The album’s called Mixed Race because being mixed race is the single biggest influence on my music. You sat down at the table in my house and you saw every colour. It’s made me much more open-minded than I could’ve been. I come from both worlds.

Back in Knowle West I grew up in a white ghetto and could go to a Jamaican club where there’s no white people, and a white club with no other black people. And I never noticed. When I was twelve and my cousins Mark and Miles from the first line-up of Massive Attack would get ready to go out, they would be playing everything from Parliament to T-Rex. My Uncle Ken who brought me up is a white guy who got me into black music - he used to play Al Green, Sam Cooke and other legends all the time. So I grew up with all this different music, I’ve been blessed because no-one can put my music in a box – it’s not black, it’s not white, it’s not female, it’s not male.

Since Knowle West Boy I’ve been promoting that album, touring and looking for a singer. Normally I just meet singers by accident. But I’d been thinking about Mixed Race while touring the last album, and one of the live vocalists was Francesca – Frankey Riley. So the two of us just started recording immediately. All I’ve been doing is touring and recording. ‘Cos it’s getting harder out there, and the harder it is, the harder you have to work.

Also, I’m staying in Paris right now. My daughter’s getting older and Los Angeles is just too far away from her, so I needed to move back. I like being in London, and I’m still here on and off. But I’ve got family and friends here and I don’t get much time to myself.

So Paris hasn’t had that much effect on my music, but it has given me space to work. Also, there are a lot of horns on this album and that wouldn’t have happened in London. Here, you’ve got to go through people’s managers, and I’m too impatient for that. A lot of the players on Mixed Race I just found on the street or met through friends. One guy was playing sax in the little square outside the studio and I just asked him to come in. This album was so different for me because it was so easy to get what I wanted in Paris.

And it’s true that I’ve agreed to work with Massive Attack again. A year ago I would’ve said no. But what I like about it now is that, if we do an album together, people’s expectations are gonna be high. It won’t be easy. We’re gonna have to make something really special. I think it’s a challenge.

Mixed Race is a gangster album. I can’t do gangsta rap. That’s not me. I can’t talk about being a bad boy, ‘cos I’m not. But I’ve been around that. So this is the closest I can get to a gangsta album. Its very gully, as Jamaicans call it… very dark. Tense, street and urban. It’s like a movie, almost.

This is also the most uptempo album I’ve done. I wanted something that could be played in a club… maybe! Which is unusual for me. Because I don’t give a shit about clubs.


"Every Day"

The singer on this is Frankey Riley. Her dad’s from Napoli and her mum’s Irish. She is vocally the way I am musically. I soak things up and so does she. She takes things that you play her but then she twists it and does it her own way, like I do.

"Every Day" is like, "I can make thunder – I’m a spiritual creature." One lyric is, "I’m nothing/I move through walls." It’s a voodoo song. I love that song and it’s one of those things I’ve soaked up but used in my own way.

It reminds me I’m a songwriter and they’re the best lyrics I’ve written for years. The first time I ever saw a picture of me and my mum together was last year, and she flows through me……

I am nothing, I move through walls,
I’ll make thunder when the night come.
I’m full moon and the earth rotates.
I am Adam and Eve she waits.
I’m forsake, I’m the bird that flies.
I’m the low tide and the sun that rise.
I am plane in your friendly sky
I fly on the wings and the promise it brings.
I am hope, I’m the noose and rope.
I’m life, I’m death, I’m your last breath.
I’m seasons, I’m reasons, I’m why you should end.
You hate me you love me, I’m your best friend.
I’m earthquake and deep lake, the fish that swims free.
Straight to your plate, you can eat me.
I’m everyday, I’m everyday, I’m every day.

"UK Jamaican"
The vocalist is Terry Lynn, a Jamaican girl. I was at Chris Blackwell’s place in Jamaica with Don Letts and he told me about this wicked female singer from Kingston. So he showed me her on YouTube and I was like, "Fuck!" I got in contact with her straight away. I’ve done a song on her new album, too. This girl’s the future. The lyrics are all hers… she has her own version of the song. She comes from a place that’s very hardcore. She makes a lot of guys look not so dark.

"Early Bird"
This is Frankey again. It’s a jazz song, but done my way. It’s about growing up and nearly being a thug. Watching my friends do it, being mixed race, being angry when I was a kid about my living conditions. We used to just take what we want and I had friends who were into professional violence. It’s a little like "Council Estate" from the last album. There are a lot of guns on the album. I’ve been through all that but never talked about it. I realised that I’ve seen it and witnessed it, so I can talk about it. But I don’t want to glamorise it ‘cos there’s nothing glamorous about it. I was lucky that I had music.

