Editors' Notes “Everything was stripped away from me,” Unknown T tells Apple Music. “I’ve been waiting to set the record straight for a while now about everything and I’ve had to wait. I’ve had to hear slander and lies on my name and my character.” To accurately measure the loss described by the London MC (real name Daniel Lena), you’d have to first trip back to 2018, where he landed one of the surprise hits of the year with ‘Homerton B’ and helped usher in drill’s status as the sound of the UK streets. Pairing wildly imaginative bars with a gruff, deep-voiced delivery, the east Londoner unearthed a style that suggested he held all the keys to a glittering future. However, eight months after his arrival, he was arrested and charged with murder and violent disorder. Consistently maintaining his innocence while remanded in custody, Lena was cleared of all charges in February 2020. Rise Above Hate is a deep-coloured and courageous exploration of his journey piecing together the threads of what happened to him. “The music is the best way I know how to get things off my chest whenever I’m going through it,” he says. “If it wasn’t for that I’m not sure where I’d be or how I would have coped. I know who I am so that was the message to myself the whole time. To just keep my head above all the bullshit and eventually rise above and beyond it all.” Here, Unknown T guides you through his debut release, track by track.

Steppy
“I wanted to start the tape off with ‘Steppy’ because it takes me right back to the start of this. I didn’t know for sure it would be used as the intro but I see it as the start of me dealing with this situation through music, so it made sense. It was in the cell on the night I was arrested. That night, no lie, that’s when I started writing ‘Steppy’. All of the anger, the hurt and the confusion that was inside of me at the time, I was putting it all into the bars. When I was released on bail conditions, I called my manager and said, ‘Yo, I need to get all of this energy out of me now!’ I got to the studio and laid this.”

Deh Deh
“This song’s a reflection of my area. Homerton is one of those areas where, even though it’s small, there’s also that sense of community. Also, in another sense, it’s still different and fragmented wherever you go. I drew up the concept of the video, so if you pay attention, you can see I tried to portray some of that there. The easiest way to explain ‘Deh Deh’? It’s a yard ting. It’s like a point of direction.”

Addicts (feat. M Huncho)
“I recorded this in Paris with M Huncho and we recorded non-stop out there. All day, all night. Just baking off and working and I really got to know the real Huncho, away from the music. It was easy from then. I enjoy making music, now it just comes naturally to us. I wanted to do something a little different because I feel like the project couldn’t have just been drill, drill, drill the whole way, and this song is part of what I really love to do with my raps. I love to add that imagery and it was all tied into the concepts here.”

Tug Boy 
“I wrote this just before I went to prison and I remember how the flow came to me. It’s always been within me, this style, even when I went away, and I was working on it and adapting it. I had the session with the producer, 169. I was going through his beats and I caught a vibe to this one and immediately started building the song. The session’s memorable to me because Dave ended up coming by and we all got to sit down and have some grown conversation that day.”

Prison
“A day before I had to go to court, I went to the studio and made this. I said to myself: ‘Look, you might have to go away for a bit so let’s get in and get these emotions out.’ It was almost like they wanted to hold me back because they could see my potential and they could see how close I was and that’s the picture I tried to paint. I love to put little details in my lyrics and really get to that deep imagery. When I listen to this, obviously, it brings back memories of my time there and it’s not a nice place, prison. It’s a cold place and that’s why it hurts to see what happens when you’re still trapped in the system and you can still be recalled for anything. It hurts when I see what’s happening to Digga D and so many others. I’ll use my voice and my story to really shed light on all of that.”

Fresh Home
“I was aware of the stories about me reaching the papers the whole time I was inside and my legal team would update me on the internet and press talk. I just kept my faith up and waited for my day I was free. This tune is the celebration of that. I’ve had situations in my life prior that have made me realise the presence of God but my trial was like the confirmation. There is a God out there, because miracles don’t happen twice. Every single person, even if you don’t know their life, I can tell you they’ve experienced God in some way that they can’t properly explain or quantify.”

Main Squeeze (feat. Young T & Bugsey) 
“I really rate Young T & Bugsey for how they worked with me on this track. We were going back and forth on it and they were just real with me. I was trying to do the vocal thing at first but they made me understand it’s not about trying a Young T & Bugsey ting on an Unknown T track. So I changed up my verse. It was simple advice but it worked for the track. Those guys are very underrated, and I feel like if they were from south London, they’d get twice as much recognition as they do. So I’m happy to see their success and really get their shine on Billboard this year.”

Jail Call
“Maybe once or twice a day when you’re inside, you’ve got a 10-minute call—depending on the prison—and, obviously, it has to be a collect call. So this is a recording of a convo with my girl. She really held me down the whole time and I’m just preparing her here for the worst-case scenario.”

