Extravagant Highs: A Vignette of Sonnyjim
Sonnyjim is spearheading a key change in UK hip-hop, sparking interest further and further afield. Having allowed himself to embrace the cultivation of the come-up, it seems his harvest is imminent. Now bouncing from strength to strength, having honed his craft, he has matured into a singular sound reflective of his mosaic background.
“You know… I have just been in the studio, being consistent, working hard,” says Sonny enjoying a moment’s respite from his packed calendar.
For someone as surefooted as Sonny, one would think the man always knew where he was headed. Instead, he tells me: “Twenty years ago being a musical artist was not a career option for someone like me, it was a pie-in-the-sky dream.”
Born and raised in Birmingham, he started out hungry, wanting to “rinse out every beat to the end. I didn’t want to be seen, but I wanted to be heard.” His rap career began as a teenager on the underground circuit, battling some of the UK’s most talented MCs, and equipping his arsenal over time. He was primarily motivated by the desire to wield the “illest pen in the game.”
Sonnyjim is a living example of what it is to be heard on your own terms. Despite his extensive catalog documenting his experiences, only during our conversation do I discover that he too is of Punjabi heritage. I am also delighted to find out that he is currently working on a project with third-culture kids of ‘Englishstan’. He notes that this project has allowed him to pull from the Punjabi language he was surrounded by in his early years.
After arriving on the scene in the early 2000s, his fourth studio album ‘Mud In My Malbec‘ was released to the public in the summer of 2016. The decade-long marination prior to this is evident throughout the record, which is co-produced by AyePee and is peppered with features from Da$h, Westside Gunn, Quelle Chris, Heems, the Purist, and more. Regarding the album title, Sonny says “Mans from the mud, mans drinking Malbec now innit.”
When it comes to influences, nothing is off limits — from casual conversations to Hungarian movie scores from the 70s. An introduction to US hip-hop as a youngster helped him understand cadence and flow. Through honing his MC skills in real time, he came to prioritize coherence over complexity. Sonny recognises that the proof is always in the pudding. “It doesn’t really matter how fast you can rap if your listener isn’t able to comprehend what you’re saying.”
Sonny’s playful curiosity leaves him indifferent to always being front and center. One of his recent projects is ‘Orange Is the New Black’ (2022), a collaboration with Robert. The record explores the evolution of patriarchs as gangsters and gurus, as well as their marriage to England herself. His latest release ‘White Girl Wasted’ — co-produced by the Purist, continues to enjoy critical acclaim, no doubt bolstered by a myriad of prolific features.
In response to being asked about how his character sustains him through success, Sonny offers a valuable perspective:
“The key is being grounded in community. As an independent artist so much can swallow you up if you let it. Learn to have fun with it all. Every single thing that I did outside of music, informs my craft. Tenacity and generosity of spirit are key values when doing it your way.”
In the studio, he offsets the pressure of being recognised by maintaining long-term relationships with his peers and the humility necessary to receive criticism. In his view, he has made every mistake in the book, learned from them, and grown to appreciate both the freedom and uncertainty of being an independent artist. “I enjoy the process and trust that the consistency of showing up every day will allow for a new reality.”
Sonnyjim wears aspiration well. His refusal to be limited by genre allows his listeners to expand their horizons to the beat of his drum. In a world determined by algorithms and trends, he offers a window into a life well spent going against the grain. His records speak of an audacious approach to realising big-city dreams.
By remaining an independent artist, Sonnyjim has carved out his métier in a manner that celebrates authenticity. His work prioritises originality over virality. As such he is not limited by the formulaic approach of the mainstream. Having taken his time in improving his skill and exploring different avenues — he now carries the torch for those who find themselves in unchartered waters.
In conversation with him, I see how often we lose out on taking our time and holding on to our space. Rushed through our youth, rushed through lessons, rushing towards ideas of success — the world asks us to kneel. Worn out by social subservience and complacency – we seek security and ease. Sonnyjim’s music instead observes how convenience and comfort are not the goals, but rather a welcome by-product of endeavour and persistence.
With Sonnyjim records playing in the backdrop — the listener is challenged to improve upon all aspects of oneself – even the unseen. The realisation that we are not time-bound but mind bound, allows us to have fun in our submission to the process.
When I first heard ‘Al Jazeera’ — the sangfroid flow led me to meditate on my own potential. I come from a long line of self-made people — a reality which I easily forget in the age of robotic consumerism. Sonny, leading by example, inspired the go-getter within me. The confidence to know that no matter how many times we find ourselves lacking — all the tools remain at hand. For that, I am grateful.
Going forward he says, “I’ve got a lot to learn and without naming names I would like to put out the intention to work with those I look up to.”
When I commend him for his taste in the finer things, he credits the feminine influences in his life (obvs!) for ever-expanding his awareness. He says he aims to pass on the Eatgood and living-in-abundance vibes through his luxuriating rhymes.
By plotting to his sound, listeners of Sonnyjim are encouraged to dream big and sample it all. Keep bumping to his tunes and be the Master of Ceremony for your own existence. As for the man himself, he is all systems go at once. He will surely continue to chart unknown territories and grow his discography in accordance with his intrepid spirit.