In Session: Inja

Known within the drum ‘n’ bass scene as being one of the most talented, positive and captivating MCs around - Inja has made his mark. Now, the MC-turned-DJ-and-producer is ready to show that he has more to give, and he wants to repay a scene that has taught him so much about himself.

“Before I was an MC I was a raver, I’ve been at crowds before I was on stage,” he states. The power of rave is at the core of all Inja does, and he believes in forging connections and relishing good music as a way of unification and understanding during hard times.

Inja's polished and distinct artistry incorporates unrivalled lyricism, positive energy, and a trademark charisma few can match. He has MCed, either with his own show or with other DJs, at iconic venues over the past year including Bristol’s Motion, The Drumsheds, Warehouse Project and he has an upcoming fabric show.

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Having been signed to Hospital Records, he has now started a new venture by launching his own label Inja Music, which has already released his tracks ‘Funktown Riddim’, ‘Not Broken’ and ‘Thinkin Bout You’.

Alongside the label, he has developed his own hybrid live-DJ show This Is Inja, where he MCs over tracks he’s produced or some of his favourite tracks currently dominating turntables. He sees these new ventures as a challenge, something which will immerse him further into the drum ‘n’ bass scene.

“I love something that challenges me, not that just MCing other DJ’s sets doesn’t challenge me, but I’ve been loving doing my own mixes and having my own show.”

We speak to the multitalented drum ‘n’ bass star about the lies of Boris amid partygate that his bars have taken aim at, what the role of an MC is, music and mental health, and the power of the subwoofer. Check it out alongside his In Session mix below.

What inspired you to start Inja Music?

Well at the start I turned to the people I look up to and also to my friends - this all includes DJ Die, Bladerunner, DRS. Seeing them have their own imprint, and seeing them be able to put out what they want and when they want to put it out, had a big impact on me. I wanted to hone my own vision. I was at a point where I was just sitting on so much music, and I wanted to get it out in some way, shape, or form. So my management helped me push towards starting my own label. There’s no point standing at the table and holding the dice and not rolling them.

Are there any core values or characteristics you wanted Inja Music to have?

I wanted it to be a true representation of me and the types of sounds that I’m a fan of. I guess music is such a big spectrum, a lot of things can be music and even dance music is really broad. I want to make sure I’m making the space for the sounds that I love and admire.

How does it feel to be able to release music on your own label?

It feels refreshing and freeing - I’m happy and fortunate to be able to work with some great producers and just be able to release things as we feel. It’s a proper adventure and I can’t wait to get more stuck into it.

How did the project with Disrupta come about?

So Disrupta and me are under the same management, Inside the Night. We had a conversation with the manager, and I was like oh yeah I have this vocal but I really want someone to make something beautiful out of it. They pointed me in the direction of Disrupta and me and him started speaking, and then he started making his magic — things were just falling into place. Man was really just doing his thing and I was so impressed. He made something so beautiful; I wasn’t even ready for how well it was turning out, it was better than anything I could have imagined.

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Is there anything new you want to try out?

I want to try out more production because I’ve started to produce a little bit. ‘Not Bad’ is made all by me, so is ‘Funktown Riddim’! And I really enjoyed the process so would love to do more production.

I’ve always known how to produce a little bit because I’ve always recorded my own vocals and stuff like that, so one day I just thought about giving it a go and then I went from there. I’d never produced drum ‘n’ bass but I gave it a try and then played a couple of bits to some friends and they thought it was decent, and when I told them it was me they were really impressed.

What appeals to you about the sonics of drum ‘n’ bass?

You’ve got to give it to the bass, because all my brain was saying just then, as I was thinking, is just bass and bass and bass! That deep, soul-filling sound has always resonated with me, for as long as I can remember. It can take you on journeys, you can lose yourself in it. I love how varied the influences are, I love the reggae influence, I love the b-lines, and I love the low range of sounds that come with drum ‘n’ bass.

You love having crowds and missed that a lot over the pandemic. How does it feel to finally be back in the full swing of things?

When we get to go to these venues and to these events, we are allowed to forget our troubles and our stresses momentarily. For the few hours that we are in this environment, suddenly nothing else matters. People can be in there and not be judged by anyone and can do their thing, and that’s what I love seeing. I see people connect over frequencies and I see people letting loose, and for however long they’re listening to my set or they’re at a certain event, I like knowing that they’re having a good time.

Now that I’ve also got this label and my This is Inja show, I can start testing out snippets for the audience and see what the interest is and how well the crowd reacts. It’s a good way to actually get a human measure of interest rather than only just shouting into the void on social media. The feeling of dropping something and the audience asking for an instant replay or them to start singing it back - man that's the best feeling ever!

At the end of the day, I’m a raver before I’m an artist. I love music and I love connecting over frequencies. I’ve been at the stage before I’ve ever been on the stage. So yeah, I’m just chuffed to be at it again.

What does being in a crowd mean to you?

There’s something special about being in a crowd - whether it’s for your favourite person coming on or whether it’s for someone you’ve never experienced before, there’s an excitement to every set. Especially after seeing names and faces online, it’s exciting to see if people that live up to your expectations. It’s nice experiencing these new things with people around you and being a part of a collective body.

You champion yourself as a human before being an MC, DJ or producer - what does that mean to you?

Wow, it's something along the lines of having free will to express your feelings and emotions and that we have the chance to connect with each other.

How did the This Is Inja Show come about?

As it stands, I’m still finding my feet. It was an idea that came about when I was in New Zealand - but the person I was meant to be doing it with had issues with their visa. But I decided to just go for it. It started just going, I was blending away more and more, and then here we are. It’s great to be able to MC and put my words and bars to what DJs are playing, but it’s great putting it on shows with tracks that I like and tracks that I can personally gauge with the audience. It’s great! I love something that challenges me, not that just MCing other DJ’s sets doesn’t challenge me, but I’ve been loving doing my own mixes and having my own show.

