Loyle Carner: “Because I Was Dyslexic, I Was Always Told I Shouldn’t Write”

The British rapper shares his new single “Stars & Shards,” and talks cooking, hip-hop, and growing up with ADHD.

Loyle Carner: “Because I Was Dyslexic, I Was Always Told I Shouldn’t Write”   Charlie Cummings

U.K. MC Loyle Carner made a name for himself as one of south London's most disarmingly open, raw new voices back in 2014 with his A Little Late EP. This year, he's on tour, and working on a debut album of his warmly nostalgic beats—courtesy of collaborator Rebel Kleff—and melodically woven stories of family, love, and loss. On his latest single "Stars & Shards," debuted on Annie Mac's BBC Radio 1 show last night and now streaming below, he contemplates the good and bad in people with a characteristic tongue in cheek and densely detailed storytelling.

The FADER caught up with Carner on the phone from Paris, where he was about to play a sold-out show, to find out more about the new song and his new plans to launch a cooking school for teenagers with ADHD.

What does "Stars & Shards" mean to you?

LOYLE CARNER: It was actually the last song [of mine] that my dad ever heard before he passed away. It's been floating around for quite a long time...it was kind of tough for me to revisit it for a while. [My brother] was like, "What happened to 'Stars & Shards,' you need to finish that, your dad loved it." It was just the right time [to go back to it]. Before, it just felt a bit too raw. It was something I was holding onto.

[The song has] taken on a few different meanings since it was written. But basically, in the right light a shard of glass will look like a star, but has none of its depth or detail. I know a few stars—not meaning famous, but the way your nan would call you a star—and I know a lot of shards of glass. They never get along.

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You're setting up a cooking school for teenagers with ADHD. What's the inspiration behind that?

I grew up with ADHD, and found cooking was the one thing that fully relaxed me. I figured if it worked for me, it might work for others. Me and a friend [who has a catering company] are going to be teaching the classes together, and we’ve got three or four friends of ours who are also good chefs who are going to be assistants as well. We want to make sure that no kid gets forgotten about. There will be six lessons, and on the seventh there will be a pop-up restaurant for the kids' friends and family. We're shooting it, [for] a short film. Not to expose the kids, but just to demonstrate what they're capable of, because I don't think enough people are talking about it.

When you say you think enough people are talking about it, do you mean ADHD?

Yes, not cooking, everyone talks about cooking. It’s quite a tough thing for self esteem, ADHD and all the things that come with it—be it dyslexia, autism, learning difficulties—just because from a young age you’re led to believe you're very stupid and not capable of anything. Because I was dyslexic as well, I was always told that I should think about something other than writing, that I shouldn’t write. But it was the thing that I enjoyed the most at school.

[Cooking] was one of the first things I could do independently. It gave me a little bit of self-confidence; it builds your self worth.

What’s your favorite dish to cook?

It changes day to day, but the other day I made teriyaki salmon, that was quite nice.

“It’s quite a tough thing for self esteem, ADHD and all the things that come with it—be it dyslexia, autism, learning difficulties—just because from a young age you’re led to believe you’re very stupid and not capable of anything.”

You were recently in America, what did you get up to over there?

Honestly, just got fat.

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Who are your favorite American rappers at the moment?

There's too many, but for now I’d say Kenn Starr and Homeboy Sandman.

And who are your favorite British rappers or MCs?

Of all time? Jehst, Ghetts, and Skinnyman.

Did you listen to more U.S. or U.K. hip-hop—or grime—growing up? What’s been the biggest influence?

I used to flip between MTV Base and Channel U when I was younger. It's impossible to say which was bigger, they both made a large impact.

What’s one thing about you that might surprise us?

I want to be a chef.

What’s coming up next for you?

Fingers crossed, finishing my album. Also [my family are] adopting a little girl. I’ve always wanted a little sister. It was on the cards for a long time, with my mum and my dad, but because my dad smoked cigarettes, the council were like, 'He can’t adopt.' So actually when my dad passed—it’s not positive, but one thing we could kind of take from it is that now we’re able to adopt. And because it was something that my dad wanted, we put it into motion. So it should be happening by the end of the year.


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Loyle Carner plays The FADER stage at this year's Field Day festival; get tickets here.
Loyle Carner: “Because I Was Dyslexic, I Was Always Told I Shouldn’t Write”