A host of similarities can be found between football and music – the freedom of expression, the premium placed on creativity, the commitment and dedication required to succeed. But for many youths growing up in deprived inner-city boroughs, there’s really only one that matters: they both provide an escape route.

A host of similarities can be found between football and music – the freedom of expression, the premium placed on creativity, the commitment and dedication required to succeed. But for many youths growing up in deprived inner-city boroughs, there’s really only one that matters: they both provide an escape route.

Back in 2016, UK rapper Not3s was one such youth. Following a disciplinary incident at college and a run-in with the police, he was in need of a way out, a redirection. A way to build a life beyond the confines of his Hackney estate. Despite being a more than decent footballer – some of his peers would go on to be pro players – he chose to channel his focus into music, spending hours on end in the studio to perfect his technique, just as a budding playmaker would on the training pitch.


Three years on, he’s a hot ticket. Two hit albums have led to performances at the likes of Wireless, Bassfest and Bestival in the past 12 months, with Reading and Leeds on the horizon as we go to print. Along the way, his success has seen him rub shoulders with some of football’s elite. A staunch Manchester United fan, he counts Jesse Lingard among his friends, and took a front-and-centre role in the launch of United’s indisputably wavy pink kit last season.

Equally indisputable is that Not3s is now worthy of a place alongside the best of British rap. Who, though, would make his five-a-side MC dream team? And what is it about Arsenal fans that really winds him up? To find out, we caught up with the trailblazing 21-year-old for an exclusive chat in a London studio with a distinct Manchester flavour.

Winding the clock back a few years, you were fresh out of a job selling trainers at the Oxford Street branch of Footasylum when you made your breakthrough. What was that like?

That was as boring as it was it was slyly entertaining, because I would get the work done and have fun at the same time. And because I got the work done the management couldn’t really complain. But yeah, you know, I was working for £5.31 an hour at the time and I was just making sure that I could get by. Taking the train straight from sixth form to work at like 4.30pm and then leave at like 11.30pm or midnight, depending on the time it took to clean up the shop floor. It was all interesting, it was fun, but it definitely made me learn discipline and definitely led me to grind and get what I want whenever I want.

Do you ever go back to visit?

No, they closed it down. You can imagine why – £5.31 per hour. Plus you’re keeping people over time. Yeah, it was a bit mad…

Did that give you the sneakerhead bug?

No, I’ve been a sneakerhead. I’d say I’ve been a sneakerhead since I was about 14, 15. It was mainly because I was selling sweets and stuff in school, and when I was getting the money, I was thinking “Alright, what am I gonna spend it on?” I used to love trainers at the time, so I thought, you know what, JD, Foot Locker, let’s go. And I would go there straight away. Yeah, I wouldn’t say that kicked off the bug, but it definitely made the bug bigger than what it was.

What’s your football shirt collection like?

It’s decent, I’ve got a couple. I’ve got the Naija kit, I’ve got a Russian kit, I’ve got a Germany kit, I’ve got the Atletico Madrid kit… I’ve got so many different Man United kits, obviously we’re the main team. What other kits have I got? Yeah, it’s actually kind of mad. There’s a lot of kits there [in my collection]. No other English kits though.

Tell us about your connection with Man United. How did that start?

It started from when I was really young. You know those primary school moments when you decide to make your own choice about the team that you support. I was watching the Arsenal vs United FA Cup final, and I remember Patrick Vieira scored the last penalty and Arsenal won. I was young, maybe seven. When Arsenal won, I knew Man United was my team. It sounds bare dumb but that’s what it was. At the time my little sister’s dad supported Man United as well, so he had memorabilia and souvenirs. I loved the way Man United played through that match, it was a tough match, but I liked United’s play over Arsenal’s play.

Do you have to put up with the old “United fan from London” jibes?

Ah yeah, that joke. Yeah I do, I do. They say ah, you’re not from this place so why you supporting … but then again, like, no one’s from this place. I’m from Africa. We all are originally anyway so…

What was your football upbringing like? Who got you into the game?

The male figures that were in my life when I was young. So, my uncle – my mum’s brother – and my little sister’s dad. You know, just kicking a ball in the area. The fact that it said “no ball games” on the wall at the council flat made us want to play ball.

Do you know anyone who you used to play with that has gone on to become professional?

Kyle Walker-Peters, he plays for Tottenham. Dujon Sterling who plays for Chelsea, he’s a young boy but he’s good.

You helped launch the pink away kit a few seasons ago. What was that like? You were relatively new on the scene then as well…

That was a phenomenal experience. I felt great being the person to put on the pink United kit for the first time, and having to keep it a secret was the hardest challenge. One hundred percent, because you know the pink kit is definitely one to remember. Yeah, it was deep, it was an emotional moment.


You’ve made a lot of friendships with players. Can you shamelessly name drop some of your mates in the football industry and tell us how you first got to know them?

