Listening to the way P Money's flow subtly changes according to the beat he's working with, it's not hard to understand why he's risen so swiftly from underground grime MC to near-household name. His is an immediately distinctive voice: his bars run into one another with rough-edged, breakneck intensity, but never lose even a fraction of their clarity. Though he's able to turn on a sixpence from languid to rapid-fire, and from gritty to smooth, each word is picked out with surgical precision.
"I always had a really quick flow but you could still hear me," he says. "That's one thing I've always noticed - I'm always clear about what I'm saying. That helped me a lot. People love how fast you can go, but at the same time, if they can understand you, it's even better."
Compare two of P's best-loved tracks to date: underground hit 'Slang Like This' and the fluorescent bounce of 'Boo You' (alongside Blacks and Slickman). Where over the former's halfstep beat his flow feels coiled and predatory, shifting into swift attack formation before drawing backward again, the latter finds him aiming straight for the jugular, furiously trading lines with fellow MCs over deftly swung percussion. Hearing him adapt seamlessly to these different rhythms - from the staccato pulses of a grime beat to the loping gait of dubstep - it seems that, for P Money, MCing comes as naturally as breathing.
It's that versatility that's marked out his music so far, and it's taken him all the way from teenage MC to daytime radio airplay and stages across the globe. P Money's route in to music began as a garage and grime loving teenager in South London, learning to MC alongside friends in the playground and slowly developing his abilities in the Fatal Assassins crew, onstage at local events and on pirate radio. Far from public preconceptions around grime as negative music, he explains, P was drawn to MCing because of the opportunity it provided for expression. "I'm a quiet person, I'm not loud, but I like to analyse stuff. Everyone's got their own opinions about what goes on in the world and wants to voice situations and experiences they've been through. I noticed that when you have a mic - no matter who you are, no matter what you've got to say - people will listen."
His unique, swift flow and lyrical agility - able to blur serious subject matter with witty asides, day-to-day realism and surreal humour - swiftly caught the attention of grime DJ Logan Sama, who began regularly playing P Money's tracks on his show. As well as being part of the grime collective OGs, he followed by releasing a series of mixtapes and tracks - his debut Coins2Notes, the blistering 'What Did He Say?' through No Hats No Hoods, and 2009's widely praised Money Over Everyone. The latter in particular established him as someone to watch, and as well as regularly making appearances on Rinse FM, his tracks began getting regular play on mainstream radio stations.
It was in 2010 that attention began to focus even more squarely on his music, with the release of crossover hit 'Slang Like This' and guest appearances on Magnetic Man's single 'Anthemic' and Doctor P's dubstep club hit 'Sweet Shop'. As well as bringing him a new level of recognition, they also established him as an MC equally skilled at adapting to the ebb and flow of a dubstep beat as to grime's more upfront energy. As a result, he found himself making appearances on massive stages and at festivals.
"I went on tour with Magnetic Man [after 'Anthemic' was released]," he remembers. "Because it wasn't announced that I was with them, I thought people wouldn't know who I was. But when I was in New Zealand, I was in Foot Locker and I could hear the tune, and the video was onscreen in the shop. And the girl who was serving me nearly fainted!"
Through these gradual stages, P Money's rise has been quiet but inexorable. 2012 is set to be a big year for P, with his new EP blazing a trail for the arrival of his much-anticipated debut album for Rinse. The album, which he is currently in the process of recording, is set for release in 2013. Tapping into his entire musical history - reaching from his roots in grime into the dubstep that helped establish his name - it's set to draw together the disparate strands of his career so far, as well as reaching forward to suggest a wider future for his sound. Featuring beats from a number of Rinse's best known producers and associates, alongside a range of guest vocalists, it will give fans a deeper insight into P Money's personality than ever before.
"Before I did any mixtapes I always said I was going to do an album where it’s like a split personality - where it's both P Money and the outside-of-music me," he explains. "The album's going to be about these two people battling against each other." When Rinse first expressed an interest in him working with the label, he quizzed Rinse FM head Geeneus about what he might suggest as a theme for his album. “Funnily enough,” he grins, “[Geeneus] had the exact same idea."
By playing P Money's bold, energetic and brash stage persona against his calmer and more softly spoken offstage self, the album is set to challenge the assumptions that so often still inform public perceptions of grime MCs. "Because there are so many stereotypes about grime, people expect you to be an ignorant, aggy person who just doesn't care about anything," he says. "Then when people talk to you they're always surprised, like Oh, you're actually cool - you're a normal person.' So I always thought with the album I have to show both sides of myself: to show there is life in music, and life outside of music."