“We all have a story to tell,” NSG member Papii Abz explains to Apple Music. “We all bring something to the table—individually and within the collective at the same time. So it’s not NSG if everyone’s not on the song. We all represent greatness.” Roots—the group’s debut mixtape—sees the East Londoners’ spirited, chameleonic rap lend the driving seat to any of its members at any moment. In the group’s earliest days, honesty and compromise led to a larger set of around 15 trimmed down to six—Papii Abz, Kruddz, Mxjib, Mojo, OGD and Dope—helping to solidify a tight-knit bond formed as teenagers, and still evident in the music. The debut tape arrives after “Options”—fused with vibrant bashment breaks and percussive Afrobeat elements—set the crew’s momentum with a six-month chart stay in 2019. It also set expectations high for this tape, while also attracting detractors who tagged NSG one-hit wonders. Roots has plenty of moments that make fools of those people. “We used to sit around and laugh about it,” says Abz. “We had the songs, we had everything. But we knew it was all about the timing. We take our time with things, but it’s always a group decision." Here, OGD, Papii Abz and Mxjib break down their debut mixtape, track by track.
Political Badness (feat. Randy Valentine) OGD: “You know the [US children’s TV show] Arthur song? The theme song? This is kinda based on that. I was using it as a reference when I made the beat, so you’ll be able to hear that. And Randy Valentine is our close guy—a mentor to us all. That's why he's the first guy you hear on the project. People might not really know him, but Randy's been there throughout our journey and our process of creating music, from day one.” Abz: “From the early days! From the J.O.A.T days.”
MCM Abz: “We started this in Amsterdam. We had a show out there, I believe, and we also had a few sessions there, too. Our sound was already crossing over there at this time, so we met up with some artists from the Netherlands. It was a quick trip though—only a few days—but we managed to link up with [Dutch rapper and producer] Yung Felix and few others. Those were some very high days. OGD is my witness: The clouds were purple! But when you’re in Rome, you have to do as the Romans do.”
Lupita OGD: “I remember how I came up with the ‘FUPA’ line on the chorus here. I was on Twitter and this girl—a nice ting, she was embracing her FUPA. I liked that. And the ‘Lupita’ reference is just us embracing black girls. We’re uplifting our black queens: That’s what it all about!“ Abz: “Our black queens, they’re gonna hear this and they’ll love it. It’s dedicated to them, and it’s important in the times we’re in.”
Nonsense (feat. Chip) Mxjib: “We made this in a session with Chip and [London producer] Jae5 before we even planned on putting a project out. I came back to it, listened to it a couple of time and was like: ‘Yeah, this is hard.’ Chip went in on his verse, and he’s always supporting and showing love, so it made sense to put him on here.” Abz: “Chip is a legend in this UK ting, let’s be real. He’s been about since we’ve been in secondary school. I remember him banging from early, and he’s still relevant. It’s an honour to have Chip on here as basically the only rap feature. I don’t know who he is, but I can’t wait for [Mojo’s secondary school teacher] Mr. Wilson to hear Mojo’s line about him. We all went to the same school—five of us—but Mojo went to a different one.”
Tinder Abz: “I feel like we finished this one when we came back from Ghana last year. We had some shows over there, so we all flew out with a whole team. We had a videographer and shot ‘Ourself’ and few others that we’re expecting to drop very soon. We were working there as well as enjoying the culture and everything. But ‘Tinder’ was definitely off the back of our trip to Africa. The concept is about Tinder, but the verses—the guys are just going in, embracing our roots.”
Why Stress Abz: “This is another heavily African-influenced vibe. I feel like it’s a few years old, but I feel like the timing is so key for us, and that’s the beauty of it here—OGD is always producing in the studio and cooking up songs. That gives us more options to work with and also puts less pressure on us. When you always have multiple to choose from, you can then decide how you want to space them out and what kind of strategy you're going for. So regardless of how long we were sitting on this, it really fits onto this project.”
Zanotti Abz: “I remember getting the mastered version back and I had this on repeat for weeks. It’s a banger! And Jae5, his production game is so serious, man—he went crazy on this one. You could say it’s a little different, the sound, but I think it’s still in our lane, it’s just a more chilled and laidback vibe.”
Porsche Abz: “This one is spoiling everywhere right now. I'm telling you, when you're next out, if you're in a club or a really dark setting and this comes on, it'll be crazy. Honestly, it's a shame we haven’t performed this yet, but trust me, the wait will be worth it. Obviously, with everything else going on right now, dealing with that properly is the main thing for everyone, but when the lockdown is over we'll get back and focus on shelling it everywhere.” OGD: “We filmed the video for this in a warehouse unit, somewhere out in West London. It was just a really long day of shooting, and smoking. I had to bill a zoot after every shot!”
