Interview: BATE NATE H

London born music artist and fashion influencer Bate Nate H, or, ‘Prince Nate,’ has been making strides in the London underground music scene for the past four years. He has worked with brands like ASOS and Fire Chulo and has 31K followers on Instagram. He is an artist who has forged a fruitful, unique career in fashion and in music despite a difficult beginning to life. Growing up on Cathall Council Estate in Leytonstone in an abusive household led him into dark periods when he describes ‘battling’ with his heart and soul. By the time he was eighteen, he had been to jail four times and was well known by the local police for drug dealing and robbery.

However after the birth of his daughter, Bate Nate H made a conscious decision to change his life. In 2016 a series of six mix tapes received 100,000 free downloads online and in May 2017 he was signed to New York record label Bentley Records. He hasn’t stopped since.

Despite his success, what stands about The Prince is how incredibly humble and unassuming he is. When we meet, he is simultaneously soft spoken and frank about where he began and where he’s going.

He wears a Swarovski encrusted watch, and a bespoke tanzanite pendant, also from SWAROVSKI. He pairs it with Zara jeans, bright red leggings, KWD socks and a customised, navy military Jacket inspired by Prince Harry’s – he declines to name the designer.

As he sips a cocktail and smokes an Amber leaf roll up, we speak about his past, his passions and the future.

How long have you been making music?

I’ve been reading and writing music since the age of five. My dad was a musician – we were pretty much like the Jacksons growing up. but career wise I’ve been going hard for the last three and a half years, four years.

When you say Jackson 5, do you mean everyone in your family does music?

They’re all musically orientated so if I was to go to my house for like a family dinner or something, there’d be music playing. It’s that vibe.

Did you always know you were creative?

Yeah. Even when I was younger I had a different eye for things, unique things. As a child I dressed up like Prince. He was a good influence on me.

What was it about Prince?

It was always Michael Jackson and Prince for me, but Prince just took the eye because of how eclectic he was. The fact that he could come on stage and do acapella with a guitar that’s talent. Playing an instrument and singing in key and tone. He’s a legend, man.

That also make sense in terms of how you merge fashion with music.

Yeah of course, there you go. Fashion’s a big thing for me because it’s another source of expression.

Image seems to be really essential to your music.

For me image is important because I want people to see the whole of me. The music can show a side, people can connect to the music or not, just like people connect to blogs or not but for me the way I dress is how I express myself. I want people who don’t even care about my music to be like wow – you might be interested in me just because you’ve seen the way I dress. And that might make you come and listen to the music. And vice versa, so I’m trying to put them both in tow.

Your music is really distinctive. It doesn’t sound like a lot of hip hop, especially hip hop of recent years. I’m curious as to what your creative process is when it comes to standing out from the crowd.

I just feel like the most you can do is be yourself, to bring out the essence of you. That’s what music’s about. I think that’s lost these days. There’s a lot of people who sound the same. Same tone, same words. With me, I’ve read the dictionary. I’ve had times where I’ve had to sit back with nothing else to do but read. I’ve looked up words and thought okay let me do something in another way with it. Something different, something outside the box. And that’s what it’s about.

In your opinion, why is fashion important?

Fashion’s important because it’s a gateway into an artist’s mind. I think it’s amazing that two people might not know each other from nowhere, that you can connect just from the way you are, the way you look. You can get a sense of that person, what they’re about, just by that. And I think that’s important. The fashion world right now, for me, is changing in the sense that you don’t have to be an ultra skinny person doing runway. Things are different, and that’s a good thing, we should embrace it. For me as well, as a young black male, I’ve found that the industry is more accepting of me than it would have been ten years ago. With me I don’t really care if it’s a designer name or not. If it looks good and it’s doing something for me then I don’t care.

It’s refreshing to hear that.

Yeah you know what I mean? Because a lot of rappers at fashion week for instance – you’ll see hella rappers coming through wearing this and that, and you’re not going to see me dressed head to toe in designers just because Supreme and Balenciaga made it. Like I’ll go Zara, I’ll go H&M, and no one will know where I got it! That’s the beauty of it.

