Skinny Pelembe

Musician — Doncaster

Name, where are you from?
Skinny Pelembe. Doncaster via Johannesburg.

Describe your style in three words:
Grumpy, Secretly Funky.

What is your all-time favourite gig?
The Strokes at Doncaster Dome, 2006, where I'd meet most of my future best friends. Or Yussef Kamaal at Brownswood's Xmas Party 2016, where the same happened 10 years later.

What music did you listen to growing up?
Wu-Tang / Erykah Badu / Johnny Cash / Cocoon Records / Kompakt Records / Hospital Records / Roots Manuva / The Jam / Gil Scott Heron / Prefuse 73 / Blur / Nina Simone / The Smiths / Fela Kuti / Mos Def / Style Council / The Fall / House of Love / DJ Shadow / Pharoahe Monch / Whatever was on that months Mixmag CD and way too many cheesy mod compilations.

When did you start learning to play instruments, and what do you play?
I started on acoustic guitar when I was 8. About a year later McDonald's did a project called Our Town Story that had kids from the UK tell their town's history through music/dance at the, then, Millennium Dome. (I accidentally enrolled in the dance part and endured a week's worth of freestyle and Bollywood classes cause I was too shy to say I was in the wrong group). This dude called Ricky rolled in as the project leader and taught us about flamenco, jazz, improvisation. Shout's to Ricky Martinez, wherever you are, you wild Spanish stallion!
The switch to electric came when my dad bought a bunch of tapes at the car boot sale, for "dealership drives" (family past time of driving to car dealerships around South Yorkshire, sometimes further afield, to just browse the cars we'd never buy, and generally just get a feel for the going rate of whatever was new at the time, Citroen C4 / Picasso, for example). Anyway, he popped in Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty, and I knew whatever happened from then on, I was either gonna to learn the guitar solo or the saxophone riff. Guitar had more street cred in Donny, so that was it (unfortunately I couldn't foresee the "tracksuit jazz" explosion that would bring the appeal of Sax back to the youth dem).

What inspired you to start blending all of these instruments to create your sound?
It just seems like the right and responsible thing to do!
I don't know how you can think it's okay to still carry on doing a carbon copy of whatever has already happened, especially after hearing something like DJ Shadow, The Clash, Portishead or Daedelus. That's a bit harsh, there's something beautiful about tradition, heritage and a sense of purism (I really rate Allah-Las for how "right" they get the sound they're going for and love, it's a proper sonic pursuit) but it's groups and people like those mentioned that really stand true to what it is I love about hip-hop and music in general; sounding out your own unique voice/message.


Signed to Gilles Peterson's Brownswood Recordings, Skinny Pelembe was born in Johannesburg and grew up in Doncaster, before relocating to London. His innovative music combines his skills as singer, MC, guitarist and producer.

What was the first song you played on repeat?
The Message - Grandmaster Flash, on Encarta Encyclopaedia.

A song from your favourite album?
Right now, it's a tie between 'Figaro' on 'Madvillian' or 'Cowgirl In The Sand' on Neil Young's 'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere'.

A song you wish you had written?
'Sister Brother' - F.J. McMahon. I'll never wear it out. Four listens a year, max, to make sure I never overdo it. It's by this Vietnam vet who came back and channelled his experiences into one album, before becoming a computer field engineer in the Navy when the disco and glam-era came. Man, I hope he knows how heavy this tune is and how big a mark he's left on the lives of people who've heard it.

A British icon that has inspired you?
Paul Weller, The Jam to Style Council through to his massive return in the '90s, all gold. As far as I'm concerned after having written 'Brand New Start' he needn't lift a finger again in his life. Remember 'Aim High' a few years ago? The man's a savage.

What was the last piece of music you bought?
Blossom Dearie - 'Now At Last'. I don't think I've ever had a crush on a person's voice like this before. Let's just leave it there.

Most meaningful lyrics to inspire change?
'We Gotta Get Out Of This Place' by The Animals kills me every single time! The “watch his hair been turning grey” line gets me so riled up. It's like you can hear his anger and desperation to get some kind of vindication for parents, grandparents, who had to really graft and not have a thing to show for it. Then the chord change underneath the “Cause girl, there's a better life, for me and you” line, man, it's so simple, maybe even cheesy, but it's just one of those true underdog lines that makes you want to just get out and do better.

Best song to bring people together?
'Love Will Tear Us Apart'

What was the last album you bought?
I just re-bought Cannibal Ox - 'The Cold Vein'. First heard them on Tony Hawks pro skater in '03 and was so used to hearing boom bap, or breaks, or straight jiggy hip-hop, then El-P's production came in and scared the shit out of me. It pulls you into this cold, dark as fuck New York world that gets more intense when Vast and Vordul start spitting. 'Pigeon' is dirty and sad as it gets, but it's so damn beautiful, and that line in Iron Galaxy, “You were a stillborn baby, mother didn't want you. But you were still born”. Game over. They won Hip-Hop.

Is there a song you like that people wouldn’t expect?
Ain't Talkin Bout Love by Van Halen. Great one to scream out in your morning shower, before totally owning the rest of the day.

Name, where are you from?
Skinny Pelembe. Doncaster via Johannesburg.

Describe your style in three words:
Grumpy, Secretly Funky.

