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In conversation with CubsNoCap, a Gloucester-based artist on The Music Works’ UPSURGE programme

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young person wearing a black hoody with hands in their pockets, brick building with windows behind them
Jacob aka CubsNoCap

“The Music Works put my mind in the right place when I went through a tough period in my life… I feel like it opened my eyes to the world of music because it’s not just dropping songs. The Music Works definitely helped me see the other aspects to the music industry and what parts people have to play.”

- Jacob aka CubsNoCap

Written by Jordan Pepin, Trustee at The Music Works - as part of Youth Music NextGen. 

Jacob is a Gloucester-based rapper/singer, part of the collective NoCapBoys. He also takes part in UPSURGE, a programme run by The Music Works which is funded by Youth Music. During his time with The Music Works he has developed his skills as an artist, as well as sound engineering, producing and more.

Jacob shares his experience working with The Music Works and the challenges he faces as an aspiring artist. 

How did you first get involved with The Music Works?

I went through quite a challenging period with family and my life in general in my late teens. Music was my therapy at that point. I would write and listen to music, that would always be something that pulled me through. Kirsty, from my supporting accommodation, asked to put me on GFM [a local radio station], but at the time I was not confident enough to do that. Malaki [music leader at The Music Works] had heard that Kirsty was trying to put me on GFM and from there we started to talk.

I went to the studio at Guildhall, and we spent the next few sessions creating beats and seeing what engineering was like. From there Malaki said I needed to build my confidence and get stuck in. He said, “you can do this, and you got an ear for it”.

He stuck by me through that and it was quite personal because of what was going on for me. It was really a big thing for Malaki to come in and try and get me involved. Ever since that I have been involved with The Music Works. I have been doing sessions with Shivan who does the engineering side of it, and I’ll go and record something with the other engineers. I’ve also been doing some voluntary work with them. Just getting as involved as much as possible really.

What happens in studio sessions with no cap and The Music Works?

I got a session on my own which would normally be at The Music Works. When recording I like to go into a session with the track ready, so I tend to write at home with a beat. I use voice memos on my phone and play the beat from my laptop, and I’ll just try to find what kind of melody I want to work with. And then I can listen back to that voice memo and kind of fit words to it, including phrases that are trending right now. Then I’ll head down to the studio and literally just smash it out.

young person crouching down by a brick wall painted with blue graffiti

What’s been your favourite experience with The Music Works?

My whole experience with The Music Works has been crazy because ever since I started it’s been like yeah music, music, music, music. And I had a belief that I wanted to do it, but having the resources and places where you can record, and people to record with, and all the things that I didn’t have access to… I don’t even think I could narrow it down when it comes to The Music Works. Since I’ve been involved it’s taken me from being here [holds out hand] where I am in music, to up here [holds out hand higher than before] and now it’s like I’m really trying to go at it.

It sounds like it’s unlocked another level for you in terms of music?

Yeah definitely. 

What would you say is your proudest moment in terms of music?

When I dropped that track [Phoney] and saw 6k streams, it was a good feeling.

Tell me about that. You dropped the track. Did you drop it with expectations?

For me I didn’t really have any expectations, expect too much or expect too little... I just didn’t want to expect anything. It will show for itself.

Man are banging this tune. Man like this, you get me. And yeah it was just a mad feeling because, like I said, it was spontaneous. I was in the studio and it just came about. And I didn’t actually plan when we were dropping it, it was like two days before, and man we were like, ‘we should drop it’. I didn’t actually want to drop it because I’m a perfectionist and quite critical of what I do. I spotted a few imperfections when it came to ad-libs - on a part where it says the word ‘phoney’.

I can tell by the way you’re talking its burning you.

Yeah exactly! And I was just like, ‘nah I can’t drop that, I’ve got to get back in the studio’. But every track I’ve made with anyone else, I’m like ‘nah I don’t like it so you can’t drop it’. People started getting frustrated. They were like ‘you’re hard but you’re not dropping nothing. And you’re now stopping me from dropping it.’ So, I was like ‘you know what, whatever I’ll drop the track’. And then from that I got quite a few streams. It just went well, and I got messages saying I should get involved in this music, or, ‘I didn’t even know you did music’.

How did it feel getting those messages?

It was a good feeling. Like I said, I was battling with that lack of self-belief. So, I was trying to tell myself yeah, you good enough. But I wasn’t believing that deep down. It’s one thing to think but then to get clarity on that [by getting streams] is a good thing. That was the main moment where I knew I’m good enough. You’re going to do this. Yeah, that period was crazy.