Who are some of your favourite designers?

One of my favourite designers is Fendi. I love the 3-D collection they did. You know the baubles you can get from Primark? I started putting them on my jeans, on my shoes – and I was doing this before I saw the Fendi collection but then I saw the collection and they’ve got all these 3-D vibes, Velcro popping out-

Subversive design.

Yeah, it looks sick and it looks customised.

Why do you think fashion is fun?

Anything where you can express your individuality is fun.

In some ways you can express yourself more in fashion than anything.

Yeah, yeah. Fashion and art.

Is pushing boundaries important to you?

Yeah, of course. Calvin Klein – the genderless project they did, that was sick for me because I always used to find myself going through shops – and  you might see a top, a female top and think ‘that looks so feminine. But if you could drop it then you could drop it hard.’ Calvin Klein, they’ve gone past that boundary with unisex clothes. It’s like if you like what you like, then you like what you see and you get it. Like feminism, if you’re comfortable in your own skin, and you’re man enough to pull it off then you’ll pull it off.

What are your thoughts on feminism?

I’d say I’m a feminist. I feel like if you’re a real feminist, male or female, go 100, go the 100 mile. If you’re 100% feminist then you work as hard as the male and the male works as hard as you so it’s equal, there’s an equal line. Don’t be a victim. If you’re a feminist, be 100% feminist.

Who is it that inspires you in music?

People like Prince, Michael Jackson, Tupac – there’s people who inspire me like YSL, Little Duke, Young Thug, people I know in the music industry. There’s not a UK artist that inspires me but Nasty Jack stood out to me as a kid. American is more what I grew up listening to. There’s two people who inspire me, one for their music one is their lifestyle – outside of Hip Hop, Pink Floyd because of the riffs – if you listen to my music it’s more melodic, more riffs, I use my voice as an instrument and I think I got that from them. Lifestyle, because I feel like I’m a troubled man, a troubled soul – I can relate to people like Kurt Cobain , that’s someone I watch, I studied – I have compassion for him.

Do you want to expand on that? What do you mean by troubled soul?

Well for me, it’s the things I’ve been through. Sometimes I find myself battling, battling with my heart and my soul. A troubled man for me is someone who’s been through so much shit, had so much let downs. I don’t take losses, I take lessons. I take in a lot and I learn from it. Sometimes I’m fooled again but never three times. Being a troubled soul expresses me, man. You won’t hear my music always being uplifting. Push the boundary, you know? I have to say things in my music, what’s real, what people think.

Do you think there’s something therapeutic about having creativity?

Yeah, yeah of course. You could be an artist, a painter, you could be spoken word, even down to a model..I feel like that should be all you’re about. I don’t want to be around someone who’s like ‘oh cool, I’m creative when I’m with you, but when I’m at home I don’t do nothing creative.’ I want someone who’s 24 hours. The people around me, the people I keep in my circle, everyone’s creative. I think It’s important that whether we’re around each other or not you’re pushing your own boundaries. It’s important, man.

And in fashion who is it that inspires you?

Like I say, Prince. If you see the cover of my album, it’s called Prince Season, and I’m wearing a silky blouse.

Purple Rain.

Yeah, when Prince and and Michael Jackson done the Motown show and he came out in sequins.. I don’t know man, I just like people who are like fuck it, I’m gonna do this and no one can tell me nothing – I like that. That inspires me more than someone else’s fashion. Their state of mind inspires me more.

Being creative is a specific way to see the world and to go through life. Do you ever wish you weren’t born a creative?

Sometimes I feel like the guy who cut his ear off, Van Gogh. Sometimes I feel like there’s so much shit I wanna say and I can’t pull it off and I cant pull it out in a structured way and I end up losing it. You wake up every day and your mind’s telling you something  like ‘what can I do today to up myself’ when some days I just want to wake up and be cool. I want to wake up and PlayStation, not worrying about how people are perceiving me. Now my PlayStation got dust, I don’t even play it! I have no time to do nothing else and now I’m embracing it, because its my career, it’s my life, it’s what I do and I worked hard to get here. [Being creative] is so much about what can you do next. Real ambitious people are never content.

