The UK urban star behind hits such as ‘Ride It’ and ‘Down’ recently played Dubai – again. Peter Feely nabbed him to talk upcoming collaborations and kids.
You’re now in the US signed to Cash Money Records. How did that come about?
I was touring America because of the Indian community and I had promoters calling me up saying that there are loads of Indians who want to see you. I was filling out 2,000-3,000- people venues all around, without distribution. So as Cash Money got word of that they said, ‘this guy needs to be in America’.
But your records are not specifically Indian.
It’s because I’m of Indian descent. I’m the only person of Indian or South Asian origin who is doing anything in the mainstream. In the same way that Eminem has a tonne of white fans, there are [Indians] who are proud of me.
You’ve released tracks with Lil Wayne, Rick Ross... Do you collaborate in the studio?
No, sorry to break the illusion but it doesn’t happen like that. With technology you can do anything anywhere. [Lil] Wayne could be on a tour bus in Alabama and record his verse for my song while I’m in Singapore. I have personal relationships with everyone I’ve collaborated with, though.
You trained to be a doctor...
I got the [record] deal while I was studying.
So if you had finished you wouldn’t have gone into the music industry?
Probably. Or maybe not – I don’t know. I feel I always go with my gut. If you live safe you’re renting life – you’re not really owning it.
How was your duet on stage with Alicia Keys?
Amazing – one of the fondest moments of my career to perform live on stage with someone I admired as a vocalist and as an artist. I was in New York at the Hammerstein Ballroom in front of all these great legends and peers – it wasn’t a joke.
Do you like experimenting with collaborations? Who’s left to work with?
Yes. Me and Shamma Hamdan [Emirati singer] – I did a collaboration with her just to see what would happen and it became a [chart-topping] record here. My favourite artist of all time is Jay Z so having him on a record would be a dream.
Surely that’s a possibility?
It’s so funny, I’m one step away from him in so many directions. The saying ‘six degrees of separation’ – I’m literally one degree. We get our hair cut by the same barber in New York.
Well get your barber to tell you when he’s going to be in.
Ha ha – that’s a good idea.
What’s your relationship with Dubai like?
A fact came out the other day that out of all the international artists in the world, I’ve toured Dubai more than anyone else in the past three years. It feels like a second home to me.
What have you got coming up next?
I’ve got a baby coming up next. That’s the next big thing in my life.