South London rapper Enny: “Consciousness is common sense”

The South London rapper on skipping industry politics and not being put in a box

“I used to think artists have five-year plans. But I think perceptions change, and things that you want change.” For the pensive Enny, longevity is certainly on the cards – but it has to be on her own terms. We get to the bottom of what those terms are in the middle of a busy week for the Thamesmead rapper, who, at the time of our meeting, is gearing up for the release of her second EP, We Go Again. Yet it seems like just another day for Enny as we speak in East London’s Root 73 studio, where the bulk of her recording takes place. 

Over the last few years, she has demonstrated the strength and effectiveness of a unique artist. Her breakout tracks speak firmly from the heart, championing local community and Black women while pondering the incalculable grey areas of adulthood. From her first SoundCloud freestyles onwards, Enny has established a niche that differs from the melting pot of many other rising UK rap stars.

At first, she wanted to be a singer. It makes sense once we delve into her church roots, growing up in a Christian household where the likes of Thankful by contemporary gospel duo Mary Mary were amongst the first records she heard. When gospel music wasn’t playing, her siblings would make mixes that would go on to shape her interest in grime and hip hop. Despite having shifted her focus to rapping since that time, Enny’s music still incorporates tender vocals and self-sung neo soul hooks.

“It’s like a lazy way of not committing to singing,” she says of this hybrid approach, which she partly developed during secondary school with music-minded friends. I try to give her more credit on her singing than she’ll take; she can certainly hold a note, as demonstrated on more intimate tracks like recent single ‘Champagne Problems’. 

Having spent her early years of music-making refining her voice, when Enny began putting out music officially and working with her close friend and producer Paya, she quit her job. “It felt more intentional,” she says. “Prior to that it was just about having fun and thinking, ‘I have a dream!’” Yet despite her humility, people had been aware of her potential for a long time already. At music school, one teacher wanted to take her talents and push her to play the keyboard. “I was learning to play off the feeling of music and sounds,” she says. “The next level to that would have been how to theoretically understand it. So I think people saw I had potential to go there just from having the understanding of the ‘air’ of music.”

Once she’d landed on this sense of intention, with Paya by her side, her lyrical style evolved quickly too. Enny knows her way around a verse like a second home. The flows are crisp, the subject matter bold, raw emotion is rooted in the wet soil of hip hop. She proudly wears the title of ‘a rapper’s rapper’, though she is mindful of giving off a cocky impression. “I should probably should stop saying that,” she says. “When I say I’m a rapper’s rapper, I say that as a proper fan of rap lyricism. But it’s not to say that all rappers love me – it’s just something I really appreciate.”

Her material has widely been billed as ‘conscious’ and ‘political’; in reality, she’s just sharing what’s on her mind. “Sometimes I feel like we have this thing where if someone calls you a conscious rapper you’ll be like, ‘I ain’t a conscious rapper! They want to put me in a box!’” she says flippantly. To Enny, the content is not that deep; she references everyday matters that affect certain communities – she’s not out here breaking down metaphysical matters through her third eye. 

“Consciousness is common sense,” she says. “The fact that people define consciousness as this whole other thing throws me off because it’s a basic concept. My manager sent me the definition of ‘conscious’ and it literally just means being aware of one’s surroundings. So yeah, I am aware of my surroundings.”

At this point, everything possible has already been said about Enny’s 2020 breakout single ‘Peng Black Girls’ featuring Amia Brave, and the accompanying remix with Jorja Smith. Instead of retreading old ground, I ask whether she feels the song is a classic yet, to which she has a humble reply. “I don’t know. I don’t know what a classic means. I don’t think it’s for us to determine what a classic is, I think time defines what a classic is. I just feel it was a beautiful moment for me and for people.” 

The song’s impact cannot be understated; it had an instant resonance with Black British women, and alongside Bashy’s ‘Black Boys’ and Dave’s ‘Black’ it makes a trifecta of essential, correlative statements, all released at similar career points by rising artists speaking to the various realities of Black British life. Enny is just glad it’s a song that came about organically and connected with its intended audience naturally. “Life will do whatever life’s gonna do,” she says. “I’m not going to try and make a song to cultivate this or do that. I just think it is what it is. I can just appreciate it for what it is, the message and what it’s done so far.”

Her upbringing in Thamesmead, south London was foundational to the person she is today. It’s where she formed her perspective on the world – but her views changed when she branched out of her home neighbourhood.

“I feel like I outgrew the ‘What ends you repping?’ part of my life,” she says. This is a counterpoint to the localist competitiveness that exists between north, south, east and west London, and which of the four makes the best music. Realistically, each quadrant of the city boasts talented artists. Representing the south, Enny mentions Stormzy, Ms Banks and Shaybo as leading torchbearers, and she deserves to be on that list too. 

 Time, place and age have come up as common themes in her music, namely in her debut EP, Under Twenty Five. Navigating adulthood is never easy; there’s no rulebook that can dictate where the tide will take you, particularly for the 20-or-so-year-old searching for their purpose in life. For Enny, it’s been no different, and having feared the pressures of turning 25 she has reached an eventual stage of acceptance of what getting older means to her. “I think we’re all at some point afraid of ageing,” she acknowledges. “But I don’t think about it anymore. The older I’m getting, the more I’m seeing the world in a different space. It’s like one of my glands has fully developed.

“I reckon if I wasn’t doing music, and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do, I’d probably feel the pressures of thirty approaching,” she says, ready to welcome the decade everyone else seems to push away. “It just seems like something cool happens there! It’s inevitable. The only way to escape is by dying, so embrace it.”

Enny’s catalogue up to this point is limited; two EPs and some loose singles suggesting she’s particular with the material she puts out. It’s a testament to her perfectionist approach. Some artists riddle through thirty-minute freestyles and sleep in the studio. Others, like Enny, are more calculated, with a distaste for hitting up the studio unprepared. She’s protective of her creative flow, opting for a natural, organic approach rather than chasing numbers and engagement. I ask whether she’s planning to make an album – or whether she’s avoiding it. 

“I used to feel like I’ll just do EPs forever,” she says. “Then I realised I’ll know when I’ll be ready to make an album.” The work that’s out so far feels like products of specific creative moments; brief snapshots of Enny’s thoughts and feelings in the present. She refers to her latest 6-track release, We Go Again, as a ‘care package’ rather than a mixtape or EP, a label that’s reflective of the project’s intimacy. She is clearly aware of the significance an album holds, and the way such a format must be executed. 

This choosy nature stems from how personal Enny’s music can get. “I’m conscious of oversharing,” she accepts, acknowledging it comes with the territory of what’s true to herself. “It might be cringey to listen back and be like, ‘Why did I share that?’, but it was the only way I was going to put out music, so it’s either that or I put out instrumentals!” I wonder what it must be like for an artist to perform songs based on a contextual set of emotions. What if those emotions expire and you’re left with songs out of touch with your current self? This is something Enny’s experienced more recently than I expected – with We Go Again. “When I listen to the songs on the project, I don’t relate to them any more. Because it’s a period I’m no longer in. I’m about to find out what that dissonance is like when I perform them.”

Enny tells me she finds comfort in reclusion, and that the limelight is not an attractive prospect for her. It makes me question how that introversion affects her duties as an artist. “I don’t like being in spaces with people,” she says. “Unless it’s a big boy thing, I’m not gonna go. It just makes me anxious, and it’s the same faces and greetings. I’ve only got two more of those left in me.” It’s a statement that circles back to her pure fixation on music. Nothing can be forced in her process; she’d rather link up with just a couple of friends, act on impulse, and skip the industry politics.