Feel The Burney – Rapper Burney Talks County Lines & City/Rural Binds

Grabbing the mic with a jokey, open and friendly persona, Burney is known for his laid back style of music that appeals to both city folk and rural people.

Burney is a Brighton based rapper whose varied influences have informed a unique style of delivery and a mentality of staying away from what’s in trend. His latest release ‘County Lines’ explores the interconnections of rural and urban life and expressions motivated by his upbringing. Stanisland talked with the Surrey born rapper to understand more about his work.

SL: Where are you from and what should people know about your work?

B: I’m originally from Surrey – currently residing in Brighton, and have spent the last year and a half between the two of them. What people should know about my work is that it’s upbeat rap music, there to be enjoyed when you feel like straying from the ’typical’ path a lot of current rap music seems to lead you down. It’s there to encourage people to step out of their comfort zone and try something a bit different, as well as spread positivity and give a perspective from someone who came from a much different place to most of your favourite rappers.

SL: How do you think your hometown has shaped your perception of music and how has it influenced your own?

B: Growing up, I always felt like an outsider looking into the world of music because a lot of what I listened to (mainly rap) carried messages that were far beyond my understanding. Furthermore, not a lot of people in my area really listened to rap music like that, let alone cared enough to have an understanding of the place it was coming from. To me, this made music more special and gave the words said by those artists even more gravity. It allowed me to mentally escape my comfort zone and dream of something bigger than the world around me. Surrey can feel like its own little bubble sometimes, whereas Brighton has a much greater mix of people, beliefs and culture. I think experiencing both has inspired me to strive to make music a tool to open the minds of people living in places that are a bit stuck in the past. We’re a whole lot stronger together than we are with invisible boundaries between us.

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SL: What’s the scene like where you live?

B: Surrey’s scene, as far as I’m aware, only stretches to a few small pubs and venues across the county. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given to perform there and arguably, some of my best nights performing have been within the walls of Guildford’s establishments – but the live scene definitely has room for improvement in Surrey. What makes me hopeful is the amount of people who have taken it upon themselves to set up home studios and chase their dreams from their bedrooms, it’s a trend I see more and more people following and gives me great hope for the future. Unfortunately, most of my time in Brighton has been during lockdown so I haven’t had a chance to experience the scene in full voice there. However, after performing at The Great Escape Festival and picking up the general vibe of the city, I can tell as things start to reopen I’ll be getting stuck into what Brighton has to offer – it’s a brilliantly vibrant city.

SL: What type of artists do you prefer to work with (styles, flow, content etc) and why are those preferences important to you?

B: I think the most important trait I look for when working with people is an open mind. Someone who you can work constructively with and bounce ideas off that’s willing to go with the flow and not be too rigid. Music is all about having fun at the end of the day, and having an open mind is a really important aspect of that. I really enjoy working with singers as it allows me to write things that would usually be outside of my vocal range, and working with any kind of instrumentalist too – both live and when writing and recording. Sampling organic sounds is a big YES from me when making beats and so to be in the studio with a producer and someone who can create ideas on the spot with their instrument is truly a magical experience. Furthermore, transforming those beats into a full band arrangement for a live show is possibly my favourite aspect of doing music, and something I have dearly missed during this pandemic.

SL: Is there a specific trope you look for in production that you agree with? For example, do you hear a sound and think ‘that’s definitely me’. If so, how would you describe it?

B: I would describe my sound as upbeat and bouncy, and I really try to aim for things that sound different to what everyone else is doing. As previously mentioned, I love the use of organic sounds when making a beat and if there’s a way I can incorporate ‘real’ music (instruments, vocals) into a song of mine I will always aim to. Whilst a lot of current music is heavily based around 808 basslines too, it’s something I try to avoid if possible when making music – I prefer things to be more melodic and certainly the music I listen to, I would say, is more varied than a lot of current rap music. That’s not me saying one is better than the other, I love it all, but if I had to select a sound to go for when making music I would always choose the ‘out-of-the-box, funky melodic’ one.

SL: You just released your EP ‘County lines’ what’s it about and was its title inspired by anything in particular? 

B:County Lines’ is a 4-piece EP, each track telling its own little story about my life and giving an insight into the world of Burney. The title is a spin on the idea of county lines gangs; something that comes from the city and ends up in the countryside. When I was planning the EP’s release, I spent a lot of time driving around Surrey and listening to the tracks, thinking of themes. The overriding feeling I got was a clash of rural & urban, like when you see a motorway bridge going over a country lane. The grey of the concrete, the green of the grass – it’s not really meant to be there but it looks right at the same time. This is how I’d always felt being a rapper from rural Surrey, an outsider. So ‘County Lines’ is a somewhat ironic name, which aimed to capture these themes, as well as highlight the ‘inner-city’ influence on the UK as a whole. Rap music has now taken over and kids growing up in the same place I grew up will be listening to whatever’s hot on GRM Daily instead of The Kooks’ latest album. Hopefully they’ll all be bumping County Lines too.

SL: Who was involved in its creation and why did you decide to work with them?

B: I worked with my good friends Jon Cass & Lewis Finch (Fincha) to create County Lines. Jon Cass is the mastermind behind most of the beats, and I chose to work with him because he’s quite frankly a musical genius. He understands so much about a lot of genres and can bring to life my ideas even when I only have the faintest clue of what I want in my head. We’re also pretty like-minded people which always helps and makes the process a lot of fun. Fincha made the beat for ‘Julian Draxler,’ recorded & engineered the whole project for me. I am blessed to have this guy as part of the team, I spend almost every day at his place and he can make anything sound like pure gold. He’s a true master of his craft and one of my closest friends, so working with him is not only a real privilege but a bit of a no-brainer too. I had the project mastered by a friend of Fincha’s, Fabio, which was also a great shout. I had never had a track mastered before these ones, and Fabio’s one of the best, so it helps to know the right people for sure.

SL: What’s next?

B: What’s next for me? I’m going to be starting my own show on Trickstar Radio in Brighton this year which I’m really looking forward to. It’ll be a great chance for me to reach out to other musicians and hopefully give a helping hand to those looking for opportunities just like I am, as well as discover some fresh new talent. My next single, ’San Pellegrino’ is set for release soon and there will be a string of singles to follow that, before hopefully dropping another project towards the end of the year. Right now, I’m still working a 9-5, so honestly, I’d love to say the next thing for me is giving that up and going full time with the music. But it’s a process and a journey and I’m loving every step right now, so looking forward to the next single is where I’m at right now and there’s plenty more to come.

SL: If you want people to know one unique thing about you, what is it?

B: Something unique about me is probably where I’m from and what I’m trying to do. Most people from my area go to university, get themselves settled in a career and return to Surrey when the time’s right for them to start a family. Either that or they work for their parents or family friends and never really escape the bubble of the countryside. I’m trying to break that mould and educate more people from my area about the importance of inclusivity and not being stuck in the ways set for us by previous generations. There’s a big, big world out there and it’s for everybody – so I guess something unique about me is that if I had the chance, I would let everybody have their piece of that cake.

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