"Ghetto Stars"
I wrote all Frankey’s lyrics except this one. I just played her this dark, heavy track which I only had a chorus for, went out for a couple of hours, and… wow. She wrote exactly what I was thinking. It’s a gangster song, that tells it straight without glamorising it.  Poverty breeds crime – people don’t just wake up in the morning and want to be a gangster. Some rap music glamorises the gangster lifestyle, I’ve had real gangsters in my family, three of my family have been murdered, two of them have been shot, one of them stabbed, I remember not seeing my uncle for years, and asking my great grandmother where he was and her saying he’s in prison but at least I know he’s safe, and at least I know where he is.  Having friends like Freddie Foreman, they all tell me to keep going with my music – they say that there’s nothing glamorous about that lifestyle.

"Ghetto Stars" don’t go far, ghetto traps, locked behind bars.

This is one of those situations where I didn’t have a name for the song so I just named it after the singer. Hakim is (Algerian rai superstar) Rachid Taha’s guitarist. Apparently, Rachid’s been looking for me for years. So he tracked me down in Paris and we just started hanging out. He came down to the studio with Hakim and we did some songs. And Hakim just did this one while he was hanging around waiting for something to happen. I was only recording it to check the levels on his guitar! I listened to it after our day in the studio and I was like, "Fuck!" I haven’t got a clue what he’s on about. But he told me that it was about how that mad homeless guy on the street we all meet actually knows more than we do.

"Come To Me"

This is me and Frankey doing our take on that period when reggae was really influenced by American music. Almost like ska… but not. It’s just a song about a girl, basically. The bit of taped music at the beginning is my friend Jen who I’ve lost contact with. It’s a message she left on my answering machine in LA about eight years ago.

"Murder Weapon"
The first single, and a reworking of an old Echo Minott tune with Frankey on vocals. It was a big underground tune in the Jamaican community when I was young. I thought the original almost had a rock vibe to it. It isn’t just that I love the song – it’s also a part of my life. I moved into my sister’s place years ago, and some people from her estate hated people from my estate. We went into this shop and one of the guys who had problems with my friends started singing "Murder Weapon" to me, as a threat. I’ve never forgotten it.

The reason there’s a music box playing at the beginning is because of my good friend Charles. His mum had epilepsy and so did mine. He spent 13 years in the foreign legion, he’d been to 13 of my gigs, and he’s got a 13 tattooed on his neck. He’s not a musician, and making him play the music box and recording it was a way of getting him on my album.

"Time To Dance"

The closest I’m ever gonna get to disco.


"Really Real"
Its about time Bobby Gillespie was on one of my albums. We’ve known each other for years and he’s a good mate. We bumped into each other in Texas, arranged it and he came over to Paris for the day. He works fast. I wrote the lyric and he wrote the melody. It’s about how the lifestyle we live – being recognised and all that - just isn’t real life. It feels like an illusion. And you can’t take it seriously because your ego kicks in and then you’re over.

"Bristol To London"

The vocalists are Blackman from London and my youngest brother Marlon Thaws. He’s 24 and has been writing since he was 17. It’s the first time I’ve worked with him because I didn’t want to give it to him easy just because he’s my brother. But in this last year he’s just really come into his own. He had to find his own sound ‘cos when he started he sounded like Dizzee Rascal or whoever.

It feels wicked to have him on the album. But not because he’s family. It’s because his lyrics on this track are the best rap lyrics I’ve heard in England. No one can touch these two guys. Marlon can talk about stuff I can’t, because he was in the life. I had to take him out of England to keep him out of trouble. There’s a line: "Locked up and nobody missed me." When you’re in prison life doesn’t stop. Your wife and kids and friends… they carry on. So that line is prison.

We’ve been playing a lot of the new stuff live. My show’s changed a lot since Knowle West Boy, and I just can’t believe the vibe and love people have been giving me. For the first time in my life it’s started to sink in. I always thought you went out and entertained people and got nothing back in return. But in the last year, I’ve realised that what the crowd gives you is so amazing, that sometimes I just stand onstage and cry, to be honest. That sounds really pretentious. But it’s true.

Some of my early albums sound like a mess to me… too cluttered. I don’t understand them anymore. I wanted to avoid doing something like that, because my mind isn’t cloudy. I’m not muddled-up or as confused as I was. I know what I want to do now. Mixed Race is deliberately direct and in-your-face. It’s the easiest album to make that I’ve ever done.