By Ross Crae
Glasgow rapper, Gav Livz has big ambitions to make sure there is Scottish rap in the charts and he wants to be the face behind it.
Gavin Livingston is a not a man who’ll give up on his ambitions. From behind a microphone as Glaswegian rapper Gav Livz and in front of a computer screen as a self-taught businessman and founder of independent label Scheme to a Dream, Gavin has his mind set firmly on becoming the first Scottish rapper to hit the UK charts.
“I want to do for Scotland what Dizzee Rascal did for England,” he explains. “In the charts there is a Scottish producer in Calvin Harris, a Scottish rock band in Biffy Clyro and a Scottish singer in Emeli Sandé. Where’s the Scottish rapper?”
The release of his Gav Still Livz Vol.2 mixtape on September 13th and his music video ‘Bucky Bottle’ a fortnight earlier are just the first tastes of what is to come from the rapper described as “the Rabbie Burns of hip-hop.”
Emerging from a five year hiatus and launching his new label with meticulous planning and commercial thinking behind it, he is no newcomer to the world of hip-hop.
Eminem’s 8 Mile was his inspiration as he started scribbling lyrics down on his way to school rather than finishing incomplete homework.
He laughs as he recalls his younger days: “I was about 13 when the movie came out and after that I was going about with one of those Britney Spears style microphones sellotaped to me thinking I was an American gangster with the accent like Eminem!”
Despite these questionable antics, he seemed to have found his calling, and dropped out of school at the age of 16 to sign a deal with Up North Records.
Under the stage name Da BlinGz, which remains tattooed on his arm to this day, he was propelled on the way to stardom with a stint touring Eastern Europe with hip-hop royalty as he supported De La Soul in sold out arenas.
However, the success of the tour and his debut album, The Octagon, wasn’t enough and the Da BlinGz phase was soon over.
Instead of this signalling the end of his rap career, his entrepreneurial spark kicked in and Gavin decided to go it alone as Gav Livz.
He said: “Through the whole experience I learned that looking for and getting a record deal was very nineties and nowadays there are tools at hand so anyone with talent can be what they want to be.”
As he matured, he switched back to his natural voice and started working on his own self-released albums and mixtapes alongside fellow rapper MC-VA.
“I couldn’t be in my mid-twenties rapping with an American accent,” he admits. “Billy Connolly inspires me a lot because his accent works worldwide.
“The first thing I decided to do was to go down south and see if they’d ever even heard of a Scottish rapper.
“They hadn’t and I figured I needed to help contribute to change that and really try to establish a prominent Scottish rapper to be on track with the mainstream market.”
To do this, he took a step back from making music to focus on teaching himself a variety of skills that could help him make his rap career commercially viable.
“I’d always liked making my own money from carol singing or car washing when I was younger,” he says, “but I didn’t have a clue about business if I’m honest.
“I looked at the market, at how Dizzee did it in the Grime scene and how he broke through commercially and topped the charts.
“I realised that we were doing a lot of what he did ourselves already and we had the full package – we were running as a record label at the time and just didn’t know it.”
The label went through various rebrands and constant tinkering before the brand was perfected. Scheme to a Dream Entertainment officially launched in August as the culmination of years of hard work for Gav and a dedicated team of interns that had formed a functioning business.
The name encompasses the ethos of working hard to achieve goals no matter where you came from – in Gav’s case working his way from a housing scheme to a dream musical career.
All that was left to do was to release some music, and the first song of a new era for Gavin Livingston as a rapper and as a businessman packed a punch – quite literally.
A controversial yet hilarious music video for the track ‘Bucky Bottle’ – an ode to one of Scotland’s most infamous beverages – preceded the release of Gav’s first mixtape on the new label.
The video is a step up from previous self-shot videos for Gav’s earlier songs. Utilising green screen, a large tracksuit clad cast and a variety of filming locations, ‘Bucky Bottle’ is certainly an eye-catching production featuring the effects of alcohol and violence through stereotypical Glasgow Ned Al Kaholic, the lead character.
“I’m very proud of the video,” Gav says. “I played four different parts; a policeman, a wee ned and another wee fat ned as well as myself. I used to live that life when I was younger, so it’s a play on my past life I suppose.”
The amount of planning, preparation and effort being put in to re-launching Gav’s career looks set to pay off as the video has topped 16,000 views in just three weeks.
“When I was younger I used to just go out with a video camera and film me rapping, but this took as much time before actually recording anything as after, just planning every shot to get the perfect video.
“It’s a Scottish ned talking to another Scottish ned rapping about Bucky though, can it get any better?”
Gav Still Livz Vol. 2 is available as a free download from www.gavlivz.com.