I guess it’s confirmation for you. Anyone can say anything, but you can’t lie about a number.

Like you said, you can’t argue with number. But for me it wasn’t the numbers I was focusing on so much. I was getting love from all angles from people I didn’t even think would even be supporting and showing me love. It was just that self-belief.

Are you going to have any expectations on the next track you drop?

I think that I would want it to do more than the last one did. It might not happen, but I want to hit that target again. As long as its growth every time. I just want to keep going up. I say I’ve got expectations, but also, like before, I don’t want to have too many expectations.

Until you get into stuff like this, guess you don’t really know how psychological it can all be.

In terms of No Cap sessions and The Music Works, how do you think they’ve improved your musical ability as an artist?

I feel like both have increased my confidence. With No Cap side I’m working with artists that have their own fanbase, and they know what they want to do. So you feel some pressure and you want to show what you’re about. That improved my confidence a lot because I had to show all the No Cap guys that I was serious, this is the sound I’m bringing and hope that they like it. So that definitely improved my confidence.

The Music Works affected me in the same way, but I feel like it opened my eyes to the world of music because it’s not just dropping songs. The Music Works definitely helped me see the other aspects to [the music industry] and what parts people have to play. For example, getting a better understanding of PRS and PPL, learning about how artists get paid... stuff like that.

I think it’s so important for artists to know these things.

Music is art and it’s someone’s creation. When it’s good and it’s got the right things behind it, it can be so expensive, and you get a lot money from it. I feel like if I didn’t have The Music Works, and didn’t have a better understanding of how it works, someone could quite easily come to me and say, ‘let me give you £10k and I’ll sign you, and for the next few years just give me your tracks.’

That’s £10k, so I’m going to be thinking yeah, £10k I can invest, I can flip this and do this, but really that’s nothing because they’re going to make a lot more off my music. Without that understanding I think a lot of people can get trapped.

Personally, how do you think The Music Works and being a part of No Cap has helped you?

Personally with No Cap I’m working with my friends, and one of them I consider a brother. It’s helped me step out of my comfort zone.

I feel like Music Works put my mind in the right place when I went through a tough period in my life. I feel like I lost my way. Coming back, and looking back, and realising what I was doing - having No Cap and Music Works around solidified what it is I know I believe in and value.

Would you say it kept you grounded?

Yeah definitely.

Can you explain what Gloucester is like from your perspective?

Gloucester is a good thing to experience if you can get to terms with what goes on here, because it opens your eyes. I would say there’s isn’t much to it regarding opportunities and things to do. There’s definitely a lot of musical talent in Gloucester, but there is a lack of belief. So those artists that want to go somewhere aren’t really doing anything.

From my experience it feels like there’s a lot there, but it’s not being catered to.

That’s why The Music Works are really doing a mad thing. A really good thing. It’s not just providing opportunities, it’s showing people that stuff is possible. You don’t have to be in Gloucester doing nothing. And that’s why The Music Works and the team that’s there are doing a big thing. Like you said, no one is actually tending to the problem that going on. It’s like there’s a drought and everyone is just looking at it. Everyone is accepting that we’re in a time of need and nothing is going to be done.

No Cap had a big part to play because I would say that every member had that lack of belief, even me. When it comes to No Cap, I was still involved with The Music Works. Brandon came up with the whole No Cap Boys idea/record label. I feel like my involvement has really helped push it and helped them to see that yeah, this stuff is possible.

What would you say your plans are for the future?

With what Music Works are doing I want to be a part of that. I want to be a sound engineer and I want to be making tracks as an artist.

I want to build my name enough across the board for people to know this is a serious guy. I want to bring my own sound. As an artist I want people to rate what I’m doing and just have a good following as an artist. The same thing with production and the same with being a sound engineer. I feel like at a point across all boards I can be proud of where I am - that’s where I want to be. I would also like to create a platform for the younger generation who don’t really know the music scene and the music business side of it.

What does Music Works and No Cap mean to you?

No Cap is like the future. For me, the drive, and the ambition that these friends of mine have are closely tied to mine. So, I know that we got the vision and the plan and now we’re just doing what we can do.

The Music Works, I could see myself being involved in anything and everything that they do. My long-term plan would be to help people and bring people through and that’s exactly what they do. They help the younger generation.

They both a mean a lot me, in different ways.


Thank you to our funders; the National Lottery via Arts Council England, players of People's Postcode Lottery, and support from donors, partners and fundraisers, who make our work supporting young peoples' lives through music possible.

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