Tonight, we bring you breaking news. Five men from Bradford are on the run after breaking out of a local studio. Three have been identified as Kane, Clive and GK, also known as the clean-cut boy band, Bad Boy Chiller Crew. Alongside them is an accomplice who goes by the name of Kitchen Steve, and a man in a balaclava who has been identified as Tactics. Approach with caution.
Inside Leeds O2 Academy, the gang of wisecracking renegades are sound-checking the faux ITV news broadcast that will begin tonight’s gig. Despite the comedy intro, the main trio’s professionalism is startling as they move into their first song: heads down, bars out, ducking and weaving around the motorbikes and oil drums that fill the stage. Somehow, without anyone really clocking the change, all three have become genuine stars.
Clive, GK and Kane are all still trying to figure out exactly how they’ve gone from being Yorkshire’s best-kept secret to a mainstream disturbance. Coming off the back of their February mixtape Disrespectful (which hit No. 2 in the album charts), their brand has shifted smoothly from viral comedy videos to legitimate musicianship, embracing a style of bassline that has gone broadly unloved since the early 00s. The masses snaking around the venue suggest that their plan has worked. Upstairs in the dressing room, they insist that the key to tour preparation is one of blissful ignorance; in the words of Nike, they just do it.
“I haven’t even read the tour sheets, don’t even know what venues we’re doing. I just turn up,” says Kane. “If you think about it, you just send your head.”
“I don’t even know the songs!” agrees GK. “Last time we did this we were all losing sleep. This time, we’ll just drink it off and hope for the best.” He plucks a fancy protein smoothie off the side table, a new addition to their rider. “We’ve got these now, so we don’t have to eat. You can stay up on the beers and still have all the nutrition.”
Is this a new sponsor?
“No, I wish! Fucking hell, they’re six quid a bottle, them!”
It’s difficult to write about Bad Boy Chiller Crew without acknowledging three things: laughter, drink and drugs. All three boys talk like sports commentators, loud and fast, sentences colliding in their enthusiasm. When something is funny, it is unanimously, raucously so; when a point needs to be made, it is repeated thrice, often framed with a definitive introduction (“do you know what it is, yeah?”). Everything about them teeters on a parody of excess — GK’s head-to-toe Burberry, the 50:50 ratio of Grey Goose and Coca-Cola that Kane slops into a pint glass, Clive’s signature mullet. And yet there is something to admire in how they hold themselves. Amid the japes and bravado, BBCC are sincere in their desire to do well.
“This is a serious tour,” nods GK. “Jaws can’t be swinging when you’re taking pictures with kids at a meet-and-greet.” He’s learnt his new restraint the hard way; things got a little out of hand back in February when a fan threw an ounce of ketamine onstage at an album release show. “I went to Dewsbury hospital with a kidney infection,” he reveals. “Felt like I’d sat on an egg. It was only a week’s tour and we completely wrote ourselves off.”
It would be difficult for BBCC to maintain their current trajectory without maturing along the way. Off the back of their grassroots success, they signed to Sony Music, a cash injection that has allowed them to go large with the things that matter: big dance sample clearances, video budgets, touring capabilities.
Although Kane can identify a clear stylistic shift from their breakout single ‘450’ to now, he is adamant that their original rough’n’ready spirit remains. He recalls an argument with their label over their latest single ‘BMW’ which resulted in him screaming down the phone.
“We were going back and forth ’cos they started changing things. But when I kicked off and they stuck to what we had, it went top 10. We know what we’re doing.” He pauses, breathless but jubilant. “Some of the stuff we’re working on now, you wouldn’t believe.”
“It was only a week’s tour and we completely wrote ourselves off”— GK, Bad Boy Chiller Crew
Outside of music, their new-found fame has brought significant perks. All three have got into cars and there’s a garage at their home full of discarded toys: quad bikes, go-carts, a mobility scooter with a motorbike engine fitted. Housing itself has been a bit more of an issue — if it wasn’t already clear, Bad Boy Chiller Crew enjoy a party and have trashed their way out of several lodgings. They’ve recently decamped to a new city, although they politely ask that we do not disclose where. Fans have a habit of finding out where they live and, mistaking their banter for a lack of boundaries, think nothing of knocking on the door for a photo. Clive tells a story of a cleaner who ended up livestreaming her whole visit on TikTok, boasting about the band.