Expensive Abz: “This is another dangerous one. Big up [UK producer] Levi Lennox, he’s hard. It’s a little different, but whenever we get in with producers they know, ‘All right, it’s NSG, I need to come up with some new sounds and something a little bit different for them,’ and it was the same case with Levi. The guy’s just crazy, man. We got a goods few records done with him, but again this one made the most sense for the project.”
dRuNk gUiTaR Mxjib: “You need to know that we were drunk when we made this, and you’re gonna feel this when you’re in the club drunk too.” Abz: “The night we recorded this we were coming from a 187 Mob party and we had a session with Legendury Beatz afterwards. We got there—everyone was drunk, and it was one of the first songs we made. We heard the beat and everyone went in individually laying down melodies. It was so hard, man.” OGD: “That was also the same day we shot the video for ‘Trust Issues’. We just finished shooting that earlier on, so overall it was a crazy day.”
Jorja OGD: “This might be the oldest song on the project. It’s from about three years back, too. It’s like a ballad but it also has a Caribbean influence on it too.” Abz: “We’ve been waiting for a while to drop this. Obviously because of the title people might think it’s dedicated to Jorja Smith, I mean, you can think that! Truth be told, the guys—like a lot of the mandem around the world—think she’s beautiful. But shout out to Jorja and all the Jorjas worldwide.”
Samba Abz: “This was another fun session. We don’t really have a set way of recording our music: We run the beat and anyone with an idea can just go straight in. And then normally while we're listening back we rearrange, sometimes we'll even leave it as it is because that's the organic vibes we like.” Mxjib: “This one’s jumpy! It’s just that feeling like we’ve had the chemistry on point in the group and it’s been like that since day one.”
Grandad Mxjib: “This is us letting everyone know there’s a few fathers out there, but we’re the grandads in this ting.” Abz: “If you look at the sounds in the game now, it’s clear we’re the grandads. We’re just here to inspire really and leave our legacy. When you hear a certain sound, you instantly think of NSG, and so when people take onto that and make it into their own, it's like our job's done and we've inspired.”
Ourself Abz: “We all know the trials and tribulations we went through to get here, and this is a celebration of us building our foundations independently. We can be proud of what we’ve done so far. It’s good to celebrate. I think it sunk in way more performing this back home in Ghana. It just felt right. If I could give anyone advice, it would be to just understand that eventually there will be people interested in what you're doing because it's unique, it's you, and you won't be doing what everyone else is doing.”
Roots Abz: “If you look at it closely, ‘Roots’ is basically the outro before getting into everything you’ve heard before. From what OGD is saying on the hook about being ‘born to be a winner', that’s something we’ve always been told since we were really young by our parents and our family members, and we’re just talking about the things we have a true passion for. Just keeping it to our roots.” Mxjib: “The message here is ‘don’t conform’ and ‘be who you wanna be’.”
Trust Issues Abz: “Around the same time we recorded ‘dRuNk gUiTaR’ we laid this one too. That was a while back. A year or so maybe. It's an NSG sound, but a different kind of sound. When we performed back home they understood us—it's almost like they feel us more because they get it, you know? We drop bits of Nigerian and Ghanaian lingo in the tracks, but we don't force it, that all happens naturally anyway when we’re communicating with each other in our day-to-day lives. It's not something we plan to do to connect with Africans or anything like that. We don't have to, we already do so on a daily basis.”
OT Bop OGD: “We knew this one was gonna be a monster before we released it because of the reaction we got from everyone we played it to. Plus it went viral before it came out. Everyone wanted this song before it came out. It trended twice on Twitter before it was released, so we knew, for sure, it was a monster before it dropped.”
Options (feat. Tion Wayne) Mxjib: “The first day Tion came out of prison, we had a meeting with our lawyer and we saw him there at the office. It was literally a couple of hours after he came out and he told us he was down to link up and make a banger, and we left it at that.” Abz: “We were all relatively known to each other from back in the day when we doing Afrobeats and Tion was dropping verses for the Afrobeats guys too. We were all in that uni scene together. So it was on the Hardy [Caprio] tour where he first played us back his verse and we all went crazy on the tour bus. We knew the song was gonna do something. Again, just from people’s reactions, it was so different. We shot some of the video at Hardy’s show in Kentish Town and they were all going nuts. We played just a snippet and we instantly knew that this one was special. We dropped ‘Options’ in November, and then around December and January, the holiday period, we had families doing the ‘Options’ dance. We had mums and aunties, from all over the world. Loads of videos going round and getting the numbers. It was sensational times.”


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