Newport rapper Lemfreck shares his second, and by far his most ambitious, project yet today. Divided into three parts, Blood, Sweat & Fears is a pensive, atmospheric project that pulls you into its orbit. Paying special homage to the rising rapper’s Welsh roots, the record also demonstrates there are plenty of sides to Lemfreck ’s sonic craft.
Upon the release of his sophomore album, and for our series on some of the best-emerging talent, we caught up with the young MC and artist to discuss the making of the record, working with Manga Saint Hilare and his huge ambitions as an artist.
Lemfreck, how do you feel having your second album, Blood, Sweat & Fears, out in the world?
Honestly, it’s such a good feeling to be able to share something I’ve worked so hard on. Regardless of performance, I’m one of those artists that will forever create projects because it’s great to pour yourself into something.
Why did you give it that title?
I found that most of the themes I wrote about fell into one of those three categories. The visual aspect also felt right: blood red is the main theme.
In the outro for the opening tune ‘Knives In // An intro’, we hear the line, “I want to make music that’s going to feed souls; I want it to feed people’s souls.” What exactly do you mean by that, and do you think this album achieves that?
That’s my bro Dom James, who is another Welsh artist currently making headway in his genre, but those words sit deep in what we are trying to do as a collective and community: make things that make people feel things. There’s too much art that’s there for no reason. By definition, art is meant to have beauty or emotional power. So if you aren’t making people feel things, you’re essentially not doing your job.
How did the creation of this album compare to that of your 2021 debut, The Pursuit?
I was in a poor mental place when writing The Pursuit, with no idea why and ignoring the issues. Whereas with Blood, Sweat & Fears, I jump into those issues, I don’t ignore my faults – which doesn’t necessarily fix them, but I think that’s the main difference.
Blood, Sweat & Fears is split into three parts; that might seem obvious owing to the title, but why did you opt for that approach?
I’m a very scatty person, so I need that structure in my writing, or I end up writing about nothing. That being said, and I mentioned this earlier, I found everything I was writing about fell into one of those themes. So the feel of the project followed that, and it made sense to give them each a clear home.
The album also has a handful of impressive guest features. What was it like working with Manga Saint Hilare, and what did he bring to the table?
He’s the greatest MC in the UK right now. Honestly, he’s the greatest human. He really didn’t have to do that. It’s not like I was a big name, which could help his career. He genuinely does it for the music. I’m telling you, this guy is a real one.
You’re from Newport, which has a growing scene for MCs but hasn’t always. How do you assess the current scene there for artists like yourselves?
Yeah, there’s some mad talent coming out of Wales in general. I think we have always been there, but the platforms haven’t supported us. It’s a weird one: outside of my close community, there isn’t any support for genres like mine.
I actually blew up in London before Newport, so it’s really hard. But it’s one of those. I’d be complaining if I struggled to break into London, and all my listeners were from Newport, so swings and roundabouts, I guess.
Of the album, you’ve said: “The whole point of [it] is to give a voice to those in our community. There are whole regions within Wales that are surrounded by poverty due to being purely forgotten by those in government. Our biggest fear is that we are never seen or heard.” How did you aim to incorporate this sentiment into the record?
By including noises and voices from Wales in it. 90% of the voice notes, and soundbites are from Welsh people or videos from Wales. I talked a lot to the people around me too, about everything that keeps them uncomfortable and what’s hurting them.
What was the moment you first realised you wanted to be a rapper? And when did you realise you had the skill and talent to be able to pursue it?
I don’t think I’ve ever realised I had the talent to pursue it. To this day, I make music for myself and my close people, so as long as I enjoy it, I’m happy. I’ve always known I wanted to make music, though – from the day I picked up my first instrument.
I saw you perform last year at Other Voices Cardigan, and impressively, you managed to get a room full of church-goers up on their feet and feeling very collected and together. How would you describe a Lemfreck show, and what do you hope people who see you live take away from it?
Exactly that. I want people to forget everything outside that door and be here in the moment, enjoying themselves. Life is hard. I fully feel that, but if you can come to my gig and forget about the noise for just an hour, I think it helps you go again.
What album are you rinsing right now?
I’m a big fan of that Mustafa project. I can’t get my head around how someone can be such a great writer and melodically flawless. Dijon gets rinsed, and fell back in love with Take Care recently. Love an album.
What’s your vision or the goal you’re aspiring to as an artist?
To make people feel something. It sounds so small and easy, but I don’t think people understand its importance. I want to continue to tell the stories of the people important to me. Create things that will outlast me.
And what’s next for you?
World domination. I also have a documentary coming out in October with the BBC. I want to create a photo book for Blood, Sweat & Fears. From there, stay healthy and get through life without a hard heart.
And where can people next see you live?
I’ve got a headliner in London on 31 August. Tickets are still available. The Cardiff headliner is sold out, then headlining the Festival of Voice in October.