How long did it take you for you to find your sound?

I’d been doing music for the last three and a half, four years. But before that I was doing music in the hood, on the block. I was a ghetto artist. If you go back seven years or eight years when I was doing the odd video, it had a lot of 90’s vibes. But that weren’t me, I wasn’t happy with it. So to find my sound I met my producer Yung G Money, and I was like ‘you know what, I’m gonna express myself. I’m going to start putting in melodies, putting in tones and see where it takes me.’ It was a big change, people were used to hearing something else but that’s not me. Tupac is one of my idols and growing up I was like I have to rap like Tupac, that’s the sound that hit so many hearts, I need to be like him… but that’s not really what you’re supposed to do. When you’re supposed to be an individual, you’re supposed to be a star or starlet, you’re supposed to come from your soul.

So I done a mix tape with (Yung) G Money in 2016 and no lie, I got 100,000 downloads of six mix tapes. All for free because I wanted people to see, for people to hear my sound. And now from 2016 everything’s been different. Now you’re seeing everything. People just accepting me, innit. I know I’m rough around the edges, I’ve got different things I’m dealing with but it’s important to me that I express myself and put down my own legacy.

When you first got signed were you scared of losing your individuality?

Kind of. But I proved I could do it, so it wasn’t like other artists. We got to sit down with the CEO and draft out my own personal contract. The people that follow me now is more like a cult. So I don’t want to put out anything that isn’t me because the label said I had to do that, or work with the producer who said to do that. I had to make sure I was at 100.  I had to be headstrong and know about what I’m about because the numbers don’t lie, so everything I’m doing has to be real.

Is fame important to you?

For me man, fame just comes. It’s not something I’ve dwelled on or wanted. I do it from my heart. My music and my fashion is from my heart. So I’ve never been fame hungry, when you’re an individual and you’ve got your own style and sense and sound, people are drawn to you anyway. And I get both sections from the fame, like I get people who don’t understand me, who don’t like me, who think you’re a weirdo – that’s why I call myself an alien! And then I got people who understand the mentality, you’re an individual and so am I so we understand each other.

You’ve touched upon the merging of creative mediums. Your music is very melodic and has some aspects of pop in it, is that a conscious thing or is it just what’s created?

When people ask me what genre I just say I’m an artist. For me to say I do hip hop would be a lie. It’s not really modern hip hop, and if you want to respect hip hop from the boom back rap days, me compared to Nas, it’s not hip hop. I’ve had people who listen to rock listen to my music, punk rock, because the punk rock people understand the mentality.

You’ll see the idea of F the system, we’ll do it on our own. People who listen also like the reggae element. The beat is like G funk, it’s just different. I’m an artist, you give me any type of music and I’ll be able to work with it.  You restrict yourself as an artist if you say I cant do nothing but hip hop.

How long does it take you to write a song?

About 20 minutes. I could write one right now. The only thing I actually write though is a format. It’ll take 30 minutes in total from writing to sending it to the label. Me and (Yung) G Money work like crazy.

Do you play any instruments?

I can play steel pans. My dad’s a musician who’s famous for it. I can play piano. I can strum a guitar, wouldn’t say I could play it but I can strum it. I’m working on it. Like I say, my voice is my instrument, I can do some things other artists cant do like hit a higher pitch.

You posted a really sweet picture on Instagram with your daughter. What’s it like having kids?

Yeah, I got the one. I had her so young, I’m twenty eight now, I was eighteen when I had her. It got to a point that me and her mum were friends then friends with benefits. And I’m not the type of guy to be like okay well fuck off and do this on your own. For me to tell her I’m not ready when we’ve both done it… it’s not man enough. So I manned up and said I’ll be there if you decide to have her and she did. And in ten years I’ve been there from the get go. I was the first person she grabbed onto in the world. Literally, I was leaning down and I had my gold chain on and she comes out and grabs onto my
chain. The love for my daughter is different, man. Like we’re daddy and daughter but at the same time it’ll be different when she’s older. When she’s twenty I’m going to be 37 – that’s mad! I can see her coming out and doing things with me, it’s that kind of relationship.

