It’s merely a year since Lily Allen’s Big Day Out appearance saw the cheeky songstress introduce her male equivalent in the form of loudmouth British rapper Professor Green aka Stephen Manderson. Back then, it was thanks to the duo’s hit single Just Be Good To Green that saw Manderson first set foot on Aussie soil, but in 2011 this London lad is returning as a full-fledged, gold-selling artist.
“I did my first ever headline tour last October,” announces Manderson. “I was so happy with how many people turned out, it was quite humbling. Originally we put out five and a half thousand tickets but then we realised we had to do an upgrade to 11,000 which was a massive surprise! It just sold out so quickly so we added seven more dates; I’ve never had that kind of response. I got a bit of a taste for it when I was in Australia that time was with Lily. It was an amazing experience for me as an artist and as a person; you can’t top performing to such big crowds. But in some ways I also felt like a bit of a tag-along because it wasn’t really my tour, I was just sort of coming along for the ride. This time it’s going to be different because I’ve got so much more to share with the audiences.”
A lot has changed since Manderson’s first landing, indeed. For one, his debut album Alive Till I’m Dead turned out to be – to everyone’s surprise – nothing short of a smash hit, managing to sell 100,000 copies in the UK alone. For a kid with one hell of a troubled past and plenty of angst to spit about it, this was Manderson’s very own private Eight Mile.
“At the moment though, I’m really feeling jungle,” he says. “That’s the road my next album is going down. I’ve got to finish it by February, the timing should be just about right for when I get to Australia. Touch wood that I’ve still been in a good space creatively since the first album. I know how fickle that can be, some people bang their heads against a wall just to get one good song. I try to make my songs resonate across the board, I want people to be able to relate to what I’m talking about, I try to encompass people, not alienate them with my experiences. I’ve already got one track out there, you can check it out on YouTube for now, Read All About It. It’s a fair idea of where it’s all going at the moment.”
And there have been some pretty dark ones too since his teenage years. As if having his father commit suicide in 2008 wasn’t hard enough on Manderson, by the time he was in his mid-20s he was not only dealing drugs but had also been stabbed in the neck with a broken bottle, so when Mike Skinner of The Streets offered Manderson a record deal on his label The Beats, the rapper thought his dream had come true. Sure, things didn’t turn out quite the way either had hoped in the end, but according to Manderson, some disagreements aside, the two are still very good friends, with Skinner even having made an appearance on Alive Till I’m Dead.
“At the time neither he nor I realised that I wasn’t ready for it,” Manderson claims now. “When Mike saw me I still had so much left to learn, I was still so brand new to everything. I didn’t really even have the confidence either, I just looked to the music to sort of take me out of the life I was coming from. I was battling and freestyling and one of the first songs I wrote was really stereotypical. Mike and I couldn’t find middle ground. There is a way that he approaches his records and, even though he had the best intentions, I think he found it a little bit hard not to be controlling. He’d take what I’d done and then he’d have a look and he’d be really tempted to change it to the way that he would do it. Mike’s been doing this for a while now so he’s quite set in his ways and the way that he does things, so I guess it was hard for him to let it go another way. The problem was that I wasn’t interested in that because I didn’t want my records to be Mike Skinner records, I’ve wanted my records to be Professor Green records.”
Professor Green [UK] plays the Future Music Festival on Sunday March 13 at the Flemington Racecourse.