What does Che Lingo sound like exactly? Put simply: himself. There’s a long held convention in popular music in which singers and rappers develop a kind of stage voice and carapace — usually one that reflects the market trends and vogues around them. They sound like they think they should sound, and they think they should sound like other people.
But Che Lingo speaks like he raps, and raps like he speaks — with purpose, poise, and potency. The recording stops, but Che doesn’t. It’s what most forcibly struck Idris Elba — a friend and mentor to Che — when they first met. And it’s what makes Che so compelling, on vinyl and in person.
“Originally I went by the rap name Lingo, and my family all call me Che anyway,” he begins. “But I didn’t want to be Lingo when I’m outside my house, and Che when I’m inside my house. I just wanted it to be one and the same thing. Some people like to separate the two — but to me the songs that work best are always the realest ones.”
Another telling nickname is The Wizard of Wandsworth — the borough in South London where Che grew up. “That’s more an ode to my pen,” he explains. “And the fact that I love my area, and it made me who I am. The youth clubs, and the people that ran them — and just the community. I’m very in and around it.
“When I was a kid, I was always rapping from primary school — spitting bars in the playground and after school. I remember one time I was in my house, and maybe I was about 11, and I was watching music videos on television, and I was singing a Rihanna song. And I just sang the note, and my nan turned round and said: ‘you might have a little something there!’” he laughs.
This is high praise indeed — comparable only, perhaps, to the endorsement of Idris Elba himself, who signed Che to his 7Wallace label in 2020. What’s Elba like as a mentor?
“He’s another example of someone so incredibly integral — the way that he carries himself, the things he says, the considerations he makes, especially with his position,” Che says. “He’s still got a very very strong attachment to his community, and to the area he grew up in. Just before we signed, we had a chat, and he just thanked me”.
“I was always rapping from primary school — spitting bars in the playground…"
“He’s super, crazy humble — so humble that sometimes you’d think the roles were reversed,” Che laughs. “He’s like ‘you’re the expert, you do the music. This is your world.’ And he sends me his verses, and asks me what I think of his work. He very much respects my musical taste, and my word, and my pen. But mostly he’s like a hardworking big brother. I give my heart to him. He very much respects me as a peer.”
It’s not hard to see why. Che is infectiously enthusiastic about almost every subject, and deeply attentive to the world around him. “I’m writing an album this year,” he says. I’m getting my head right. I’m stepping away from social media a bit. Because your environment matters a lot — but not more than where your mind’s at.
“I have a lot of conversations with myself, probably too many, about what I want, and how I want to achieve that. It’s not a journey just about music. It’s more like: what’s the next version of me going to look like? And is there a version of me I prefer? Do I want that for myself? And how do I reach that? Who do I speak to? And where do I need to go?” he says. “Basically, I’m very enamoured by the world right now. And I have a weird wanderlust about me.
“It’s the little things: just the day-to-day stuff,” he smiles. “But my mind is travelling further than my feet ever will.”
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