A First Date With... Moko
I’m not saying that having a single at the top of UK charts is what I look for in a person but Moko’s number 5 with Chase and Status last September did give me a great big crush on her.
Interviews and dates aren’t all that different, especially if, like me, you insist on only interviewing people that you have a massive crush on. Eventually, my editor suggested it might be safer for all parties involved if we just called the interview a date from the start.
I’ve got a confession to make. This isn’t a proper first date. I met Moko a while back when we had a pint and did an interview at her South London local. It was around the same time that I heard her music and became a fully-fledged fangirl; stalking her on Twitter, going to all her gigs, loitering around at the end in the hope of making friends.
In some people’s minds this may warrant a restraining order, but Moko was strangely receptive. She even sent me a cute text on Christmas Day. Maybe she just had Stockholm syndrome, but it actually seemed like I was becoming friends with my favourite popstar. Then, as inevitably happens in all my friendships with people of discrepantly high talent, I started to develop feelings. I’m not saying that having a single at the top of UK charts is what I look for in a person (because that would be shallow), but Moko’s number five with Chase and Status last September did give me a great big crush on her.
I began to ask myself, “Are Moko and I destined for the friend zone forever? Or could we be something more???” As my Nan says, “Sometimes the best things in life are right there in front of you,” so I took a chance and asked Moko out for a coffee.
Noisey: Er, you’re 53 minutes late to our first date?
Moko: I’m so sorry! I overslept!
Hmm. I guess you've been working pretty hard - you deserve a lie in. I came to your gig on Friday night (obviously, #stalker). It was great. What was the penultimate track that you played again?
"Never Let Me Go".
Ah I love that. We had such a good dance to it.
I’m glad, that’s what it’s supposed to be, vocally and lyrically, it just has that dancey vibe.
You’re good at getting people to dance though. You always shout, “I wanna see you twerk!” and then the audience just look at you like, “err no one else here can twerk as well as you.”
Haha maybe I shouldn’t have said that. I remembered Miley Cyrus and then I had a twinge and was like, “we don’t want twerking in this gig, no, not welcome here.”
It doesn’t really matter that Miley ruined twerking for everyone because, on stage, Moko’s got a pretty distinctive dutty wind. She grinds her way through entire sets, her figure deliberately silhouetted by the lights. One minute she’ll bounce up and down, encouraging the crowd to join her, the next she’ll throw back her head and hold a note worthy of Whitney.
Her sound makes you feel like the millenium’s about to roll in; a unique blend of late 90s house and garage, overlain with a soulful vocal perfected since joining a Gospel Choir at the age of five. It's a bit like Massive Attack meets Candi Station, meets drum'n'bass; both nostalgic and contemporary. As a general rule Moko wears all black everything. Oh, and there's her trademark hair, which I can't help but ask her about.
How do you do your hair?
Ha! I can’t give away too much but it comes with breaking a few combs. I comb it all out and then I put lots of little hair bands on it. It takes a long time.
It’s so long though. Can you get it to stand on end?
Please do a gig like that, I would die.
I’m tempted to! It’s just a bit of a mess though.
Me too, that’s why I always wear a beanie although I’ll take it off cause we’re on a date. Tell me about the Chase and Status stuff then, what’s been happening since I last saw you. Did you go on tour with them?
Yeah I supported them. It was very hard but very fun. I never had a dead crowd. It was a real learning curve though because I had to really focus on the art and not get dragged into other things.
People got wasted but they weren’t crazy or going mad.
Not like the pill heads in the video then?
Exactly. I don’t do that stuff, I’ve never taken any drug apart from weed. I can’t do it. I’m too scared cause I’m crazy enough without drugs. Anyway, it taught me to be a controlled artist and it was also really scary because you’re standing in front of a crowd who potentially don’t know you, or at least only know you from one track.
"Count on Me" came in at number 5 in the charts, right?
Yeah and it stayed there for quite a bit.
Is there a fear that if you feature on a really big track when you’re starting out people will just get to know you for that?
It was a really amazing experience and a really positive way of opening up the attention that I need. Compared to my stuff, it’s the same kind of idea, it has that 90s vibe but it was very pop and commercial and I’m really not ready for that kind of sound and style yet.
But now you’re signed to Chase and Status’ label? Did you have other offers? Why choose them?
Yes I am, after a lot of deliberation that was the choice in the end. We had Columbia, Island, Excel: but I chose MTA because I felt like I’d have more of a one to one, personal relationship with them and they were coming from an artist background so they’d understand me as an artist. And you know what? It’s come true. Every time I finish a gig, Will is always like, “you could have done this better.” He’s such a legend.
Have you been recording?
I’m going into the studio tomorrow for two weeks.
You’ve done an EP already! (It was called Black).
Yeah but I want to build. I’ve got a lot more to show and I want people to go on a journey with me, rather than be like “here’s my album”.
When chatting about her influences, Moko names FKA Twigs and James Blake as contemporary inspirations, and name checks Shara Nelson and TLC as the more oldschool. “I grew up listening to Smooth FM in our house in New Cross,” she tells me, “but my mum used to play a lot of Ghanaian music and Afrobeat too.”
So how is your mum doing?
She’s still a G! She’s just livin’ her life man. Oh yeah! She’s got a really weird habit now of coming to my gigs and taking pictures with everyone. It’s so embarrassing!
Well, you’ve got some hardcore fans now. She’s probably just proud. Does she do selfies?
Yeah she takes selfies on her phone. Mum selfies. I wish I brought one for you. She always does it when she’s wearing her slit and kaba. You know those hippy African all in one things…
Have you ever worn one of those? What did you wear to gospel choir?
Oh yeah I went to Germany to do a gig with my choir and we had this massive gown. You know that 90s kente African material that’s orange, like the Fresh Prince used to wear? It was horrible then but now I look back they could have been cool.
It wasn’t really in an ironic way was it though?
Tell me about your mum’s cooking, that’s what I really want to hear about. What’s the traditional dish of Ghana?
Sometimes it's jollof rice, but it’s all about the banku and okra. Banku is corn that is left to ferment and then rolled out into a dough ball and then my mum puts it in a leaf and then you pull open the leaf and dip it in okra soup, which my mum also puts chicken, turkey, onions, spinach and aubergine in. Real goodness. I tell you it makes you sleepy sometimes cause it’s a bit of a carb overload…
Carbicide? (hold tite Grazia, you can have that)
Exactly. It's really yummy though, except when my mum makes it too hot. I told her to stop it cause I can't enjoy it. We eat it with out our hands at home.
Yeah but my mum forced us to learn how to eat with our hands and cutlery. Civilized slash not. At school we’d eat with our knife and fork and when we went home we put that knife and fork down and ate with our hands while sitting on the floor.
Do you have dinner on the floor every night?
No, just sometimes, depending on what we’re eating. If we’re eating African food then my mum will put out the African cloth.
Wait so if you’re having African food you eat on the floor and if you’re having English food you eat on the table?
It’s given me a really balanced life.
Follow Amelia on Twitter: @MillyAbraham
All photos by Jake Lewis: @Jake_Photo
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