Words by Jasmine Khan / Pics by Connor Pope
In recent years, Erdington rapper and musician Sanity has taken a step back. Celebrated for her performance at the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony on Australia’s Gold Coast in 2018, and more recently for her contribution of ‘Midlands Child’ to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games On Record album, Sanity has now returned with a new song and lots to tell Erdington Local.
“When I was doing music at Stockland Green (secondary school), I was learning how to play the guitar, and my teacher, Mr. Scott, would spring it on me that I was doing lunchtime performances,” Sanity explains her first experiences of performing as a child and how it developed her confidence.
She continues: “I remember I used to do little rap ciphers and battles on the playground. As soon as kids see a few people gathered, they all come over. It didn’t develop my stage presence because, obviously, it was on a gravel floor. But it’s the performance-esc-type-vibe.”
Back in school, Sanity “was more grime music, 140bpm, super-fast, skippy, with a lot of braggadocious bars.” She was “repping it for the girls” and, for some time, went by the name ‘Young S’. However, after discovering graffiti tagging an identical alias across Erdington, Sanity realised the name wasn’t necessarily that creative.
“I started taking music a bit more seriously when I was 16, I realised I’m not going to be young forever. If I’m going to do music, I want an authentic name. Dizzy Rascal ‘Bonkers’ came on, and the line was, ‘Let sanity give you the slip’; I was like… ‘Sanity’ and it clicked. Some people think that ‘cos the name’s Sanity, it’s got some deep, intricate, initial meaning.”
“It actually aligns with the kind of music I want to do and the type of message that I want to promote,” explains Sanity.
“Five years ago, I wanted to drop the ‘Lady’ because it had that kind of grime feel to it, and that wasn’t particularly the genre I wanted to be in. My music, it touches on grime, and I started out with it, but I’ve also felt more connected to hip hop and alternative hip hop.
“I felt like the ‘Lady’ kept me boxed in and automatically made people think I was going to have a particular sound. ‘Sanity’ has a bit more openness and creative freedom. It opens the sound up a bit more. To me, it sounds a bit more unpredictable; you don’t know what you’re getting.”
The change in name marks the beginning of a new era for the Erdington artist, and Sanity admits after making music for over ten years, “dropping ‘Lady’ is almost like a rebirth. There’s more maturity with (her music) now, more growth with it, more knowledge behind what made it.” Progressing to a jazzier vibe too, Sanity is excited to discuss her recent release ‘Grass is Greener’ and her upcoming project that is set to be out in full by the end of the year.
“The whole project is centred around growth as a person, and of course, you can’t have growth without knowing where you’ve been. So, I pay homage to certain elements and vibes like faster flows that I’ve done before.
“It’s centred around the theme of nature and making something beautiful out of the most natural thing. It has this really earthy feel to it. It’s polished, but we also (in the mixing and mastering process) wanted it to have a bit of grit.”
The new sound has also brought new musicians into Sanity’s musical sphere, including a tour just before lockdown with Pee Wee Ellis – a saxophonist for the legendary soul singer James Brown. Sanity also appeared on the new album from the UK’s revered jazz saxophonist Camilla George, who in turn plays sax at the end of ’Grass is Greener’.
About her upcoming new music, Sanity continues: “It’s a bit more refined, coming with more live jazz instrumentation rather than samples as well, which is a great feeling. With ‘Grass is Greener’ it’s touching on this fresh start, and really just standing in my purpose and knowing all the things that I’ve done.
“I know sometimes as a human being you know you’re at a certain point, but you can also look at other people and be like: ‘It would be great to do this, and it would be great to have that.’ ‘Grass is Greener’ is about standing in your purpose and being happy, being excited for what you can grow into.”
It seems as though Erdington residents have another exciting piece of local art to look forward to this summer, and Sanity strongly emphasises, “There’s something for everyone on the upcoming project.”
Sanity intends to release a second single at the end of June, where she’s worked with a Grammy award-winning group, and you can catch her playing InterMission Festival in Birmingham at The Mill on 22 July 2023.
‘Grass is Greener’ – Sanity
For more from Sanity visit www.sanitythemc.com