'Funktown Riddim' was a hit, it calls out the lies of the UK government - tell us about the story of the track.

I was playing around with some production bits and playing around with some sounds, and I was doing it for some time and falling asleep. In my half-sleep state, the words just started coming to me! It was in that weird stage just around Christmas time when we didn’t know if we’d have the New Year or not, and at the time it felt like they may take it away. There was so much frustration with the government, there was so much pent-up anger, and I felt that not just myself but other people had told me the same thing. The big story at the time was obviously the partygate story, so it came from a place of wanting to call them out about it. Like at the end of the day, they weren’t doing what they were meant to do and you’re supposed to lead by example. It felt like kicking all of our teeth. I put the vocal on the beat and sent it out to my management, they seemed keen to get it out and that was that.

Where did it go from there?

Well, I got someone to help on the mix and master, and we made a video for it! The video is amazing, it was actually hilarious. And like as much as [the government] can take the piss out of us, we must be able to do it back in some way!

What did you hope people get out of tracks like this one?

That as serious as the world can be and as hard as it can be, music is a release and it should be about fun and enjoyment. You can have serious music, but you can also have music that makes you laugh. Hopefully, it just makes you want to dance and let loose. It was a feeling that I know a lot of people shared. I felt it needed to be said, so I said it.

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A lot of your MCing is somewhat emotionally and politically-charged, is that intentional?

I don’t know, because you can walk into a room and you can feel a vibe from how people are moving and how they’re expressing themselves. I want to harness that feeling and make them feel like they’re not alone and that their struggles, whatever it is, are heard.

I try and spread positivity, but when it comes to calling out bigotry or speaking on social issues such as mental health, I like people to feel like they’re not alone in having these thoughts. Music is ultra inclusive, we include everyone and there’s no need for anyone to be left out. I want to make sure you are okay and heard.

Protest songs go back centuries, probably millennia! It’s a great way for people to unite and feel like they’re not alone in what they’re feeling. Telling stories through music and words has been here way before all of us.

Your frankness about your own mental wellbeing is admirable, how has music helped your mental well-being?

Music has been a therapy zone for me, being able to write has always helped me. It’s taking scenarios out of your own head and putting them down on paper. Whether that’s going to make it anywhere or just scrunched up, that’s the process. Being in a crowd and listening to music is therapeutic to me, I love being by a soundsystem and being near a big subwoofer and absorbing the frequencies it creates. It shakes your soul! It can be escapism or it can be a grounder and make you realise that you are in your own body.

There was this show I did at this university town, Loughborough, a few weeks ago. I haven’t been feeling my best or doing my best mentally over the last few months, but being on stage for that show was incredible. People just got along to the music and people were singing back songs with me. I said something along the lines of “you lot are giving me life right now”, something about playing and sharing music is an amazing feeling.

As an MC - how do you figure out the vibe in the room?

It’s really just a feeling! I can’t describe it, I’m hypersensitive and hyperemotional, I absorb and I feel a lot. I can figure out what others feel quite easily. You can feel when something is good, bad, or what is missing. Part of my job is to fill in the gaps and bridge the gaps. When I’m MCing, I’m the vessel or almost conductor between the DJ and the audience.

What role do you think MCs should play within the scene?

We’re given big crowds, and at times we see that people in those crowds feel lost. We should help give them escapism above all else. Sometimes life gets a bit much, and sometimes the best way to drown it out is to literally stand next to a speaker! We have a cheat code and we can help them forget and give them relief. At the end of the day, we can unite.

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What are you looking forward to in the future?

I’m looking forward to being in England over the summer, and to do festivals! Tickets are selling left, right and centre, the line-ups are insane. And as much as I love travelling the world, no one parties as we do! Everyone parties in their own way, but the way we do it, the linr-ups, the intensity, the feelings that come with it - it’s just so exciting. I love the big Hospitality ones, and I love the big dance music festivals!

I just love seeing people support the label, and I really hope people keep supporting it throughout the year.

Tell us about the mix:

Firstly, thank you so much for getting involved and giving me the pleasure of providing you with a mix. I thought I’d come with a few of what the people like and lots of unreleased music for this. I’ve been really enjoying performing my ‘This Is Inja’ sets around the world for the last year. It’s given me the opportunity to test out lots of the new music I’m sitting on. So I thought I’d up the ante and give you a little slice of the latest tracks I’ve been stocking up. Hope you enjoy!

Aneesa Ahmed is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow her on Twitter

Inja x Exile - Let Go (Original Mix)
Inja x Elisara - Faded
Limited x Inja - Fall Down On Me
Inja × Cheff - Bongo Tech
Inja × Pete Cannon - Soundboy Burier
Inja x Serum - Jet Ski
Inja - Trample The Beast
Whiney x Inja - Flashlight VIP
Inja x Pete Cannon - War Games
Inja x Logistics - Birthday Song
Inja x Disrupta - Thinkin Bout U
Inja - Not Bad
Inja x Whiney - Smile and Wave
Inja x Shortball & Elisara - Bring A Shovel
Bladerunner x Inja - Rave Eyes
Inja x Shortball - Machete
Injax Serum & Voltage - Gun Finger Fam VIP
Inja x Ben Snow - Want Smoke
Whiney x Inja - Stay Alert
Bou x Inja - Cous Cous
Bladerunner x Inja - Mek Dem Run
Inja × Selector Jman & L-Side - Bad Boy
Inja - Not Broken
Inja × Burnzy - Need Your Love
Inja - Match Fit