I guess that’s one of the plusses of having kids so young, it’s kind of a special situation.

It’s special, man. I wouldn’t ever introduce her to a girlfriend, I don’t believe in that until its 100% – then you introduce them. Because the way I live, she might get confused because she might just be seeing me with a friend but not know – she’s proper smart.

Are you single right now?

Yeah.

Do you like it that way?

I don’t know, to be honest with you. I haven’t had a relationship since my baby mum and I couldn’t tell you why. My career has come and girls have come. One thing I hate about being me, is that… this is gonna sound crazy but, girls look at me and say “I bet you get bare girls”. But that doesn’t mean I’m entertaining all these girls. They don’t trust me, even though I’ve never done nothing for no one to not trust me. That’s just me being single. That’s not me being in a relationship. Where I come from, like my council estate, loyalty is a big thing for me. I’m not out here cheating.

“My mom used to say don’t go around breaking young girls hearts”- Billy Jean, you know what I’m saying?  It’s selfish because you’re telling this girl the world but you don’t really mean it. So you get fucked off, but how does she feel? And I’ve grown into a guy who understands that. I’m not going to lie to no one. I’m meeting a girl, I’ll be upfront with how this is the position of my life. But the girls who I want, the girls I like, are always just like I don’t know how this could happen cuz I see you doing this and that always makes me go back to being seen as a bachelor. It’s hard for me to find someone I like and want to be with because of what I do. It’s fucked up like that.

Because you work so much?

Because I work so much, because I’m around different people so much. I want to be loved but I feel like I’m getting love from different things. I’m getting love from people who love my music or people on Instagram, I’m getting that kind of love. Sometimes I feel like I’m misconstruing what the main love that I need is. And that’s hard.

How does being from London effect the way you approach music?

Because I come from the inner city, it feels enclosed, everyone knows each other. You see the same people everywhere. These are your people and I think it helped me build my team.  One thing I’d say is fucked is that I’m not afraid to die. That’s one of the downsides of growing up in the hood, we’ll all say the same thing – we don’t care if we die. Coming from the ghetto that stays, this idea that if you live, you live and if you die, you die. And I don’t think that would change. That’s one thing that bothers me.

Are you close to your parents?

I’m close to my mum. My dad was a musician, he was a rock star so I didn’t really have the best relationship with him. He used to beat us up as well, it was closer to being the Jacksons than just music. Forced to be a lot of things. But now I can look back and say that’s a good thing. The music you put into us was a good thing. I used to be mad at my mum because she’d let him chase us around but she couldn’t do nothing. Me and my brothers had a court case we were going to use without understanding that he was just a rock star. He wanted the best for his kids. He just wasn’t the best dad.

Some people are not supposed to be parents.

Yeah exactly. And this is why I feel in my heart now that I’ve been the best dad because I can’t let this go around twice. There’s a rule in the hood that if you have a fucked up dad or a single parent, you don’t do it ever because it can’t roll around twice. The pain that we felt can’t happen again. When you’re from the ends of the hood you get a better, a stronger love for your kid. When you’re from an area where you don’t get that. Any bad thing can be turned into a positive and any positive can be grown. That’s how I feel.

It sounds like you have a lot of trauma and have battled with mental health. Do you have any words for people who are going through something similar right now?

Mental heath is real. Mental health is real.  I just want to tell people that you don’t always have to feel like you have to be happy and not admit they’re in a bad place. Because it happens. It’s life. People go through it and get through it. But sometimes people don’t. Like Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston – people in high positions of power, high positions of fame. Taking away the lesson that depression, mental health above anything is real. Anyone going through bad mental health should take it step by step. I had to be by myself to love myself, to love my own character. If anyone doesn’t then fuck them. We don’t have enough time in life to be sitting around saying I hope this guy likes me or I hope this girl likes me. We got no time for that so just embrace who you are, what you are whether you’re black, white, gay, straight, whatever – just be you, do what you want. No cap, you dig?

