Scribz Riley is here to prove he’s just as talented recording music as he is producing. The 26-year-old has produced for some of the game’s hottest artists, including Cardi B’s “Ring,” H.E.R.’s “Lights On,” Khalid’s “Winter” and Chris Brown’s “If You’re Down.” Hailing from East London but travelling back and forth between Los Angeles, Riley has already won two Grammy awards in his journey — and he doesn’t plan on stopping.
Riley debuts his new sound as a beautiful blend of R&B and hip-hop, creating something refreshing and unique to his growing fanbase. He states, “It’s been a long journey, but it’s been a sick one. I’m still on the journey, taking it all in as I go in.”
With that comes his debut, compelling and polished single titled “East Side,” via Epic Records. The record is paired with a cinematic visual, paying tribute to his hometown that made him the man he is today. Most recently, he followed it up with his newest release titled “Mandy.” Flaunt caught up with Scribz via Zoom to discuss how he got his start, songwriting with the elites, working with Headie One, new single “Mandy,” and more!
Your song “East Side” pays homage to your home, talk about your roots in East London.
“East Side” pays homage to where I’m from. East London has been a part of me since childhood, the wave with music has been a big impact on my life and career. There’s a genre called grime, I grew up in the era of when that started. I started by emceeing before I was producing or making beats. My first musical experience started from there, what got me interested in music. Started listening to different types of music, slowly it morphed into what it is now. That’s been a part of it. I was in different grime crews, trying to find my way in music. I have to pay homage and let everybody know where I’m from. Spent so much time in Los Angeles, I didn’t want there to be any confusion. I’m definitely from East London.
The visual’s dope, who’s idea was it to have you float?
I was working with these two directors from the UK, Savannah and Hector. I had the song and I thought “something crazy needs to happen in the video.” We did research on what could be crazy, then Hector called me and said “I have this idea. It sounds crazy but I imagine you and your consciousness floating through your state.” I said “let’s do it!” Savannah came through on the shoot and brought the idea to life.
Biggest influences growing up in East London? I know the grime scene was a big influence for you.
A lot of grime MCs went to my school, they were in the years above me. Break time, lunch time, seeing them in the playground rapping was definitely one of the first influences in my musical journey. Going to church, looking to pick up instruments. Being in London in general, it’s a multicultural place. Being constantly inspired by different cultures and different people, life in itself to be honest. Musically away from grime, I’ve always admired Kanye West for his transition from producer to an artist. He’s able to really show his character and himself in both fields, and be expressive. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’ve shown myself I can be expressive in production, now I’m trying to do it through my artistry.
You started producing and songwriting, how did you land with Khalid, H.E.R., Cardi B?
I was a fan of Khalid’s first Soundcloud track Location, my manager found out he was coming to London to work on some sessions so she reached out to get me a session with him, we wrote “Winter” together, that was our first collaboration.
It was a similar situation with H.E.R, we also worked together for the first time in London. We wrote Lights On together with my boy Grades and my brother Talay Riley (he’s a song-writer as well).
With “Ring” that was a pitched track. I spent a lot of time in writing sessions in LA, one of the sessions I did was with Nija and Needlez, it was our first time all working together and we came up with “Ring” and another track. What was funny was we all thought the other track was the one! But the other song “Ring” made it to Cardi and that was that.
Biggest takeaway from those sessions?
Dedication. One thing I like about people in LA is they really work hard. They really work around the clock. Being dedicated and consistent, staying inspired, definitely the hours they work. In London, I probably don’t work as hard as I work in LA. In London, there’s family, my friends. LA is still new to me so I’m very much work-focused, that’s why I like to go there. The dedication over there is crazy, the people I work with anyway.
How was it working for Teyana on her last album?
It was cool, we didn’t get to work in person with Teyana as “Try Again” was also a pitched track. Nija wrote the track with me in LA. I co-produced that one with my boy Sean Momberger.
I never actually met Teyana, but I was having conversations with her people because she had some edits. It was sick getting to be part of that song and building it. I didn’t hear the final thing until it was out like everyone else, which is crazy. All I had was the beat so to hear it, I was excited. Teyana killed it.
Best part in transitioning to your own solo artistry?
Being able to see the reaction from people live. Having people tell me the impact my music has had to them, how they thought about it and seeing the reception. I never really knew how it’d go down, I said “I’ma do my best.” To see people appreciating it or just hearing it. I went out the other day, I could hear another car playing it. That’s crazy! I was working on that in my house. It’s different when it’s your own song. When it’s the beat, it’s cool. But to hear your own words and impact people’s lives is a different feeling for me.
What’s been the most difficult part?
I’m a perfectionist to the tee. Getting the songs to the point where I’m satisfied, I’m annoying myself. Everyone’s like “no trust me, it’s finished.” I’m like “nah.” We’re trying a million versions then it has to get mixed, getting the mix right! The whole process of finalizing the songs and videos before it’s ready for the world is the most difficult part because it’s such a long process to satisfy myself.
Do you produce your own music?
Yeah, I produce everything. On my project, I produced the whole thing. That’s been another part of it as well. [laughs] Making sure the production is always up to the level of production I’ve been doing for other people.
Talk about linking with Headie One on “Impress Me.” How did that collab come about?
I heard of Headie One a couple years ago, all my friends were listening to him. Sometimes I’m a bit out of the loop when it comes to music now. I heard his song “Know Better,” I thought “this guy’s hard.” I literally linked up with him to work on his music, we had a couple sessions. I said “I’m working on this project,” played him some stuff. They said he’d be down to do some stuff. When he found the “Impress Me” beat, I heard his verse and the chorus he came up with. This sounds like what a me and Headie collaboration should sound like. It didn’t sound like too much of him or too much of me. Felt like a good balance, something different. I asked if he’d be happy to work on this one for my own project, Headie said “yeah let’s do it.” I finished it. Headie’s amazing.
3 things you need in the studio?
My mouse, I can only use a PC mouse. It’s weird, I can’t use the Apple mouse or trackpad. My laptop, and my harddrive. Those 3 things, I can make music in the desert. That’s all I need.
Talk about using Afrobeat production on your new single, “Mandy.”
Mandy for me is very different from “East Side” and “Impress Me.” It’s more rhythmic with more tempo and influenced by my Nigerian background. I used to listen to a lot of African music growing up and of course still do.
What can we expect from your debut EP?
Different vibes and interesting features. Haven’t released too many features, but there’s some surprises on the EP. I’m trying to do something different, especially for the UK. It’s a bridge between LA and London, stuff I like from both places.