Imagine you’ve released a track that overnight has sent your profile through the sky. It’s a gamechanger, a complex situation that can flip your life upside down. UK rapper Ramz knows all too well the lows that come with the highs.

Following a difficult year in which the passionate Arsenal fan has struggled with the mental challenges that come with being thrust into the limelight, we thought long and hard about whether to include our sit down with Ramone Rochester, aka Ramz. In the end, though, we felt it only right that we take this opportunity to celebrate the character of a truly great human being. We have so much respect for Ramz, and we hope that, once you’ve read this interview, you do too. He’s one of the good guys, one of those who has our backing and one man who is not on his own.

Let’s get straight into it. You’re an Arsenal fan. Are you properly obsessed?

Yeah, I love Arsenal. Being that young and seeing them win the FA Cup – I never really saw them win the Premier League, I was a bit too young to remember them lifting the trophy. Playing-wise I got to see some great players. Henry and even Adebayor a little bit, in his prime. People like Denilson, Gilberto Silva. I always remember Vieira. He always used to have Vicks on his chest. I used to think that was Vaseline for some reason. I used to try it on myself and it never used to work until someone told me! So I got to see some good players. But now it’s so different. You wouldn’t believe that this is the same Arsenal.

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How would you describe Arsenal as a club to someone who has never seen them? 

We’ve had so many people come in and out. That’s what our club is like. Back then we never just had wicked players, we had a good team too. Now we’re struggling to find our proper team and I think that’s because we’d been with Arsene Wenger for so long. He had a certain way of playing and because he’d been in the Premier League for such a long time he thought he knew what he was doing. But now it’s come to a point where it feels like Unai Emery is in and he’s not really found his team yet. Because it’s only been one year, and now this year, it’s even more huge. New kit, new sponsors and stuff like that, and so it’s even tougher. There’s a lot more pressure on them to actually find a proper team. But right now I don’t think that we have that. I would say that we’re a team that had a few good players and we need to restart. People need to leave and we need to get some players in, but apparently we don’t have money…

When you go back to when you used to play football, what do you remember?

Those memories are so clear. It’s weird how they’re so long ago, but they’re so clear. I just remember going to the sports shops. I remember asking my mum for like £30 and saying I’d pay her back, but I didn’t know how I was going to pay her back. But I’d go and get some astros and I’d be so excited. Going into school on a Monday, or in the middle of the week and saying I had some new astros and everyone asking “Where did you get them from?” That was a good memory. 

Were you constantly playing football then?

Yeah. In schools now you have astros, but we used to have concrete and we always used to go there at lunchtime. I think lunchtime was about 30 minutes. It would be the Year 5s against the Year 6s. It was good. There were a few rough games, but I always remember the battling between Year 5 and Year 6. I would always score, because I was actually pretty good when I was young. But there was three of us, boys called Shay, Josh and me, and we were like the Three Musketeers. We always used to play on the same team, and we were good. When you scored it was very memorable.

Was there a point where music came onto the scene and you had to pick that?

I always used to be around music in the primary school period, because you get taught music in school so I had a bit of rhythm from a young age. In secondary school, the transition was very quick into music, because I was straight into it by Year 7, doing enrichment for students after school hours, allowing you to do stuff that you enjoyed. You could do cooking if you wanted to, designing stuff, making clothes and stuff, and then you had music. So mine was music and I was doing drumming. I think my music career expanded from there. I went into different lanes. Whether it was playing or making, it just began to grow from there. 

Did you have a period where you put football down and picked music up?

Yeah, I think it was end of Year 8 going into Year 9. So just before the end of the year I broke my leg. Then I was like, what am I going to do now? The Year 9 to 10 period was a bit unstable for me. I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do because I couldn’t play football anymore, so I thought I may as well properly take time to make music, but I never put my all into it. When you’re a young boy you just want to play football, so that was the main thing I was doing. But when I broke my leg, that’s when I thought I’d just focus on music.

Were you aware at that age that you could make a career out of music, or did that click later on?

When you’re that young, because of the way football is now, you’ve got a lot of young players that are already in clubs and they’re playing the way their older peers play, so they believe more that they can make it. Whereas back then, when I was about 12, 13, 14, you would only hear about maybe 10 out of a hundred signing a pro contract and going to play for a team like Chelsea. They don’t want young players with flair and tricks to get past players. But I think the main thing when you look back now is that, when you see people who have made it that you used to play with, I think that’s what touches people a lot. And when you get told “Yeah, you’re better than them” or “They’re not even that good”, you just think to yourself, how come it wasn’t you. But everyone has their own path and their own lane, so I never look at it like that.

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When you’re a young boy you just want to play football, so that was the main thing I was doing. But when I broke my leg, that’s when I thought I’d just focus on music"

Do you know many people who did get a pro deal?

Yeah, there’s so many people getting them, even now. Friends that used to play for Colchester, like Courtney Senior. One friend of mine has even just signed for United, the right back, Aaron Wan-Bissaka. All of us would go to Power League together and we’d just play football. Some people have gone abroad to America, the likes of Carl Spence who used to play at Palace. We all used to play at Melwood. That’s what’s so crazy. But that period, that’s when I broke my leg, so that’s mostly why I didn’t go that extra mile in that career. It’s good to see that they’ve gone so far.

What have been the major highlights of your career so far?

It’s so hard, you know. I think the main highlight is when the whole of London is watching. So, for example, Wireless. Being in Wireless was amazing. When I was performing there was so many people. They told us after that they didn’t have enough security for my performance, because of how many people wanted to come. Even when I think about it now, it’s amazing. And you’ve got things like going to Japan, Dubai … where else? I’ve been to so many places I can’t even remember.

