With his new album, At Your Inconvenience, just released, Professor Green shows Harry Guerin that he can cram just as many words into a 15-minute interview as he does on a record. Here are Green's thoughts on each album track.
At Your Inconvenience
Over a sleazy groove, Green lets rip at the media merry-go-round, raps his own praises, reveals a fascination with Caroline Flack and namechecks Anna Kournikova, Wayne Rooney, John Terry and Wayne Bridge, among others. None will be best pleased.
Professor Green: A state of my world address. The album title and track title are an ode to not conforming and doing things in my own way, and voicing my boredom at some of the more monotonous parts of what I do, but in a really tongue-in-cheek manner. You have this weird image of what this job entails and it's very different when you get into it and it starts going well. I mention a few people - social commentary!
Great guitar riff, fat beats, a gang-style chorus and the news that "the future's bright, the future's Green".
PG: It's one of my favourites. Two producers from New York came up with the guitars and I came up with everything around it - all the melodies, the silliness. It just felt like a really good place for me to open up and have fun. As much as I'm into songwriting, rapping's still a massive part of that and messing 'round with the flow. With the success of the first album, and also the recording process, I was able to really find my voice - not just in how I approached the recording, but also getting my ideas across.
Read All About It
On one of the songs of the year, Green shows new depths as he reflects on death and relationships, with longtime collaborator Emeli Sandé providing a stunning counterpoint to his rapping.
PG: There was no-one else who I had in mind but Emeli to convey that emotion. She's incredible. I love the fact that she still has a really dark edge to everything she does. We actually collaborated on four songs on this album, which is more than I've ever worked with any one person. We weren't in the studio together this time 'round, which is funny, because, bless her, she had to decipher my wailings when I changed the melody for the last chorus. I think I was in Ibiza and I was trying to sing it down the phone at half-one in the morning. But, bless her, she spent time on it and she nailed it.
A real boy-meets-girl floor filler with a jungle beat and guest vocalist Luciana delivering an instantly addictive chorus.
PG: I'm a junglist at heart - that was the first kind of music I ever got into. All the olders in my flats used to listen to jungle and obviously they were out raving, going to spot parties, doing all sorts. I was just out on the estate; I was too young for all that. This was the one track my A&R wasn't too keen on but everyone else loved it and I love it.
Green puts his spin on the Pixies' classic Where Is My Mind? Oddly, it works.
PG: I love the Pixies song. There was a live session I was doing for The Sun newspaper and I found out at midnight the night before that I had to do a cover. So I picked Where Is My Mind?. It was the first song that came to mind. I told my band, who managed to get two hours of rehearsals in, and I had to stay up until three in the morning to write my verses and then remember them. Normally, I do things in my head - after I've recorded a song I know it off by heart. But I didn't have the opportunity to record it so I just had to go down there and do it. It got such a good response. I didn't think we'd ever clear the sample and I didn't really want any samples on this record. But we recorded it and we said: 'Let's just see what happens'. The Pixies loved it and they cleared it - the only stipulation was that we had to change the title.
A night-won't-end song where Green tells us he was last seen "partying with Charlie Sheen". The tempo is high and the sultry vocals come from Ruth-Anne.
PG: It's that whole breakbeat thing. I'm not really into the housey side of things - if I do anything that leans towards dance it's going to be dubstep or breaking because they're my roots. That was written with Ruth-Anne, who I think is from Dublin. She's wicked. I met her through [singer-songwriter] Ed Drewett. That song for me was a no-brainer.
How Many Moons
Begins like some big production ballad before morphing into a jagged dubstep rant with Green in potty mouth mode.
PG: I had the words "how many moons, how many mornings" written in my little idea book for ages and it was going to be something really meaningful and thoughtful. Then I heard the melody and I put that spin on it: 'How long have I got until I've got no breath left in me? Whatever time I do have, I'm going to be a pain in the arse with every other rapper out there!'
One of the album standouts - Arthurian legend meets Hackney as Green finds a great foil for the future in American vocalist Sierra Kusterbeck.
