We exit Burberry and head towards Prada on Old Bond Street, past a gaggle of wealthy teenagers and two immaculately coiffured ladies being helped into a car by their chauffeur. It’s an uncharacteristically mild October day, and businessmen are visibly flushed in their bespoke suits as they plough past us. A chrome Lamborghini cruises past, driven by a man in his 50s. While my default response is to roll my eyes, Jimothy is delighted. “He looked so happy,” he smiles, as it vanishes around the corner, “I love it!”
Jimothy’s parents split when he was barely one, and he, his sister and brother were raised by their mother. They lived in Primrose Hill, a notoriously well-heeled enclave of Camden, at the top of Regent’s Park. “The council gave us the flat in Primrose Hill thirty years ago, so it’s all a blessing,” he says, gauging my surprise. “See, this is the funny thing: the way I talk, the way I walk, the way I dress, where I live – people are convinced I’m rich. But I talk like this because I’ve been around lots of posh kids, and because it’s a better way of talking.
“And of course, my mum’s from Spain so she has class. So she’ll be poor but she’ll also be dressed like a rich woman, and the house will look well designed even though it’s a council house. A lot of people have money but they have no class. A lot of people have money but they don’t know how to dress. Do you know what I mean? Money doesn’t mean anything.”
He mixed with affluent kids at the local park from a young age, only to be separated when they went to private school. When they hit their teens, Jimothy invited himself along to their house parties, and his socialising then snowballed to the point where he was hanging out almost exclusively with rich people. “Literally, I don’t have a single friend in my situation, living in a council house,” he says, shaking his head. “It makes me sad sometimes. But if it wasn’t for those friends I wouldn’t be the person I am now.”
I wonder if Jimothy ever felt intimidated by his friends’ wealth. “Definitely,” he nods. “At first I was very insecure about it. But that was when I was 13 and dressed in a certain way, and all the other kids would be dressed really smart. They would make me feel really bad. The funny thing is, now I’m the one dressed really smart, and they’re dressed like they’re from a council house. They go to private school, and they’re trying to dress like a roadman, trying to dress like a hood kid.”
While there was once an element of Jimothy dressing to deliberately confound people’s preconceptions, he now feels conflicted about being mistaken for a rich kid. “The reason why it hurts my feelings so much – and no offence, because I love rich kids – is they all know how to play the piano. Their parents could afford to lend them a decent amount of money or a car for their music videos. They could start a career easier than someone with not much money. Me, I literally started with nothing. It was all me, me, me, me, me. So when people think [I’m a rich kid] it implies I didn’t work for anything; that it was given to me. And that really, really disrespects me, my family, everything.”
If Jimothy was initially a fish out of water in his friendship group, he felt even more out of place at the special school he attended from the age of 13, due to his dyslexia and dyscalculia. The way he tells it, he knew he didn’t belong there but stayed because the work was easy. Had he left, he might never have pursued music.
“At the special school there are no kids with insecurities,” he explains. “So I wasn’t shy to write a song and put it out there. I wasn’t shy to make a music video. That school made me do music, basically. And the work was easy but that was freeing. That school gave me a free-thinking mentality and a higher consciousness.”
In some respects, he believes the school protected him. “It did get to a point where it was then scary to go to a mainstream school. Because I thought to myself, actually, if I go to a mainstream school and someone laughs at me for dyslexia, or for my parents having always been living off benefits, or for not having a father figure, I don’t know how I would react to that. [I don’t know] whether I would fight them, whether I would then not go to school and end up on the streets selling drugs. If I went to a mainstream school – and it sounds really harsh and kind of depressing, but it’s true – but if I went to a mainstream school I’d either be dead or I’d be prison. And that’s why I always say with my songs that Jimothy is blessed.”