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Cristale’s Clear Vision

Armed with witty wordplay and infectious hooks, Brixton-born artist Cristale is ready to show why she is the youngest in charge.

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Sitting in the comfort of her bedroom which doubles as her personal recording space, Brixton-born poet, storyteller and artist Cristale jumps on Zoom to chat with me about her blossoming music career. At only 20 years old, she has already commanded the attention of music listeners across the globe. It was as recently as February 2020 when Cristale was encouraged by her father to release her freestyles via Twitter. She dropped her ‘Opp Thot Remix’ and quickly found a buzz on social media, following it up with a series of trending freestyles and remixes.

Drawing inspiration from grime artists like Chip, Stormzy and Wretch 32, Cristale burst onto the scene over last year, racking up streams on tracks like ‘Next Up’, ‘Scores’ and ‘Whites.’ Although she’s a newcomer in UK rap, Cristale holds it down on the mic, having showcased her raw skills in cyphers alongside Knucks, BackRoad Gee and ShaSimone, while earning cosigns from the likes Tiffany Calver and Charlie Sloth.

With her newest track ‘Militant’ out in the world and her viral challenge ‘Bong Bing’ dominating TikTok, we caught up with Cristale to talk about the relationships she values, getting advice from M Huncho and navigating emotional intelligence in music.

How you would describe yourself? Who would you say Cristale is for those reading?
Among other things, I’m just a person that likes to speak a lot. Everything that I do, involves talking in some type of way. If I didn’t have the ability to speak, God forbid, I’d be able to communicate through music videos, the actual images you see on the screen if there was no music or drawings. I’m a wordsmith.  

I feel like we can definitely hear that through your music because you have very intricate wordplay. Talk me through your song making process. What is a studio session with Cristale like?
Cross who is my trusty engineer is always in the studio and we obviously start with some normal chit-chat. I’ll ask him what beats he’s working on, and then I will try out some bars, some vocals to see what I’m going to do. I get into the booth after and that’s when the magic happens, I won’t stop until I feel like I’m finished. Sometimes I go into the studio thinking I’ll make one song but then I bang out three. 

What would you say inspires you when making music?
What drives me is that my music could make someone’s day better. Maybe they have listened to something that I’ve said, and they relate to it. It is about having the ability to change somebody’s perspective on something for the better. I focus heavily on emotional intelligence in my music because what you feel isn’t always what you think and what you think isn’t always what you feel. It’s a lot, but I feel like it will allow my mum’s age group to understand their kids a bit better. I’m not saying that I’m the spokesperson for 20-year-olds, but I may have said something in my music that their child might have said or maybe their kid has gone through similar things to me. My mum listens to some of my music and she is a big inspiration to me.

That’s such a refreshing take and I totally understand where you’re coming from with the importance of emotional intelligence. Obviously, you’ve had your first release of 2022 ‘Militant’ one thing I’m really interested in is the music video because it looks like a complete contrast to what you are rapping about.
Everyone has been asking about this video. The princess thing came to mind because of my mum, she heard the beat and said it sounds mediaeval and gave off Robin Hood vibes. She suggested I wear a princess dress for the music video and I was like mum you’re mocking it. Afterwards, I was just like let me be different and run with the princess thing.  It’s a complete contrast to everything that I’m saying and what I intend to convey is that girls can get militant too. We can get militant about loads of different things because being a young female can be difficult. Yeah, I’m a girl that likes to be taken out and pampered but I’m also a bit of a tomboy. 

Do you see yourself dabbling in other genres?
I have dabbled in pretty much every genre; I literally made a bashment track the other day and I have worked with Stylo G. I’m Jamaican and Guyanese so music is in my blood, whether I like it or not. I was raised on Vybz Kartel, Busta Rhymes, and Beyoncé. All those artists have shaped me, so why wouldn’t I make music that I like and listen to.

The two main influences on your music are your mum and your culture. Are there any other influences?
Just life, you know, I’m not gonna lie. Like even this conversation that we’re having right now is an influence on me. I might have said something to you that I haven’t said to anybody else but I’m saying it to you.

What I want to talk about is what inspired you to drop those covers and remixes? Did you ever expect to get that recognition on Twitter?
So, we’re gonna touch base on another big influence in my life right now, which is my dad. We haven’t always had the best relationship, but certain situations I have been in with him have built me. Don’t quote me on this one because it’s all a bit hazy, but my dad was like why don’t you do the rap thing properly because I was good at poetry and then my mum said wait for her [Cristale] to finish school. So, I waited to finish my education and at the end of sixth form, I started dropping freestyles on social media.

I am really grateful for my dad because he first took me down to Corey’s studio, who is now my manager—he is also related to my siblings so it isl a big family thing which is nice.  Corey gave me his equipment to use and then it all started from there.

What song do you think led to you blowing up and becoming recognised?
I think ‘Morgan’ was the first tune that people took in but the freestyle I did on Headie One and Drake’s ‘Only You’ went viral straight away, it literally has over 100,000 views on Twitter and it  is still getting numbers. 

Talk to me about your most recent cypher with Tiffany Calver for BBC Radio 1Xtra. How was that experience for you?
It was a great experience. Big up Tiffany Calver one hundred times, she’s such a wonderful, wholesome first person to be around. She believes in a lot of people and is somebody that actually stands for change. Everyone that was at the cypher are all very beautiful human beings energy-wise. I’m just glad that I had the opportunity to meet all of them and perform at the cypher. I even met M Huncho before it started because I noticed his mask, I don’t know what he was doing there. He spotted Corey, my manager and he said: Corey motherfucking Johnson and  I said: Corey knows you? I was just like what is going on? Afterwards, I got introduced and I took a picture with him. M Huncho is so motivational man. We spoke and he said: that you’re young, you’re female, and you’re black, you’re gonna have to work ten times harder than a lot of these people who are just getting it handed to them but just don’t give up and stay in your lane. He was giving me proper advice so big up M Huncho.

After the cypher you dropped your first single of 2022 ‘Militant.’ What are your plans for the rest of the year?
I’m still trying to find myself,  learn, and build relationships with my peers because it’s not all about working. Everyone has got a busy lifestyle, but there is no heart in the work if there is no relatability. For example, me and Alana [Maria] basically speak every day and we have yet to get back into the studio, PS [Hitsquad] too because I’ve worked with him and he is just a humble guy. What’s important to me is doing collabs with people and building relationships. This artist lifestyle can get very lonely and it’s not because you don’t have people, you just get to a certain point where you’re building and you wonder whether you can trust people. This year I’ve got an EP coming out, it should be dropping in March. The EP has ‘Morgan’, ‘Merryland’, ‘Militant’ and four other songs on there. At the moment I am just focusing on shooting music videos. But there’s one other thing I want to say, I’m so grateful to God for this whole experience. I have no clue how I’m here.

Follow Cristale here for more and stream her new track ‘Militant’ here.

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