50 Questions With Loyle Carner

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Credit Jack Davison
Loyle CarnerPhotography by Jack Davison

As his personal, political new album Hugo is released, the Mercury-nominated rapper talks about his creative rituals, the future of hip-hop, and why Instagram is a “killer”

Benjamin Gerard Coyle-Larner – better known as Loyle Carner – is the prolific figurehead of South Croydon. At the age of 28, Carner is now acknowledged as one of the heavy hitters in the UK music scene, using his craft as a juggernaut to amplify the issues that matter to him. 

Kicking through the doors of the music industry with a comfort and ease similar to his languorous rapping style, Loyle’s career settled on greener pastures when he was nominated for a Mercury Prize for his fervently informed, lyrical debut album Yesterday’s Gone in 2017. He went on to receive two Brit Award nominations for British Male Solo Artist and British Breakthrough Act the following year.  

Now, Carner has released his latest album, Hugo, which reimagines a more hopeful, nurturing vision for society. “I want the album to be a friend to people in dark times and help offer some comfort,” he says. For Carner, the personal is political – in his songs, he has piloted the turbulence of being a young father, navigating his experience as a multiracial person in Britain, and the fight for racial equity. As a young mixed-raced man in a constantly evolving industry, Carner is finally finding stability. 

Following the release of his new album, Carner took on AnOther’s 50 questions.

1. What three words would you use to describe the process of creating this album? Collaboration, openness and probably bravery.

2. You’ve collaborated with Athian Akec, Jnr Williams & Olivia Deon on this record. Why did you want to work with them specifically? All the people I collaborated with were my friends. They were just around me at the time, and we all had the same shared goals we wanted to achieve.

3. What’s one thing you want people to take away from this album? I want the album to be a friend to people in dark times and to help offer some comfort. That’s all I want.

4. The name of your album is called Hugo. Would you wear Hugo Boss? Yeah ... for the right price.

5. As a rapper, do you have any creative rituals? I like to write when I’m moving. I want to write on my bicycle, or when I’m in the car in my head, and then I come to the studio and record it. So I just put my ideas down when I’m on the move.

6. Do you feel like your career is going towards greener pastures? I think I’m lucky that my career is still going, so I’m just hoping to expand and start to challenge myself in different disciplines.

7. What’s your greatest virtue? Just patience.

8. And what’s your greatest vice? Probably crisps.

9. How’s your relationship with your parents? A lot better than it used to be.

10. Do you believe in God? I don’t know what I believe. I think I’m spiritual in some way, so yeah.

11. Do you believe in aliens? Yeah! Other things are going on. It’d be crazy to think we’re the only people in the universe – it’s so big and complex.

12. Do you believe in fate? Yeah, but I think you make your own.

13. What are you watching on TV at the moment? I just finished watching the new Game of Thrones. That was hard. But [I’ll watch] anything with Stephen Graham in it right now.

14. What part of London are you from? I’m from Croydon, south London.

15. What’s the most Croydon thing about you? Morley’s Chicken. 

“I want the album to be a friend to people in dark times and help offer some comfort” – Loyle Carner

16. Who was the last person you DMed? It was Clint, the guy who runs the Corteiz clothing brand.

17. What was the last thing you took a picture of? The last picture I took was of my son, probably. He was playing his guitar.

18. What was the last song you listened to? Quantum Leap by Roc Marciano.

19. Who are your top artists right now?  Little Simz, Roc Marciano, Sage Elsesser – also known as Navy Blue – and Yves Tumor.

20. What three words would you use to describe your experience as a dad? Humbling, everything and tiring!

21. What was the last film that you watched? I watched Good Will Hunting two nights ago. It’s about a maths genius who’s a school janitor and has suffered many traumas. He gets a therapist who also suffered much trauma, and it’s just a beautiful exploration of the character, what it is to be human.

22. What was the last film that made you cry? That one. It’s just a beautiful story, man. 

23. What was the last thing that changed your mind? I changed my mind about washing dark colours with black clothes like jeans and stuff. My girl used to tell me that they would run, and I was petrified about it, but then I washed them together one time, and it was fine.

24. What would you wear to the Grammys? Nothing. I’ll just turn up naked, probably.

25. Whom would you get to direct a film about your life? Alfonso Cuarón.

26. Whom would you get to play you? Jordan from Rizzle Kicks.

27. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? Just discipline, you know, it’s the route to staying happy and having a fruitful life.

28. What’s the biggest compliment you’ve ever received? Recently, with the release of my album, young kids that looked like me and grew up in the same place I grew up have told me that my music is helping them.

29. What’s the most lavish thing you’ve ever bought for yourself? The most lavish thing so far is a house.

30. If you could bring one law or policy into immediate effect, what would it be? Everyone has to listen to Athian, who is featured on my album.

31. Who’s your favourite person on TikTok or Instagram? Probably the chief J Kenji López-Alt and Kendrick Lamar as well.

32. What are you doing when you’re most happy? Playing football, being outside with my family and friends and being away from my phone. 

33. Would you ever live in the Caribbean? Yeah, I would live in Guyana. 

34. What historical figure would you most like to meet? I would love to meet Malcolm X.

35. What would you ask him? I don’t even know! I would listen and let him speak for hours.

What advice would you give to younger artists? “Don’t think about the numbers. Music is the only art form obsessed with the value in numbers, but younger, emerging artists shouldn’t focus on that” – Loyle Carner

36. Who makes you laugh the most? Right now, it’s just Reels on Instagram. I need to get off that app – Instagram is a killer.

37. Who do you turn to for advice? I turned to my friend Greg Hackett who’s a director.

38. Describe your perfect lazy day. Outside in the sun on the way to the beach where I’ll Deliveroo anything available at the time.

39. What is your most controversial opinion? Pineapple is good on pizza.

40. How do you think your friends would describe you? Extremely annoying but loyal.

41. You run a cooking school called Chilli Con Carner for kids with ADHD. What’s one thing you wish people knew about this condition? Yes, it isn’t easy. But it’s also a beautiful thing. It’s who I am. 

42. How does it feel to be nominated for a Mercury Prize? That was incredible. That was my first album, and I was pretty low on confidence – so it was a nice moment of just being alongside some of the people I look up to.

43. Which football team do you support? Liverpool FC.

44. If you were a villain in a movie, who would you be? I feel like I would be Magneto from X-Men.

45. If you were a superhero, who would you be? Definitely Wolverine.

46. What’s the future of hip-hop? The future is limitless for it. There are so many strands of hip hop now that it has taken over almost every other genre.

47. What gives you peace? Hearing my son sleep.

48. What advice would you give to younger artists? Don’t think about the numbers. Music is the only art form obsessed with the value in numbers, but younger, emerging artists shouldn’t focus on that.

49. Where do you see yourself two years from now? Hopefully, somewhere hot, man.

50. Where do you see yourself 20 years from now? Working with the next generation of eyes and being able to inspire and be an ear and facilitate other people’s creative ideas.

Hugo by Loyle Carner is out now.