Bugzy Malone is one of the biggest music artists in the country, and as a result of his success he's indulged himself in some of the trappings of wealth, his Instagram features expensive cars and clothes, but a taste for the pricier things in life isn't what defines Bugzy. He talks openly about childhood traumas, his battle with mental health issues and his dedication to clean living. All of this makes him somewhat unique as an artist and he certainly doesn't conform to (outdated and inaccurate) stereotypes around what grime stars are like. He's differentiated in the grime game the moment he opens his mouth, a strong Mancunian accent separating him from a largely London-based pack from the get-go.
Bugzy looks more like a boxer than a rapper and that's no accident - he boxes every day, spending hours in the gym and eating only the best food to fuel himself. His partnership with PhD Nutrition is a huge part of that, helping him stay fit and ready for touring. LADbible sat down and spoke to the man himself about his upbringing, his goals and the divide between Manchester and London.
"I've been doing a lot of work in London," he told us. "I've been doing a lot of projects and the industry is in London so no matter where you are and where you're from, you're going to have to spend a lot of time in London. I spend as much time at home as I can just because I feel like without that foundation, it's hard to stay fit, hard to eat well. I find it hard to eat healthily on the road. That's where PhD got involved. When I was on tour they gave me protein bars and helped me stay in shape. I don't feel like I'm stuck living in Manchester."
His love of boxing and music shines through everything, and he thanks them for helping him stay on the straight and narrow, especially as a kid. "Without boxing, straight away, I'd have spent a lot more time chilling with friends," he says. "The kind of friends that I was chilling with were more street-orientated, so I would have spent more time on the street. Whether that would have been a good thing or a bad thing is hard to comment on. I don't necessarily think it would have been a good thing.
Without music, I don't think I would have been able to express myself. Because the types of friends that I had at the time, we were all in our minds, young tough guys. Talking about your feelings and expressing yourself wasn't on the agenda. I think expressing yourself is an important part of self-progression."
Talking about mental health and opening up on issues is hardly standard macho rapper fare. We asked Bugzy why he was so open about his feelings. "The truth is such a powerful tool that's understated and underused. People try to hide from trauma and how they're feeling about life. If you look at the human anatomy, it's all system based and if something gets blocked the system doesn't run correctly and you get ill and need medicine to fix you. That's the same with the mind."
"You can't not approach these things that are running through your head, you have to be honest about them and you have to express the need to get them out of your system. And it just helps, that's what I've found."
It's that trauma that keeps him grounded and motivated to this day. "I believe that everything stems from trauma," he told us. "People are traumatised by the littlest things. You get punched in the face and it's going to change the way that you think in the future.
"A lot of the things that I went through growing up gave me that drive and ambition. A lot of my ambitions were built around not having to go through things that I went through growing up, like poverty, having no financial freedom whatsoever, dysfunctional home life, that kind of thing. Stuff like that can almost turn you into a workaholic. I've just booked my first holiday in four years after reaching the limelight."
"As much as it's good to have ambition, you don't want to have ambition for the wrong reasons. I think being ambitious became my vice because I didn't agree with smoking or drugs or alcohol so my hobby became getting as far away from that past as possible. It's good because you get the financial rewards but life's not about financial reward, it's about happiness.
Has he made it then? What is the end point? "You have to enjoy the journey," said Bugzy. "As a kid I told myself that I wanted to be rich. I said by the age of 30 I'd be in a certain financial position, and I've kind of got there. But in that vision of being 30 and being rich, I meant in every sense of the word.
I'm a little away from being rich in every sense of the word. "I have financial freedom, but that doesn't buy happiness. Now I'm at the stage where I'm working on myself, I've spent years entertaining others and now I'm ironing my own self out. I think that's when I'll come to a stage that I'll be able to tell myself that I've made it. The recent 6 months is the first time that I've felt happy and secure in the happiness."
If there's one thing that becomes clear chatting to Bugzy it's that he has a very strong sense of self. He redirected his own life path at an impressively young age and hasn't looked back since, making a massive success of himself along the way, thanks in no small part to an abundance of natural talent. Bugzy has spent years entertaining fans, and will spend many more doing the same, but he's now intent on looking after himself too - an important message we should all take on board.