Portsmouth rapper Blessed aims to make his late father proud with debut album, No Love Lost
Given that his lifelong love for music was instilled in Matt Stevens by his father, it’s fitting that his debut album, No Love Lost, should be a tribute to his dad.
Matt, who performs as Blessed, grew up in the pubs his dad, Phil, ran as landlord, such as The Good Intent in Horndean and The Heron in Leigh Park. Sadly, Phil died last year after a long battle with cancer.
‘My dad was a very talented musician, he could play every instrument under the sun and he desperately wanted me to learn the guitar, but I just couldn't get my head around it.
‘I ended up learning the drums and teaching myself that. When they had live jam nights and things like that in the pubs, I was able to get involved – it was really cool, lots of rock'n'roll and stuff.’
But it was discovering gangster rap as a teenager that really turned his head – the impressionable teen bought into the imagery, and a love of related films like Scarface.
‘I was like, I want to be an international gangster!’ he laughs, ‘and that was pretty much how it all started.’
He admits that he was ‘getting in a lot of trouble with the police and getting kicked out of school,’ but it was discovering the Havant-based charity Music Fusion which put him back on track.
‘They helped me put my ambitions into check and got me on the right path.
‘I'm now really fortunate to work for them, so I went full-circle – I volunteered for them, then I worked as a music leader, and now I'm projects manager for them.’
He recalls how he first went to them, full of the bravado of youth: ‘I went in there, acting all tough and laying out my demands: “I want my own radio show on Express FM!”
‘And they were like: “We can do that”.
‘"Ok... I want to start my own YouTube channel filming other rappers!” “Yep, here's some cameras and a computer to do the editing and here's how you edit”.
‘"Ok, I want to record some music”. “Yep, have some free studio time”.
‘They really invested in me. Because of the radio show and things like that I was able to meet other rappers and learn from them. Before I was even 16 I approached Geoff (Priestley, manager) at The Wedgewood Rooms to put on my own event and he trusted me as well.
‘Imagine a 16-year-old saying “I want to put my own event on”,’ he laughs incredulous at the memory, ‘and he said: “Sure.” So now I've got a really good relationship with him as well to put my own events on whether its for Music Fusion or other things I do.’
This led to Matt starting Word of Mouth, a record label and platform for local hip-hop artists.
‘There's a lot of rappers in the city but not alot of them get booked and there wasn't a real platform for them to be able to perform, so I pitched the idea to Geoff of a monthly hip-hop night with an open mic element and it went down really well.
‘We've been able to get some awesome opportunities from that such as doing Victorious.
‘Me and my team at Word of Mouth, we take massive pride in the quality of the event we provide.’
As Blessed he has performed at The Royal Albert Hall, has done a Fire in the Booth with Charlie Sloth on BBC Radio 1 & 1Xtra and opened up for Akala and Lowkey, as well as being nominated for a Youth Music Award as a Freestyle battle rap champion.
Having released a slew of singles since 2018, Matt’s debut album was put together over the past year, with features from VITAL, Kidd Kace, Kizz, Genesis Elijah and Sydney Dejorey.
Written, recorded, mixed and mastered entirely by Blessed himself, No Love Lost was written with complete love for the genre.
‘Music is an integral part of my life and it feels good to prove that to the world,’ he says.
But his dad’s death understandably casts a shadow over the album. With the family used to Phil being in and out of hospital, one day they got the call to say that this time he wouldn’t be coming home.
‘It was a very tough time, it still is,’ says Matt. ‘He fought it long and hard – he was cracking jokes up until the point where he couldn't any more.
‘When I first told him I wanted to be a rapper, he was not on board,’ he chuckles, ‘but we did a charity show at The Wedgewood Rooms and I booked my dad's band – and myself.
‘My dad was in a ’60s-70s rock'n'roll band, and that was the first time he saw me perform.
‘I remember him coming up to me afterwards and saying, actually, you're alright at this. And after that he was fully on board with it. We’d mess around when we had a party – he'd bring his guitar and we'd be rapping and singing together.
‘A lot of what I do does come down to him, I wouldn't know how to interact with artists or know what makes a good show, because when he was running the pubs and things, he was putting on a show every night and organising and managing bands, and playing to the crowd.
‘I owe a lot of what I know to him, because I would just sit there and observe and he was amazing at it.
Matt knew he wanted to do something on the album for his dad, but wasn’t sure what, or how.
‘I did want to write a whole song purely dedicated to him, but I struggled – I thought it's never going to be perfect or what he deserves, so I had to have subtle nods to him here and there.
‘I wrote No Love Lost, and thought it sounds like it needs to be the opening track and that’s what I'll call the album. The first line is: “I told my dad I'm going to make him proud.”
‘I wanted to put it right at the beginning because making my dad proud is the most important thing.’
Blessed is planning to have a launch show for the album at The Edge of The Wedge, on a date to be confirmed.
Blessed’s debut album, No Love Lost is available to stream now on all major platforms.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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