PG: The whole thing with this record, the major progression, is the live band. We did bits of it on the first album but we never really had the time. With this record I've been touring with a live band for over a year and I just wanted the same friends to play things differently, to play things out, extend things, change things on the record as we did on the live show. Emeli came to me with that chorus and I loved it. It would've been easy to just do what most rappers do and chat a whole load of bravado that didn't really mean anything to anyone. But I really dug my heels in and got into the concept. That was hard because I had to make sense of Arthur and his sword and Avalon - which is the place he retreated to when he was injured - and the whole Lady of the Lake thing. I had to make that make sense to everyone else, so that took me a while to write. But I think spending the time on it really made it into the song it is.
Green again shows how soulful he can be with the story of a rape survivor. Coldplay-style piano, a shuffling beat and beautiful vocals from Emeli Sandé and Thomas Jules.
PG: This is what happens when me and Emeli get together. Astronaut for me is a song that I really open up on and it shows a different side to me and kind of puts me in a different place to a lot of my peers. It didn't take me that long to write. I was in the studio and it just kind of came out. It's weird, for me, it's all about the day - the air has to be right. I can't go into the studio and record Astronaut when I feel like recording Into the Ground. It's just all about the day and it frustrates people sometimes because they think I'm not doing any work. Would I dispense with the jokes on the next album? I don't know. I kind of feel I'm veering in that direction, but it would have to happen naturally.
A return to rap and the price of becoming public property.
PG: I think that was the beautiful thing about making this album: I was going through changes and a lot of the songs and the lyrics represent that, but in a relatable way. Doll was one of the scariest sessions I had because it was with Eric Hudson, who had produced Flashing Lights for Kanye West, You kind of have a preconception of how a lot of Americans will be; he wasn't like that at all. It was one of the best sessions on the album. In four hours we had that song.
Never Be a Right Time
Green goes gooey with a song that recalls PM Dawn's Set Adrift on Memory Bliss and should age just as well.
PG: I had the idea for ages. Ed [Drewitt, co-vocalist] was on tour with me so I go Ed to sing it because when I was singing it I couldn't really make sense of it and it sounded really good once he did. Then we eventually got in the studio and we did Never Be a Right Time and Today I Cried in the same day. It's not about any one person - it takes different parts of different relationships. I still find that intimacy [on records] easy and I think it's the most important part of music. The only artists I ever really attach myself to and I really got into were honest and open. They gave me something to listen to and understand and be intrigued by. They never gave you everything, but enough to really keep you interested.
Today I Cried
Low-slung guitars and introspection as Green looks back on becoming a success and the unexpected emotions that came with it.
PG: I was going through this really weird stage where everyone was constantly telling me: 'You must be over the moon. You must be so excited. You must be so happy'. And I didn't say I wasn't, but inside I was asking: 'Why I'm I not? I definitely should be. I don't want to seem ungrateful. What's wrong with me?' I was trying to figure out how to encapsulate it and that's when I got the lyric: "Today I cried and I don't know why". Writing that song helped me to understand what was going on inside my head. I'm in a much, much better place than I was - I've still got a little way to go.
Spooky rap and revenge fantasy with Honeycutt and Royce Da 5' 9 the accomplices.
PG: I was ill when I was sent that by DJ Khalil from America. I was sick as a dog in the arse end of nowhere - Mayrhofen. I was in pieces and everyone was out having a good time. I was sweating like I was dying. I got that beat and straight away I was like [claps hands]: 'Love this!' I had my verse straight away. So that was a good time - a silver lining on an otherwise very grey cloud.
Green gets his money's worth out of the Heritage Orchestra's string section on a song which is both tender and tough in its treatment of depression. Guaranteed to feature on countless TV shows.
PG: I worked with the Heritage Orchestra on the first album and also we performed with them at Somerset House when I had them come on for the encore. The cellos just get me. I just love instrumentation; I don't think you can beat it. There's only so much you can do with synths. This needed the orchestra to make it as dramatic as it needed to be. You can't beat the thrill of watching them do it in the studio. I got to sit in on the Read All About It session at Abbey Road - you just get lost in it.
Into the Ground
Green closes the album with an upbeat, ska-influenced track on which he lampoons the competition, and just about everyone else. He also sets up album number three with the line: "I may contradict myself as I change and grow."
PG: I like my ska. It's a massive part of British music - from UB40 to Lily Allen, it's played a huge part. I went out on an emotional trip on the last record and this time I just wanted to go for the neck. It's probably the most attacking song on the album. There mightn't be a joke on the next album; I might be completely different. If you want to grow as a person you have to be willing to contradict yourself, because you change. And as you change, you grow.