When Bugzy was a child growing up in poverty in a racially-diverse, working class community in Manchester, his mum would encourage her son to paint with watercolors and acrylics, not letting him stop until he had painted the perfect picture. Painting taught Bugzy the importance of discipline and artistic purpose, and after being introduced to the cathartic work of Van Gogh at school, he realised these skills could be transferred over to music. “As I got older, I started playing with this idea that descriptive language could help me paint pictures in people’s heads and the beat could act as a canvas. The reason I say “I’m cut from the same cloth as Van Gogh” on this album is because he taught me not to chase trends and to fully trust in my own voice.”“The heart of man is very much like the sea: it has its storms, it has its tides and, in its depths, it has its pearls too,” Vincent Van Gogh once wrote. And this is an idea fully embraced by Bugzy Malone’s second studio album The Resurrection, an uplifting record that succeeds in transforming the scars that have shaped the influential Manchester rapper into enduring pearls of wisdom.“Van Gogh made art for people who hadn’t even been born yet to one day discover,” Bugzy, who named the cinematic album highlight “Van Gogh Effect” after the legendary painter, explains. “He proved that if you create art with truth then it will remain relevant well beyond its creator’s lifetime.
This is the kind of dedication I wanted to bring to The Resurrection.”Recorded largely while Bugzy was recovering after a near fatal motorbike accident last year, the rapper’s anthemic new album succeeds in using the incident as a springboard for growth. Amidst the stirring storytelling of “M.E.N. 3”, Bugzy details being in and outof the hospital, barely surviving. But the way he also spits the line: “Supposed to feel weak, but for some reason I feel like the Wolverine” displays real fight at a time where it will truly be appreciated by a general public still recovering from lockdown. “Don’t cry, be a soldier / hold your composure,” Bugzy advises with typical tenacity on the tender “Don’t Cry”, a song about the importance of standing tall and not giving into anger or despair. “Skeletons” is just as powerful, with the “King of the North” paying tribute to single mothers and their pivotal role in shaping hip hop history. “Her own mum died when she was 12, so she was basically an orphan. It’s alright people calling me the ‘king of the north’ but the crash made me realise my mum is a real queen and it gave me a newfound respect for everything she did by raising me against such impossible odds. I’ve been on top of the rap game for six years now; my strength and survival all comes from her.”Before the accident, Bugzy and his mum weren’t talking, but he says the fact the incident reunited them is a result of an artist realising he needed to let go of his past.
“I know I am the best at what I do. It is crystal clear in my head, and I think that’s why I survived the crash. If you really believe in your purpose then even death itself has no choice but to move aside. Right now, I feel like I am living my second life. But to truly live it, I realised I needed to forgive and forget. I lost my cousin to a bleed on the brain, so I knew I was in deep waters. It forced me to put disagreements to bed and to make things right.”Ever since his emergence on a classic Fire In The Booth freestyle back in 2015, Bugzy has steam rolled through UK hip hop via his trademark chest-thumping bravado, cinematicstorytelling, and gruff vocals that force you to intently consider every single word. He changed the rap game forever, aggressively popping the London Bubble and proving that Northern rappers were well deserved of a major platform. “When a young emcee comes through from Manchester or Birmingham, the big people behind the desk at the major labels have to take them seriously now. That’s because I exist.” But he admits his previous blunt approach to disrupting the status quo also caused some confusion. “When I came into the rap game, I blew the fucking door off its hinges!” Bugzy says like he’s describing the bank heist sequence in The Dark Knight. “Everybody had to get on the ground and no one was allowed to move. Everyone had to watch! There was a time where I was heavily involved in the streets and people around me got killed; it got as dark as it could possibly get! I sort of took the energy of the hood into my rapping, but that brutal approach meant I lost out on certain accolades.
People were intimidated.”Whether it’s burying £3k in the back garden or dealing with the trauma of being five and having his front door kicked in by drug dealers, Bugzy doesn’t shy away from his past on the new album. But the way all this contrasts with the luxuries he enjoys today (“I’m eating coconut prawns in Harrods” he jokes on Ride Out, a paean to Bugzy owning his masters through securing his independence in the music industry) is wildly inspiring, giving you a personal stake in his rags-to-riches story. Seeing him win on new joyous, R&B-inflected tracks like “Bounce” and “Ride Out” genuinely feels good. The Resurrectionis a marker of Bugzy’s growth, both as an emcee and a man settling into adulthood. On the title track, Bugzy admits: “Got millions in the bank, but still this grieving in my heart”. It’s a lyric that proves how his understanding of fame has shifted to a more positive place from the early days, where he once famously rapped: “Fame is a jail and not everyone in here will survive” on 2016’s brutally honestFacing Time. “You can make money on repeat and run away from your trauma, hoping the comfort of cash will save you, but it rarely works out that way,” he says. “When I had the accident, the pressure was off my shoulders, as all I had to do was heal and learn how to walk again. It was a calming period that made me realise there was more to life than just the money side of the hustle. I realised I needed to work on my mindset and evolve. That’s what this album represents.”
Another transformational thing in Bugzy Malone’s life over recent years has been his transition into acting. He is currently filming a new role for famed British director Guy Ritchie, who he previously teamed up with for the role of gangster Ernie in 2019’s The Gentlemen. The new unnamed thriller is said to include actors such as Jason Statham, Cary Elwes and Audrey Plaza. Bugzy says the life he has lived means he understands pain and perseverance on a level that will only help his acting career. “I am new in the acting world, but I think the fact I am a storyteller is a serious attribute that will help me to be successful. I want to master the craft.” Even if a BAFTA nomination doesn’t materialise, you wouldn’t bet against Bugzy making a serious dent on the Hollywood sign. He adds: “Whether it’s music or acting, I just want people to recognise me as someone who is world class.”Some people, understandably, never fully recover from life’s set-backs. However, Bugzy says he’s found a way to do exactly that, andhopes it will prompt a similar transformation in his fans. He concludes: “Remember, I was laid on the concrete bleeding. People had their phones out snapchatting me after the crash. With The Resurrection, I’m showing people you can bounce back from lossesand take them with class. These songs form a package of inspiration. “I just did my second Guy Ritchie movie. This year we are looking to sell out the MEN arena; you really are witnessing the resurrection! I want to show people that you can survive the absolute worst, and still come out in the best shape of your life. For me, every day is now a celebration. I want to make the most out of every moment.” By Thomas Hobbs