Hector Bellerin. That was just him playing my song out of nowhere. I think he played Aladdin, and he kept it on his Insta page and I was just like “Yo, you’re wavy, big up your ting, thank you”. So yeah, from there we carried on speaking and we’re actually good friends. Raheem Sterling as well, that one came about through … I think it came about through Sneakbo. Yeah it could’ve been through Sneakbo, and Lekaa Beats, a producer. But that was a while ago. He actually came to one of my shows in the early stages. In Manchester, a festival called Bass Fest – an EDM festival. Yeah, he rolled with us, rolled with the gang, chilled with us, the whole day, everything. We still chat.

You’re good mates with Jesse Lingard too. Tell us about how that started...

Yeah, Jesse Lingard as well, proper bless. That came about through me doing this pink kit with United. We went out to Seville and he was there and we just connected.

There must be a lot of similarities between you and players. You’re young, at the beginning of your exciting careers, handling fame, wealth, all in different ways. Does that bring you closer together?

I guess so, in some ways. Because of the fact that we’re basically similar in what we do, but without having to do the exact same thing. We can be in the same kind of social group and have things to talk about, without weird interactions, weird breaks within the conversation. At the same time, we each just want to talk about stuff outside of our worlds.

You’ve got a bit of a history of winding up Arsenal fans on your social media. Do you get many bites from fans? It must be funny seeing some of the replies…

You know what, I do, but when I wind up Arsenal fans, that’s mainly because most of my friends are actually Arsenal supporters. So I’m not trying to wind up Arsenal fans, I’m trying to specifically wind up my friends. But if that happens I don’t mind. It’s a win-win for me anyways. Now that you’ve told me that, I’m happy that I wind up Arsenal fans – all they do is talk about their undefeated season, their shit undefeated season [laughs].

Who would you pick in your best MC five-a-side team?

Best MC five-a-side team … is this a football team? Or just spitting?

Just spitting...

Alright cool. AJ Tracey, Dave, Avelino, me and … I’ve got to think of someone that would come nice … Knucks! That’s a strong lineup.

With fame comes privileges. Are you taking advantage of United’s adidas box or do you prefer mixing it up with the “real fans”?

I prefer mixing it up with real fans. There’s been a couple times I’ve been in the crowd, because the energy is just insane. You don’t feel like you’re so far away from everyone, you feel like you’re part of what’s going on because you should be part of what’s going on. It’s all nice, eating nice and having nice things inside the box – champagne and that – yeah, that’s all cute, but at the same time we’re getting down to the nitty gritty business, which is the game. That’s what my main focus needs to be on.

Have you done many away days?

Not many, I wouldn’t say many. Just a couple. I flew out to Seville as part of the kit launch. I wish I could go more, but my life is a bit mad for that. When I started getting money, that’s when my life became mad.


Do you see music as a chance to travel the world? You can choose where you want to play, especially in the summer.

Yeah, it’s not a chance, it’s definitely me travelling the world – it happens, it comes with it naturally.

Is there somewhere where you’d really like to go and play?

Japan, China … the whole of Asia really.

You've been so busy, releasing so much music. Do you ever think, “I'll just sit back and take some time off for a bit”?

Ah hell no. I don’t even feel like I’ve released as much music as I want to. I want to release way more music than I’ve released. If you guys think this is so much music, then boy you guys are going to be pissed off with me. You’ve got me here for a while. So nah, I don’t feel like I want to take a break. I want to keep releasing music and just keep having it out there for you guys to listen to.

Where’s the weirdest place you've heard one of your tracks?

That’s a good question, I have no clue. [Shouts to crew for help] Where’s the weirdest place you’ve heard any of my tracks? Three years ago in PC World? There you go, PC World three years ago.

Are there any players you’ve met who can rap well?

No, but I heard Memphis Depay can rap, and I’ve heard a couple of these footballers can rap. I heard they do it at home, it’s just something to do while they’re bored and they want to try it. And why shouldn’t they?


Let’s talk about football songs. There have been a lot of cheesy official football songs in the past, mostly pop in terms of genre. Would you want to make one?

Why not? I make music about anything, so I don’t think I’d mind. If it happens it happens. Then if it naturally just took over the world, well…

If you made an official song, who would you put on the track?

Probably Ryan Giggs, even though he wouldn’t sing – it would just be banter, I just love Ryan Giggs. Now today, probably Jesse Lingard. He knows how to flex, he’ll be alright.

How would you describe 2019 for you and what’s your mindset for 2020?

2019 for me is me – I’m chillin’, I’m out here grinding. 2019 is just the year of me getting my stuff together properly and putting stuff out for people, but at the same time I’m working very hard behind the scenes for myself. And then 2020 is going to be a whirlwind – that’s all I can say.

We sit a year away from a Euros tournament now – what was the World Cup like for you last year and how much do you go in for those big tournaments?

I didn’t really care about the World Cup last year only because I was doing a lot of shows at the time. It was festival season – shows, songs, everything – so I was super busy. But while I was at the Merky festival, we were watching the England match all together. That was a very, very exciting experience, a crazy experience.

What kind of gig would be your equivalent of a World Cup final? Are there some that you have your eye on in terms of achievements or milestones you’d like to hit?

Coachella. But it would have to be the main stage with an abundance of people. That’s basically a World Cup gig. Actually performing at a World Cup final would be dope as well.


Read the full interview with NOT3S in SoccerBible Magazine Issue 13. Pick up your copy here.