Gully is among the most exciting young rappers in south London. After a rapid rise, the 18-year-old already has a collection of viral singles and a debut mixtape to his name, with a quick flow and natural ear for a hook that’s turning heads around the capital and beyond. He’s worked with Backroad Gee, PS Hitsquad, and Kwengface on singles including the irresistible underground hit ‘Ying Dat’, but on every one of his releases Gully is the main attraction, one of those rappers whose natural charisma shines through in all that he does.
He grew up in Peckham, raised by his mum. In a fast, diverse, and often challenging environment, Gully says his birthplace made him who he is as much as it might sometimes have messed with his head. He moved between schools throughout his teenage years, eventually leaving for good before he could sit his GCSEs. Around the same time, his football club folded, leaving him with lots of spare time. Needing something to occupy his energetic mind, he found music as the ideal creative outlet. Having rapped for fun with school friends from the age of 13, after leaving school he learned how to set up a studio, mix and record a track.
Gully’s musical tastes formed while he was young. With roots in Zimbabwe, he grew up to the sound of Afro-beats playing in his childhood home, as well as R&B and eventually hip-hop. He counts Jay Z, 50 Cent, and Lil Durk among his favorite rappers, admiring not only their music but also their business acumen. From watching them, he developed an ambition to one day be in a position to sign upcoming artists as well as be one himself.
At the age of 16 Gully recorded a few bars over a beat from London drill producer Ghosty’s YouTube channel. He released it, calling it ‘Movies’. He had naively assumed the beat was free to use, but after the track started generating buzz online, Ghosty contacted him to explain the rules of producer collaboration. They have since agreed on terms.
Unerring freestyles on Pressplay’s Lightwork series and Link Up’s Hardest Bars followed. Then in September 2020, Gully dropped ‘Ying Dat’, a single which made his presence in the scene impossible to ignore. With an infectious beat, contagious flow, and colossal hook, the track lodged itself in the brains of anyone who listened to it. And its title was little more than an ad-lib. “It means whatever you want it to mean,” says Gully. “When I write sometimes I just mutter words into rhymes, and I had nothing to rhyme with ‘spin dat’. So I just said it as an ad-lib at first. And people would be like ‘That ad-lib’s hard!’”
It stuck, and the track went viral. Two months later a remix dropped with guest verses from Backroad Gee, Tallerz, Trizzac, and PS Hitsquad. Gully’s razor tongue was the highlight though, and the original remains the most popular version.
While follow-up singles like ‘Wave’ have shown off the impressive range, Gully’s experimental flow remains constant. He often rhymes on three or four syllables per bar, subtly recalling grime. “I’m good at making the listener feel how I want them to feel,” he says.
With more singles in the works and another mixtape on the horizon, Gully is only going in one direction. “With me, there are no limits,” he says. “I don’t put any boundaries on myself. I feel like you can achieve anything if you really want it. So with that energy, why would I dream small?” Betting against him would be unwise. How big he gets might just be up to him. “I would say like worldwide big. Bigger than worldwide, if that’s even possible.”
Words: Will Pritchard (@wf_pritchard)