As the music landscape continues to shape-shift, so too are the talent platforms trumpeting the stars of tomorrow.
Case in point Rak-Su and their stint on The X Factor 2017.
The eclectic quad, comprised of Miles, Ashley, Jamaal, and Mustafa, found instant favor on the ITV show thanks to their original flair and self-penned tracks – many of which topped iTunes week in and week out.
Their popularity carried them to winner status, thus rendering them the second band in the show’s 15 year history to snag the title and the first to do so on the back of their own material.
Currently hard at work on their debut album (due later this year), we caught up with group members Miles and Ashley to discuss their journey so far, taster single ‘Pyro Ting,’ touring with Little Mix, and much more.
Check it out below…
That Grape Juice: Guys, congratulations on all of your success so far!
Rak-Su: Thank you!
That Grape Juice: It’s been about 8 months since you guys triumphed on the X Factor. How would you say your lives have changed since?
Rak-Su: We haven’t gone to go back to our old jobs [laughs]. It’s been good. We try and keep it as normal as possible on a day-to-day basis. We get to make music for a living now and obviously it’s much better than our old previous jobs – but we’re still living at home with our parents so we haven’t hit the jackpot just yet.
That Grape Juice: Let’s talk your new single ‘Pyro Ting.’ It’s a collaboration with Canadian hitmakers Banx & Ranx. Why this particular song as the first taste of new music?
Rak-Su: We’ve been together as a group for a few years before the X Factor and we were all influenced by a lot of different things musically. Reggae, Bashment, R&B, Soul, Funk. If you listen to our older EPs there was a lot there as well.
But going onto the show, we kind of realized that there was a specific element of the public wanted to hear (most). So we basically just focused on that, just did that over and over again to get us where we are at the moment.
But coming off the show we wanted to tap back into other influences; do a few other things that we find that are cool as well. So before the first (traditional) single comes out, we were desperate to say alright, we put something out which shows the other side of the music we’re going to do as well, so people know there’s more to us than what they’ve seen so far.
That Grape Juice: This is almost like a taster you would say, then?
Rak-Su: Yeah, definitely. When the next single comes out in August, it’s going to be geared towards what everyone’s going to be expecting from us. But on the album going forward, there’s going to be some other flavors that we’re going to experiment with where there’ll probably going to be a focus on with the album as well.
So we wanted to put something out there straightaway to say that yeah, whilst obviously we’re the Rak-Su that you’ve got used to, there are also going to be other things coming too.
That Grape Juice: We know that you guys are very self-sufficient and that you write, you produce; you pretty much do everything. But who have you been working with on the album, because we hear there’s some really exciting names in the mix at the moment.
Rak-Su: Yeah, beside Banx & Ranx we’ve got a few more (great people) on board. We went over to L.A. in April as one of the prizes that we won from the show, so we got to write with Ali Tamposi and she’s an unbelievable writer herself. People like Ali Tamposi and Banx & Ranx; there’s a few other producers that we’ve been working with in L.A. as well.
Two other names that have been really important; a guy called Lou Eddie and also Shakka.
That Grape Juice: So you’ve got a mix of the international flair and also homegrown because I know Shakka’s doing big things on the urban scene in the UK as well.
Rak-Su: Yeah, 100%. I think there’s a lot of amazing people out there production-wise and song writing-wise. But for us it’s also about making music which is ours and resonates with us. You have to connect and get along with who you have to be working with and Shakka, for example, is just a really cool person. He’s someone that we would just spend an evening with anyway, just chillin’ as friends. So obviously, when we’re in the studio, it makes sense, do you know what I mean?
That Grape Juice: Speaking of people that you deal with and people that you like, who are some of you guys’ dream collaborations?
Rak-Su (Myles): Dream collaborations… there’s a few.
I would say Ed Sheeran. Justin Bieber. I’m a massive fan of Justin Bieber so it would probably be Justin Bieber as well. Ed Sheeran definitely or Jay-Z. If you asked Jamaal, he’s I think he’d give you Rihanna or Chris Brown or Usher.
Rak-Su (Ashley): For me personally, I’d probably give you… at this moment in time, I think it would be fit if we could get something with Kaytranada. And probably not possible, but Vybz Kartel (laughs).
That Grape Juice: You guys are a group with a big future ahead of you. Who are some of the groups that you would say have inspired you guys?
Rak-Su: Do you know what? It’s a weird one because we don’t really look at any groups and say let’s try and emulate them; we never have done. That said, we take inspiration from varied places. I think seeing what Boy Better Know have done with regards to everyone bringing different elements to the group and not being like a “conventional” band is something we love. They’re a camp where there’s a load of people who have had success, whether they are producing, whether they areMCs or whether they’re DJs.
And that’s kind of how we’ve rooted ourselves doing different things; beat-boxing, DJing and dancing. Me and Miles predominantly rapping, Miles producing and Jamaal singing. So, as far as how to move together as a family rather than a “band” would definitely be one (big inspiration).
And then I think more recently, Little Mix. As we kind of bring through the X Factor process, as we’ve been a bit closer to with them (now we’re touring with them). They’re sellout stadiums on a weekly basis and we’re sitting there thinking, right, how do we get to that stage where we can do this as well? They’re from two completely different sections of the music sphere, but they’re two different groups who’ve had a big effect on us.
That Grape Juice: Speaking about Little Mix, for example; they’ve had a lot of success internationally as well as in the UK. The internet is such a global village.; artists are able to build international bases a lot quicker than they used to. Do you guys have any international plans? The US for instance? What does the future hold in that regard for Rak-Su?
Rak-Su (Miles): Obviously, we’re taking it step by step and kind of as it comes. But yeah, definitely; we want to take over the world at the end of the day. We want to aim for the stars and we want to be as big as we can. I think all of us having versatility in the music that we listen to or the background that we come from has kind of helped us. But at the moment, it’s just trying to get our music out there and trying to get the full support of the UK, obviously because that’s where we’re from and that’s what we want the backing from, from the UK first. And I think you always have to start at home before you look across the waters. So, we’ll take it step by step as it comes, really.
That Grape Juice: We hear that you guys are on a summer mini tour of sorts. What can fans expect from that?
Rak-Su: The summer tour is sick! For us, it’s the first time we’ve ever performed on such a big stage before. So, we put a lot of work into it… we got a half an hour set and it’s just a whole lot of energy throughout all of it. A lot of choreography and a lot of good vibes as well.
For anyone coming to see Rak-Su, you’re always going to get good energy and you’re always going to get a vibe; we’re always going to be giving it 100% through every dance step, every lyric, every melody. It’s just fun. That’s what we try to make it. We try to make it a party but just with 10,000 people.
That Grape Juice: A year from now, what would Rak-Su like to have achieved?
Rak-Su (Miles): Achieve a number one single! A good selling album; maybe gold-selling album or platinum-selling album. Obviously, it would be our first album so…we’ll take it as it comes. But yeah, to be number one and to just solidify ourselves in the game. Rak-Su is doing music for longevity; we’re not in it for the quick buck. We want to break records and stuff like that. So yeah, just to solidify ourselves and do ourselves proud, I guess – and hopefully, do our second sold out tour.
Rak-Su’s ‘Pyro Ting’ is out now!