What is your all-time favourite gig?
The Strokes at Doncaster Dome, 2006, where I'd meet most of my future best friends. Or Yussef Kamaal at Brownswood's Xmas Party 2016, where the same happened 10 years later.

What music did you listen to growing up?
Wu-Tang / Erykah Badu / Johnny Cash / Cocoon Records / Kompakt Records / Hospital Records / Roots Manuva / The Jam / Gil Scott Heron / Prefuse 73 / Blur / Nina Simone / The Smiths / Fela Kuti / Mos Def / Style Council / The Fall / House of Love / DJ Shadow / Pharoahe Monch / Whatever was on that months Mixmag CD and way too many cheesy mod compilations.

When did you start learning to play instruments, and what do you play?
I started on acoustic guitar when I was 8. About a year later McDonald's did a project called Our Town Story that had kids from the UK tell their town's history through music/dance at the, then, Millennium Dome. (I accidentally enrolled in the dance part and endured a week's worth of freestyle and Bollywood classes cause I was too shy to say I was in the wrong group). This dude called Ricky rolled in as the project leader and taught us about flamenco, jazz, improvisation. Shout's to Ricky Martinez, wherever you are, you wild Spanish stallion!
The switch to electric came when my dad bought a bunch of tapes at the car boot sale, for "dealership drives" (family past time of driving to car dealerships around South Yorkshire, sometimes further afield, to just browse the cars we'd never buy, and generally just get a feel for the going rate of whatever was new at the time, Citroen C4 / Picasso, for example). Anyway, he popped in Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty, and I knew whatever happened from then on, I was either gonna to learn the guitar solo or the saxophone riff. Guitar had more street cred in Donny, so that was it (unfortunately I couldn't foresee the "tracksuit jazz" explosion that would bring the appeal of Sax back to the youth dem).

What inspired you to start blending all of these instruments to create your sound?
It just seems like the right and responsible thing to do!
I don't know how you can think it's okay to still carry on doing a carbon copy of whatever has already happened, especially after hearing something like DJ Shadow, The Clash, Portishead or Daedelus. That's a bit harsh, there's something beautiful about tradition, heritage and a sense of purism (I really rate Allah-Las for how "right" they get the sound they're going for and love, it's a proper sonic pursuit) but it's groups and people like those mentioned that really stand true to what it is I love about hip-hop and music in general; sounding out your own unique voice/message.


Signed to Gilles Peterson's Brownswood Recordings, Skinny Pelembe was born in Johannesburg and grew up in Doncaster, before relocating to London. His innovative music combines his skills as singer, MC, guitarist and producer.

What was the first song you played on repeat?
The Message - Grandmaster Flash, on Encarta Encyclopaedia.

A song from your favourite album?
Right now, it's a tie between 'Figaro' on 'Madvillian' or 'Cowgirl In The Sand' on Neil Young's 'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere'.

A song you wish you had written?
'Sister Brother' - F.J. McMahon. I'll never wear it out. Four listens a year, max, to make sure I never overdo it. It's by this Vietnam vet who came back and channelled his experiences into one album, before becoming a computer field engineer in the Navy when the disco and glam-era came. Man, I hope he knows how heavy this tune is and how big a mark he's left on the lives of people who've heard it.

A British icon that has inspired you?
Paul Weller, The Jam to Style Council through to his massive return in the '90s, all gold. As far as I'm concerned after having written 'Brand New Start' he needn't lift a finger again in his life. Remember 'Aim High' a few years ago? The man's a savage.

What was the last piece of music you bought?
Blossom Dearie - 'Now At Last'. I don't think I've ever had a crush on a person's voice like this before. Let's just leave it there.

Most meaningful lyrics to inspire change?
'We Gotta Get Out Of This Place' by The Animals kills me every single time! The “watch his hair been turning grey” line gets me so riled up. It's like you can hear his anger and desperation to get some kind of vindication for parents, grandparents, who had to really graft and not have a thing to show for it. Then the chord change underneath the “Cause girl, there's a better life, for me and you” line, man, it's so simple, maybe even cheesy, but it's just one of those true underdog lines that makes you want to just get out and do better.

Best song to bring people together?
'Love Will Tear Us Apart'

What was the last album you bought?
I just re-bought Cannibal Ox - 'The Cold Vein'. First heard them on Tony Hawks pro skater in '03 and was so used to hearing boom bap, or breaks, or straight jiggy hip-hop, then El-P's production came in and scared the shit out of me. It pulls you into this cold, dark as fuck New York world that gets more intense when Vast and Vordul start spitting. 'Pigeon' is dirty and sad as it gets, but it's so damn beautiful, and that line in Iron Galaxy, “You were a stillborn baby, mother didn't want you. But you were still born”. Game over. They won Hip-Hop.

Is there a song you like that people wouldn’t expect?
Ain't Talkin Bout Love by Van Halen. Great one to scream out in your morning shower, before totally owning the rest of the day.

The key ingredient to Skinny’s formula is the richness of his personality, which shines through the subtle psych/hip-hop production with his music a constant to-and-fro between the unconscious and subconscious to ultimately create an endearingly honest expression of thought. A truly natural performer.

All Our Tomorrows / Subculture Live / 100 Club - October 2018

Skinny Pelembe performing at All Our Tomorrows

Skinny Pelembe - I'll Be On Your Mind

Skinny Pelembe - Seven Year Curse

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