Global Week: Ed Sheeran Says ‘Nina’ Was Inspired By Classic Jay Z And Big L Freestyle

Former Vibe cover star Ed Sheeran is a rap genius

You don’t realize how vulgar some of The Notorious B.I.G.’s lyrics are until you hear them spat by Ed Sheeran, Brit accent and all. “Fuck for about an hour, now she want a golden shower,” the 23-year-old UK goof raps, snickering like a fourth-grader through Biggie lines from Uncle Luke’s 1996 song “Bust A Nut.” “You didn’t know that we be pissing on hoes, bitch/Luke and Biggie straight shitting on hoes, bitch.” There’s another revelation made on this beaming May afternoon in the green room at Los Angeles’ Stubhub Center, as Sheeran lounges before his performance at pop radio station KIIS-FM’s annual concert Wango Tango: The guitar-strumming singer is a straight-up hip-hop nerd. In fact, much of our conversations over the course of the day shy away from the subject of his ire on “Don’t” or his solid sophomore album X, and instead stray to memories of that one time he went to school dressed as Eminem’s 8 Mile character, B. Rabbit, or his upcoming collaborative project with The Game (the duo is sitting on some great songs, mark my words). Revisiting the transcripts, here are excerpts of the Ed Sheeran’s realest rap talk in his VIBE cover story interview. —John Kennedy (@youngJFK) • In my iPad, I’ve got about 90 percent rap music and 10 percent other. I’ve always been a massive fan. • A song like [Eminem’s] “Kim”—I’ve never been through a relationship like that. But listening at nine years old, I could relate to that in some way because it was pure anger and emotion. Screaming, and going nuts. • I like Tupac’s statements and [songs] like “California Love” and “Changes,” shit like that. But overall, Biggie was more fun to listen to when you’re a kid. I like Tupac more now because it’s reflective. • No one wants to buy an Ed Sheeran rap album. But people might want to buy my record if it’s acoustic with one rap song on it.

• “Take It Back” took about three years to write. It was me writing two bars every four months. Like, that’s a cool metaphor, I’m gonna keep that. By the end, I stuck it all together and made a song. I played it for Game and he said I’m his favorite UK rapper, which was nice to hear. • I take three years to write one 16-bar [verse]. If you’re a singer and you’re gonna rap, it has to be as good as all the rappers that you listen to, or else there’s no point in doing it. If there was a rapper that suddenly released an acoustic singer/songwriter album and didn’t pull it off correctly, I would feel like, What was the point in doing that? Just stick to what you’re good at.
• [For “Nina”] I was actually listening to the Big L and Jay-Z Freestyle and getting inspiration from that. Rapping over that [instrumental], then that turning into melody in the rap, and then making the beat [from] the melody I heard.
• I don’t write a lot of songs, contrary to what people think. Over the past three years, I’ve written cumulatively. But I don’t write a song a day. I only write when something has affected me in a good or bad way. That way, the songs have that emotional quality. I’m not churning them out, they’re all happening because specific things have happened. • I really like Justin Bieber’s Journals album. It was a great R&B album. And I don’t think it got as much attention it would have if someone else did it. People kinda slept on that one. There was too much focus on other elements of his life. People will look back and realize how good that record is. • The best musicians in the world are those who speak through their heart. I think Eminem, Jay Z, Kanye, Game, Miguel and Frank Ocean can all do that. They convey something across their hearts on music; that’s when you can connect to it. When you [collaborate with] an artist like that, something incredible can happen.