It’s your music that’s created that. It’s pretty amazing.

Even going platinum and charting. There’s all sorts of things. The list goes on and on when I think about it. 

That crossover with football and music, do you see similarities in that you go out on the stage and that’s your pitch effectively?

Yeah, me and my friends always compare it to football. You hear people like Chipmunk always saying Champions League, Premier League, Europa League. People talk about Ryman League and that. [Laughs]

Thinking of performances recently, like Stormzy on stage at Glastonbury calling out so many strong names – how big a moment do you think that was for the whole scene that you’re in?

That was huge. That’s a black male headlining Glastonbury, something a lot of people would love to do. So for him to also remember the other artists that are his peers in the game, it just shows that everyone is coming through, all the urban acts and everyone else. And he named people that maybe haven’t even got a million views yet. It just shows you that they still have talent. That’s why he thought of them.

It feels like grime has hit a serious level over the last few years, even going into the mainstream. Do you think it’s now not just a trend but that it’s shifted into another gear?

I think so, yeah. When I was first starting in music, I was listening to Stormzy, watching Chip, D Double, Frisco, Skepta. I was watching all of them and I was just focused on that, because that was the scene for years. There was no such thing as making a melody and making it sound sweet, chatting about girls and that. It was literally just rapping. So I was thinking, how am I going to get into this music? Then a couple of people changed the game again, and it’s turned into melodies now. So I thought that’s easy for me, because I know I can do this. That’s why it was so easy for me to release Barking and know that it was going to do well – but I didn’t know how well. But in terms of grime, you see it coming back in more now. People are starting to rap again a bit more. People are getting to grips with it and they can actually start learning it. But even with Stormzy, the way his grime is, I don’t even know what to call it. I’d mostly just call it murky music, because it’s its own type of grime. Sometimes it’s not even grime, it’s weird, but so good.

If you could hear your music being played anywhere, what would be your equivalent to winning the league?

The Emirates. When I heard it playing at the Emirates that for me was just … if they wanted to play that every week there and not in clubs, I would take that. It’s just different. Certain songs just don’t get played in some places, and when they do it’s a whole different level.

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I think every artist loves football, and every footballer loves music. So they see us and think 'I’d love to do that', but we see them and we want to do what they do"

On the pitch you’re a regular in the Santan Cup. What can you tell us about that and what it’s like to be involved in a tournament like that?

That’s a good cup you know. It’s a good tournament. The growth of it, from where everyone has come from, even the people who have participated in it. I’ve been in it for three years now, Dave’s a friend of mine. The first year when we did it, it was good, real simple. We ate food outside. You know when you can just see the growth in something? It’s like they had a level-one haircut, then they started getting a beard, and it began to grow a bit more. They got toned a little bit. It’s like a person. That’s the growth in the tournament itself. It’s very good.

What do you think has helped the crossover between football and music?

I think every artist loves football, and every footballer loves music. So they see us and think “I’d love to do that”, but we see them and we want to do what they do. I think the majority of people that wanted to do football are artists. But the footballers, I’m not saying they can rap, but they see the limelight of it and they love it. 

As your profile has grown have you noticed the crossover more through who you’re mixing with?

Yeah, like I was so gassed when Lacazette started following me. I was screaming. I’ll message him and I’ll get a reply. That’s my friend now. Even Sterling and that as well. Sancho too. Yeah, there’s quite a lot. There’s like a little circle, mixing together.

Are there some players who stand out not just for being a good player but for having a good character too?

I would say Rob Holding. When I first met him, you can see he has character, on and off the field. And I think that’s what makes them who they are. He’s a good guy.

What about when it comes to style and fashion? Footballers have come a long way...

Bellerin. He loves it. Giroud, he loves it as well. They just love the fashion life. You can see they like it as well. But sometimes they need to get back on the pitch though man. Sometimes they’re too focused on their fashion worrying about what their hair looks like. They need to get some shinpads on and get stuck in.

Are you that kind of football fan where you think “Stick to playing football!”?

Yeah man. If they were winning the league, and winning trophies, I’d be happier, but because they’re not winning anything I don’t want to see them taking pictures saying you’re at this fashion walk or that one. Nah man, you need to be playing. I’m not impressed at all.

What about Arsenal then? New kit, new manager, new players coming in…

See, with Arsenal, I want to buy a season ticket, but I just don’t think it’s worth my money. So I’ll be sticking to the membership club to get my tickets a bit earlier, but other than that, I’m not impressed. We’re in the Europa League again! I don’t even know if we’re going to finish top four. It’s so frustrating. 

How hard is it to see teams that your mates might support doing well?

Jarring. It’s jarring. And I hate to say this, but looking at Tottenham’s team, them not changing their team last year, having the same team for two, three years now, it just reminds me of 2005 to about 2008 kind of football. Where it’s the same team, same manager, same type of football. But the team is so, so good and up to date with Premier League standards that they do so well. They’ll sign one or two players. They just got that Ndombele. He’s young, but he’s wicked, he’s a baller. Why are we not getting players like that? We’re looking to sell Torreira. Already.

Do you think with players like Reiss Nelson you’ve got a little bit more of what Arsenal’s about?

Yeah, I think so. We need players like him. The difference is that we were letting them go when Wenger was there. We can’t afford to let these guys go now. We need them in our team to just come and bring that young bit of football. Those guys, whether they’re on the pitch or on the bench, they can make that difference. Maitland-Niles. I see us turning into that kind of club now. A club where we’re bringing in a few young players that can do their job.


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