[Words by Alice Nicolov. Photography by Aliyah Otchere.]
Spend any amount of time with House of Pharaohs and the word that comes up over and over is family. Right now, the South London collective is hot property. After a plethora of hard releases over the last couple of years, today House of Pharaohs' latest EP dropped – a weighty five-track project titled The Fix, the record is a culmination of months worth of work. Possibly one of the most highly anticipated records on the UK's alternative rap scene, fans who've been waiting impatiently have finally been rewarded. Made up of 10 members – six artists, three fashion designers and one graphic designer, as well as an in-house manager – the group first formed over a summer four years ago. Initially, they were brought together by founding member AJ, whose idea of gathering a collective of like-minded people together had been germinating in the back of his mind for a while. He reached out first to Sam Wise and, together, the pair brought through the people they knew who would fit with what they were trying to do, gradually bringing the whole group together. Initially, the guys, all of whom were already dabbling in music, just spent time slowly bonding with one another – going out and doing things together. As they grew closer, the group began to share their skills and talk about the things they did, as well as voicing their aspirations. The collective began to crystallise into something solid, which has been growing and evolving ever since. Now, House of Pharaohs acts, as core member Danny Stern puts it, as a “safe haven” for its members. It's a space that provides a forum and platform for their ideas and goals. Most importantly, it's a place to be free.
Often disseminated and digested through the work and personas of the individual characters involved, to gain any true understanding of what the South London collective is, you have to absorb it as a whole – a unit that works together to bring everyone involved up as equals to the highest level possible. Their ersonalities do shine through on the day we meet, though. Sam Wise is serious. He arrives first, thoughtfully drinks coffee in the sunshine and selects each of his words deliberately as we talk. Danny, who's taken it upon himself to make sure everyone knows where they have to be and when, is calm and collected. BlazeYL comes later, roaring up on a moped, a bag of energy and laughter. Bandanna has the most to say – chatty and with an infectious laugh, he leads the group in flinging the windows open and climbing out onto a rooftop to pose for the photographer waiting below. Kevin Taylor is quieter, drifting off to play the piano later on in the afternoon before being joined by the others. Each of them is strong as an individual, but together they seem unstoppable and the bond between them is palpable. They are most at home together. Ahead of the release, we spent a Saturday in Brixton getting to know five of the group's core members, to find out what House of Pharaohs means to each of them.
House of Pharaohs is my family. It's a business but it's also a culture. It's a lifestyle that we live – it's us just being friends. Most importantly, they're my brothers. That's what it is for me, anyway. It's very important to have my brothers in my life because it's like we're evolving together. We all do the same thing and you always need to put yourself around people who aspire to the same things as you, you know what I'm saying? Obviously, these guys are working really hard, so it makes me want to work hard too. And I work hard so it makes them want to work hard and vice versa – all the time. They're my family.
What is House of Pharaohs? Well, that's a big question. I mean House of Pharaohs is me as much as I am House of Pharaohs. It's a part of me and I'm a part of it. It's like a path and a journey that I'm on, I think. When it comes to House of Pharaohs, it's literally a group of brothers who have come together to do positive things. It means a lot to me. House of Pharaohs allows for collaboration and for people to inspire each other. It also facilitates each of us to pursue our individual ventures and explore all the different realms we want to explore, whether that is music; whether that is fashion; whether that is design; whether they want to go to acting; whether it's dance, you know what I mean? It’s just about freedom. House of Pharaohs is a big symbol for freedom.
House of Pharaohs is a collective, obviously, but besides that we're brothers; we're family. We all got a bond so I see it more than just kinda ‘House of Pharaohs’, I see it more as a brotherhood and a family, really. We're just a bunch of creatives working and striving for the best for ourselves individually and for everyone else, too. I'm not gonna lie, it's really important to me. Since we kind of started this ting, it's been so important. We just take every step as it comes – is that the right term? I don't even know what it is but, listen – I think you know what I'm saying. But yeah, just taking easy steps every day. House of Pharaohs is very important to me, still.
House of Pharaohs is a movement. It's a family. For me, it's just a safe haven. It's something I feel comfortable with and we all love what we're doing. It really means a lot to me. It's my life. It's really important to me – no one outside of it would really understand it because they're not in it, do you know what I mean? Whatever other people think of House of Pharaohs, they're entitled to think that. I honestly feel like it's beautiful that other people don't get to see what exactly it is because it's something that's nice to share with my people. I appreciate that the most about it.
We're a collective of individual talents combined together to create something unique and different. House Of Pharaohs is a group that's very important to me. These are the people that I talk to every single day, meet every single day, work with every single day, so it's essential to have a really strong bond with each different person. Also, they're my working partners so we always have to make sure everything is in line and everyone is good.