He takes a minute to have a drag of his cigarette and have a sip of his sugary cocktail.

(In reference to his drink) This one’s hitting the chest, man.

What’s your favourite boozy drink?

Hennessy.

On the rocks?

On the rocks with the slightest splash of coke just so it’s dark brown. When I was in the Caribbean though it was rum every day.

Rum on it’s own?

Yeah they don’t play no jokes. You’ve got ice, ice is the diluter.

Are you a heavyweight?

Yeah, I’m a rock star love, still a rock star. Especially these days I don’t really sleep. The most I’ll sleep is five hours and then have a power nap in the afternoon. I’m always energetic, my body’s gotten used to it now. That’s seven days a week. I don’t really like sleep.

We decide at this point to finish our drinks and continue the second part of the interview in the courtyard. Before we leave I ask him a short questionnaire devised by Bernard Pivot. 

What’s your favourite word?

Well if you can tell from my music I say slack a lot and ya dig a lot.

What’s your least favourite word?

Bored, can’t, wont. My daughter’s not allowed to say bored. I don’t think you should ever be bored in life. There’s always something you can do. Can’t is not a word, I don’t care if they just put it back in the dictionary. If you don’t want to do something it’s because you don’t want to do it, it’s not because you can’t.

What turns you on creatively spiritually or emotionally?

Musically what turns me on is life. Spiritually, I’m a very spiritual guy. What inspires me in life is God. I wouldn’t say I was holy religious but I’m a man of God. Emotionally, my daughter, my friends, male and female I love them all. I’m very emotional.

What turns you off creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

Haters. People who complain but don’t change. Ignorance, arrogance. I think a little bit of arrogance is good for the ego but over doing it is crazy. I feel like you’ll end up like Kanye West where your mind is just gone. Because you never kept nothing real to yourself. Some sense of humbleness needs to be put in every artist, so you can grow.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

A scientist. When I was younger I used to do stupid experiments. Always in my mind if I mixed this maybe a little potion will come! I always enjoyed creating something.

What profession other than your own would you not like to attempt?

Retail. You can’t tell me what to do.

Did you used to work in retail?

No, I’ve never had a job.

Were you an artist the whole time?

No this is what I’m saying sis, I was on the streets, my ways of making money was on the streets, doing illegal shit.

What age did you decide that wasn’t enough?

My mum had had enough stuff like police coming to the house, my daughter was born

So a sequence of events?

Yeah, I’d been to jail four times as a kid. And there were a lot of things in my head that made me think ‘you’re worth better than this, you’re worth more than this’. I was never convicted for a crime I committed, it was always dumb shit.

You were wrongfully put in jail?

Loads of times. I’ve never been charged, convicted and sentenced to jail. They always wanted to give me a chance, to put me on probation but I never took the probation so they just sent me to jail. I’ve been to jail more times than other people because of the dumb shit and the people I was around. I was always a leader, I never followed anyone to jail. I want people to see me as me, judge me on who I’ve become. I don’t want you to know my background and judge me on something I would have done ten years ago, judge me on who I am now. That’s important.

What’s your favourite curse word?

My favourite curse word is fuck or shit but I don’t curse that much in my music. When I do it’s just because I’m expressive.

What sound or noise do you love?

Plates being scratched. You know why? Because you remember teachers scratching the board, you had to kind of embrace it. I don’t know, I do weird shit. Even down to smells I like funky smells, if someone has a cut I’ll wanna smell it. If someone vomits  I wont smell it but I’ll watch you. That’s why I say I’m an alien, total extra terrestrial.

What sound or noise do you hate?

Whining. I don’t mind crying but whining I really don’t like.

And if heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say at the pearly gates?

“I like the way you switched your life around.” But sometimes I feel like he says that to me anyway.

Do you pray?

Yeah I pray. I don’t pray when I’m in need though. I don’t know, I’d say I don’t pray I give thanks. If it’s the same thing you’re talking to then maybe there isn’t a difference. You don’t need to go a place of worship to be in line with the most high. You don’t need to be in church. When we pay up our tab we begin to walk around the courtyard and touch on the future.

