher, I love history and studied it at Uni before I left, or I feel like I would’ve been a good PE teacher’ he then goes on to say with a laugh he wouldn’t have been one of those annoying PE teachers.
I wanted to know if he had ever envisioned being where he was today when he was making those sacrifices, he pondered the idea for a second before answering ‘I feel like when I was younger, just having dreams of music and stuff, you have goals but it’s not tangible, I never really had this in my vision, the good thing about that is I don’t get comfortable, that i’m always working on pushing and my aim is the same, to just create and now to create a space where people can thrive, where garage will no longer be a dirty word, and where it won’t be seen as a garage resurgence as garage has been there consistently for the last three years, and is now it’s own scene. The biggest battle with garage has just been with visibility and trying to make the focus about new UK garage and what’s going on currently, and building on foundations of the past.’
One of the way’s Conducta is leading the way in the push of NUKG is through his work, collaborations and remixes with massive artists such as those previously mentioned, speaking on this he explains how it’s and honour as he can bring UKG (UK Garage) to a wider, new audience though his remixes, but also appealing to the traditional garage fans, catching both groups attention and then sending them down a rabbit hole of his tracks and mixes.
Continuing on the topic of his remixes, I was keen to know which was his favourite or one he was most proud of, he replied saying that the J HUS – Did You See remix was the one that meant the most to him alongside the Goldlink – Crew remix, I then pressed on and asked which he listens to the most, a tricky question to answer but he admitted that the recent Headie One remix featuring AJ Tracey and Stormzy, more specifically when AJ Tracey’s verse comes in he can’t help but get gassed.
He follows up by admitting that when he’s out running, or playing football he doesn’t listen to any garage, he listens to Rap or Hip Hop and how it’s only since the pandemic that he’s started to listen to electronic music more while exercising.
Hip Hop and Rap have played a big part in Conducta’s musical journey, forming the roots of his production career, on the topic of Hip Hop I wanted to know, who would be his dream collaboration, Surprisingly to me C answered with absolutely no hesitation stating ‘there would be three! Andre3000 and Nas followed by Jay Z, ‘I feel like if I could make a tune with Andre3000 it would be COLDDDD!’ Mentioning he has a big mix coming up which may or may not include some Andre3000 and old Hip Hop remixes.. Then going on to joke about it being hard to get an Andre release on Kiwi, when asked who the dream release would be, Interplanetary Criminal was the first to mind, followed by a Pusha T garage tune, which is certainly one we’d like to see.
I then put him on the spot, asking him if there’s been any Irish artists or producers that have come to his attention, straight off the bat he once again perks up with excitement while mentioning Prozak, then going on to tell a story about how he bumped into him at the Wigwam show, he explained how he had been receiving and vibing off demos from Prozak. They ended up chatting prior to Conducta’s set which he then actually opened with one of Prozaks tunes ‘Get Up‘. ‘I really really like Prozak and I think he’ll go far, his recent EP on Shall Not Fade is sick!’
Formerly a Rinse FM resident, and with his ‘Conducta’s Crib’ live stream series, I asked how prevalent these shows were in keeping him digging and showing love to artists he appreciates. The Conducta’s Crib show during the pandemic was twice a week and often going on for more than two or three hours, keeping it fresh and engaging meant more digging and having more opportunity to play tracks he wouldn’t usually be able to. ‘One of the positives of the pandemic is that people are starting to pay more attention to mixes, they’re an important element and journey, I go into mixes thinking I want to show people the best and make it a story over just an hour of audio’
Conducta was then excited when we started talking about the Kiwi merch, he then jumped up and ran off screen only to come back with the jersey which has since been shown in the video for his single 4 4 2. The Kiwi united Jersey (which we can keep an eye peeled for coming up for release soon) featured in the video, and the video itself is something he was visibly excited about and ‘gassed’ about having the creative control to create something so unique. On the topic of football we got to find out who would be on his 5 a side team he’d call up Avelino, Sam Wise, Keeya Keys and Emerald.
The track and video are now out and you can check it out below.
What can we expect to see from Kiwi in 2021 following this release?
Conducta’s main aim going forward is to expand the close knit family of artists that he has on Kiwi ‘Maybe get the cousins and nieces and nephews’ he joked. ‘We’ve got something really cool coming up but I can’t say much more than that’ he added.
To Finish up, following an enjoyable and in depth conversation I threw a few quickfire questions at him just to get some insider takes. At the mention of this, he immediately sat up in the chair ready to go.
Sunrise / Sunset DJ Sets:
Match Day / Gig Night
With some hesitation, Gig Night
Favourite club to play in:
No Bias, but definitely Wigwam!
Favourite club to party in:
Razzmatazz in Barcelona
Basements / Beaches
Ohhhh the maddest thing is I actually don’t like sand, like sand jars me, obviously the sea and sun are nice but I have to say basements, which is kinda weird but yeah
Nike / Adidas
MC Grindah / Beatz
We ended the conversation then with chat about a return date, a game of 5 a side when he comes back to Dublin and linking for a pint of Guinness, We’re big fans of Conducta and it was a pleasure to chat with him, keep an eye out for that return gig! We’ll be there!