SS Interlude 
“This carries it on from the skit and it’s like a goodbye to my girl. When I was writing this in prison, obviously, at that time coming home wasn’t 100 per cent. It’s tough when you know you’re in a strong, stable relationship but it’s the system that’s gonna end up breaking you apart. We already know what happens to innocent people in this system. So this was to say if worst comes to worst: go and live your life. Be happy even if I’m not around. Subliminally, I’d say it was also a message for my own mental health too. I didn’t even really want fans or anyone writing to me because I knew how hard it would get for me.”

LV (feat. Young Adz)
“When we made this Adz was already at the studio with the producer, Remedee, and he didn’t know I was about to pull up, so Rem really helped to make that connection. He already had the tune set too, so big him up for helping to pattern that and play the middle man. I definitely wanted to have something on here about the fly fashion and style and it’s obviously something I’m into. I’ve shot a few campaigns with brands like Trapstar and Places + Faces. It’s definitely something I would want to get into more but I’m fully on music right now.”

Mortal Kombat
“This is a tune that people have been wanting for a while. From back in the day, before I was established and I was just grinding. When I made this, that night I was flexing with Not3s and Nana Rogues in the studio. They told me to just anticipate the buzz, put a bit out and give it to the fans. I dropped the snippet and everything went mad. From then I knew this is something the fans want so I just needed to find the right time to give it to them. Now it’s time. What I’ve learnt so far in this game, is that the right time to drop music really truly is when the Olympic torch is with you. You get me? How it goes around and around but there’s only one. Naturally, in the scene, the heat shifts. So when the eyes are on you, you’ve got to keep releasing and coming hard and that’s how you’ve got to keep it. When I was fresh home that’s what I was on. I just kept on dropping. ‘Squeeze & Buss’, ‘Dumpa’, a remix here, a tune here, GRM Daily Duppy... you know? I’m back and I’m in everyone’s faces. That’s the way you got to keep it with your artistry. If you slip, there’s always a few who want to take your spot.”

Leave dat Trap (feat. AJ Tracey)
“When this tune dropped last year, it was building up nicely after my first single and the numbers were looking similar until I was arrested. People forget that. As an artist, that was painful to have that taken away from me. But big up AJ Tracey, man! AJ was showing me love from early. He was rating my music and supporting me and it meant a lot because he’s established. From the jump, he showed organic love and continued to when I went jail.”

Squeeze & Buss
“I made this when I came out. If you look at the tracklist from ‘Fresh Home’ onwards, it’s my life from the time I was released. It’s expressed through the music and the styles that I’m using. I’m keeping it as trill as it is. I gave the audience what they want. The energy and the pain behind this song actually reflects that. The way I’ve been stigmatised, this is me saying, ‘Fuck it’, now. This is how they labelled me, so you know what? This is what I’ll give to you. It was trending on Twitter two nights in a row when it played on No Signal Radio. I’ve trended more times than I have fingers now! Big up the fans.”

One Time
“DJ Swish produced this one. He’s from America but we linked up out in France at an artist camp. It was a camp for artists from different countries to connect and write together. I had a session with Swish and also M Huncho and Headie One. Overall the camp was really useful for me and it helped my writing. That was the first time being around guys like Headie, and Huncho. I’m in the younger age group but I saw it as an opportunity for me to work hard and see how the older guys do it. When I’m in those situations, the best way for me is just being myself. I don’t have an ego when I’m in the studio. When man’s in the studio, I’m in my own bubble, and if it’s lit, then it’s lit.”

AVEN9ERS (feat. KO & V9)
“Recently I’ve been locking in a lot more with the crew and we’ve been recording. We know it’s what the fans really want and it’s what they’ve been waiting on but we don’t wanna give out too much honestly. They’re waiting on that tape from us as a trio, but we’re not stressing—we’re taking our time. Between us the chemistry has always been great, and it’s organic. If I think up an idea, we’ll just go with that, but then the next day, it could come from V, or it could be K. It's like a relay baton.”

Ambition
“I made this before I went to jail and I wanted this to be the final track to send a message out. Over the years, as my life has changed, so have my ambitions so I wanted to tell the younger generation around me to stay focused on their dreams and ambitions in life. It’s a little something different from me but I think it’s good to end on a positive and motivational note. I didn’t grow up wanting to be rapper, it was just what I was doing at that time. But when ‘Homerton B’ blew up it changed my life and it’s opened my eyes to bigger things and new experiences. Now I’m reaching for the skies because there’s no limits to this. I’ve been to the edge and back.”

SONG
Steppy
1
2:33
 
Deh Deh
2
3:47
 
Addicts (feat. M Huncho)
3
3:37
 
Tug Boy
4
2:04
 
Prison
5
3:19
 
Fresh Home
6
3:07
 
Main Squeeze (feat. Young T & Bugsey)
7
3:04
 
Jail Call (Skit)
8
0:28
 
SS Interlude
9
1:53
 
LV (feat. Young Adz)
10
2:34
 
Mortal Kombat
11
2:53
 
Leave Dat Trap (feat. AJ Tracey)
12
3:21
 
Squeeze & Buss
13
3:21
 
One Time
14
2:44
 
AVEN9ERS
15
3:22
 
Ambition
16
2:32
 

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