Tell us about your work with ASOS.

So I’m a fashion influencer. A lot of people will say you’re a model, no –  its deeper than me just being a model for a company. I’ve branded myself so being a fashion influencer is about putting your brand with that brand and making a collaboration. We’ve got a contract with each other, they’ll style it and we’ll then shoot maybe 25 shots, they’ll keep ten and I’ll keep five, something like that- and I’ll do it with any brand. Fashion influencer is much better – when you’re a model you’re getting paid to showcase someone else. Your name’s not on it. With ASOS, I’m trying to get them to do a brand, I’ve got a brand coming out.

Oh, tell us about it.

It’s going to be called Prince Apparel. It’s upscale high fashion with trippy designs, a lot of snake based designs. I don’t wanna say too much but it’ll be on stationary and t-shirts.  I’m trying to do bigger things. There are a lot of bigger things coming, still with the clothing. It’ll be made for everyone.

What are you most excited about in the next year?

I’m excited about a mix of things. I’ve got the fashion going off and I’ve got the music thing going and I’m just trying to push it in different ways. And it’s got people talking so that’s important. Bigger contracts, longer contracts. I always said I want the fashion to be just for fun. I don’t want people to feel like they have to book me but because I’m a business man but it’s become tied into that.

Which EP’s can we listen to now?

So Prince Season is out now. The record coming out with Bentley I think is going to be called ‘Music is my Fashion.’ It’s either gonna be called that or Prince Season 2. It’s all coming together, man.

Can you tell us a little bit about Non Stop Working?

Yeah, so Non Stop Working is a brand. They’re from my ends, my brother’s boys – same kind of background. Drug dealers trying to make a change and left that life alone. My boy, Fire Sky High Fly, that’s my close boy, he brought me into the fashion world. So with Non Stop Working what I did was introduce them to Fire because he’s the fashion plug. I wanted him to do his own thing and for us to come together. So after I linked them up I became the
brand’s ambassador.

And was the single related to that?

Yeah, so what I do as well is with my music, I do things for fashion brands exclusively. There was one track called One Piece, they’re a big, verified fashion brand from Norway – I done a tune for them. And what I’m trying to do in between my songs and my singles is I’ll holler at a fashion brand and do a song exclusively for you. And if you see anyone copying that method you know where they got it from first. We’ll talk and have a meeting about what you wanna do with it. I could only work with you if you’re on some high fashion shit. Prince Season is called that because Prince is one of my favourite artists but also because you need to hold yourself in the highest regard, the levels have got to be up, not just for the ends.

Where would you like to be in 10 years time and what can we expect from your next album?

The album has already been done, I’ve got the EP coming out in August with Warner Music and Bentley Records. Prince Season isn’t released from my label though. They promote it but I released it from my own pocket because I want people to see where I’m at. I can’t wait for people to hear the EP they’re releasing in August. The first single off the album is a tune I did the other day with Jean Paul. That’s going to be a big single, it’s called ‘I Aint’ – I was going to call it Depression, but it’s called ‘I Aint’ because I like to do songs that start off depressed and end up elevated. In ten years, I  don’t want to sound negative but I just hope I’m alive in ten years, man. I want to be alive, I want to be kicking – my daughter will be 21 in ten years, like I just want to be here, I want to be alive because you never know when shit goes left. We could do this interview and something could happen next week. I don’t even plan my next day. I plan for today and save for tomorrow. But I could never tell you how to organise something for next week. I don’t know what’s gonna be in ten years. If you asked me ten years ago I’d been sitting here talking to you I would have been like no way, and look how different things are now.

As we finished talking that is what stands out- how different his life has become, how hard he has worked to forge a career filled with creativity and discipline.  We leave the interview after three hours of talking. Between his distinctive music, his entrepreneurial instincts and his unbridled passion for artistry and artistic integrity, it is safe to say that Bate Nate H is on the right track to becoming a decided inspiration on the London and New York music and fashion scenes.

Text: Caz McKinnon
Images via Sherrece Ollivierre

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s