Inspiring rapper gives musical opportunities to the youth

I spoke to UK rapper Smallz from Grays, Essex, about the free youth workshops he runs at his recording studio, Uncxt Studios, and how he got it up and running.

After having a rocky start in life, 25-year-old SmallzDeep – Connor Hammond – has turned his life around all off of his own back and is giving back to the community providing young, aspiring artists in the Thurrock area with free studio time and running work shops, as well as mentoring them.

Uncxt Studios is fast becoming a credible business with artists around the UK paying for studio time and Smallz’s expertise as a sound engineer. His knowledge and experience as a rapper is also desirable, having already made a name for himself with several plays on BBC 1Xtra and Radio 1.

Smallz has admirably built something from nothing and is a prime example that anything is possible when you put your mind to it.

Smallz said: “I’ve gone from being in jail to getting almost 15 grands worth of funds from the Police Crime Commissioner. Having a criminal record doesn’t always matter.

“Seeing other people do well also helped to push me and some people who come to my studio might think ‘look what Smallz has managed to turn himself around from, maybe I can turn myself around too’ and that is one of the main reasons why we are doing this.”

Smallz got into music from the age of 12 and used it as a way to deal with his emotions and get through hard times. However, he left home around the age of 16 and the troublesome teen found himself getting involved in crime and did a stint in jail just after he turned 18.

Once out of prison, Smallz adorned a fresh outlook on life and after seeing how the crime rate was forever rising, he wondered what he could do to help young people who could be going down the same wrong path he was.

Remembering his own struggles and how there was a lack of things to do, the Grays artist was hungry to follow his dream of having his own recording studio whilst helping youngsters to positively channel their energies at the same time.

Smallz hard at work

It then came to Smallz’s attention that a local pitching event called ‘Thurrock Soup’ was soon to be taking place for people with a business idea to compete for start-up funding. Sure enough, Smallz’s won the vote and walked away with the cash. Soon after, he was approached by two organisations which fund social entrepreneurs, and was offered a total of £6,000 to go towards his project. Smallz then bought the necessary equipment and paid the costs towards the building and the dream slowly but surely became a reality.

Less than a year on from Uncxt Studios’ initial launch in March 2017, the diary for studio time is booked up day in day out and young people are now able to have a safe place to go, away from the streets and develop their musical talents with Smallz as their mentor.

19-year-old artist Mister Richie, has been writing music for some time but has noticed his career kick-start after working with Smallz and has now recorded his first EP.

He said: “It’s helped me because Connor lets me know what I’m doing wrong and what I’m doing right and that really helps me to improve.

“I’ve been going to different studios out of the area since I was 15, but having Connor’s studio here is not only more accessible, but the quality is better as well because Connor is an artist himself and he has that experience he can share with us.”

Smallz has also boosted several other rappers’ profiles including Stanza and D’One who’s music has been engineered and recorded at UCS. D’One will be headlining with D-Block Europe (Young Adz x Dirtbike LB) this summer at Guildhall in Gloucester and has had almost 1Million streams of his track ‘Next Up?’ on Spotify.

A youth session at Uncxt Studios

Uncxt Studios keeps on receiving good news; Smallz recently received £14,800 from the Essex Police Crime Commissioner, as part of their bid to reduce crime. This has allowed the young business-man to employ his first recruit – DJ Kirby T, a grime DJ who is well-known in Essex and regularly appears on Radar and Westside radio. From previously working a day job in an office alongside his DJing, 21-year-old Kirby T – Tom Berry – from Billericay, has also made quite an impressive journey.

From being kicked out of school at 15-years-old to completing a radio broadcasting course with Gateway FM, Kirby T is now working full-time as a sound engineer at Uncxt Studios and learning the ropes from SmallzDeep.

He said: “Young people need more opportunities. I was lucky enough to get an opportunity with Gateway FM after I was kicked out of school and to get into DJing from a young age, now I am trying to give back to the youth and help them to achieve the same.

“Thanks to Smallz, I’m now working full-time doing something I love and I couldn’t be happier.”

Instagram: @uncxtstudios @smallzdeep @kirbytdj

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