“She filmed every single room in the house, scruffy as fuck, the address, everything.” He laughs despite his annoyance, respecting the hustle. “People are fucked, aren’t they?”
The disparity between their ascending wealth and humble origins has led to some soul-searching. They’ve worked hard for what they have but fear that they were “showing off” in the early days and became too focused on the wrong things. “I used to be a fucker for it, but now I’m just thinking, ‘Look, I’m representing the council estates,’” states GK.
Kane adds: “They don’t have fuck all, and I’m still one of them. It’s come to that point now where, as long as we’re entertaining people, that’s the best thing. The times we’re living in, everyone’s just sick to death. Everyone just wants to have a laugh.”
With Clive long wandered off and GK floating in and out, Kane finally gets his moment to share the music he’s been itching to show off. He hooks his phone to a speaker and asks me what I want to hear. I mention a clip that they teased on Instagram a few days prior, a summery one about doubts in a relationship.
“Today someone asked Shaun to shave their cat . They’re as mental as we are”
— Kane, Bad Boy Chiller Crew
“I told you you wouldn’t expect it,” he beams, music blasting as he mouths along to his bars. “You can only waffle so much shite, can’t you?’ he reasons. “We’ve got all the rowdy stuff already. You can’t have a whole load of headbangers all the way through.”
Like a collector with an enviable set of Panini stickers, he’s failing miserably at his impression of nonchalance, but he has every reason to be excited. To my ears, Bad Boy Chiller Crew are sitting on some of their best work yet, gently easing them out of bassline into all-encompassing garage.
As evening falls, the band reconvene for their meet-and-greet, sunglasses on but jaws still intact. The process is simple but diligent, a chorus of cheerful small talk: “What’s your name, love?”, “Take it easy, bro!”, “Have a good night, yeah?” Clive leads the tiny fist bumps with the kids, turning their usual photo-op middle finger into a PG-friendly thumbs-up. Many attendees are ridiculously young; one lad surely no older than three strides in ahead of his mum, a picture of toddler testosterone. He says nothing, gets his photo, and then marches off with the energy of a cage fighter looking for his next tussle. Two girls follow, also saying very little but audibly squealing as soon as they are back out of the doors.
Inside the gig space, a sea of lights from camera phones projects a strange daytime hue. Boys and girls circle each other in Joop-scented packs, too shy to chat each other up but content to exist in the same orbit. Vapes and mullets, flat caps and spray tans, bucket hats and Poundshop glowsticks. A remix of ‘Show Me Love’ booms from the PA and a loud hum of gleeful adolescence fills the room.
At 9pm, the ITV news report rings out, and it’s showtime. Screams reverberate as BBCC begin with ‘So Much in Love’, a romantic banger that is delivered with razor-sharp accuracy. In a frenetic, hour-long set, there are some stumbles — a few forgotten bars, a creeping sense of fatigue as the familiar BPM wears on. They soon pull it back with ‘450’, the biggest smash in their oeuvre and a clear instruction to go mad. As Clive downs his drink and producer Tactics hoists gun fingers back into the air, the overall feeling is one of unruly escapism. The aggressive-looking toddler from the meet-and-greet is hanging off the top-tier seating. Another is downstairs on his dad’s shoulders, swaying expertly in the mosh pit as he eats a bag of crisps. You simply don’t get this sort of thing down south.
The next afternoon, the weather is promising and the group are out on the terrace. GK is unable to resist the urge to tweak the privacy curtain and unleash the screams that are waiting below. He’s been goading the bootleg merch sellers, imploring people to only shop inside. “You wouldn’t want to give your kids nits, would ya?”
“As you get older, you don’t get as excited by much, so let ’em buzz off it now”
— Kane, Bad Boy Chiller Crew
With friends and touring team abuzz, tonight’s show was the first to sell out. There is a sense that it will be the proper one, tightening up on last night. They thought they’d been pre-drinking at a sensible pace, but as the gig grew closer, Kane realised that he was, in fact, “mashed”. “I didn’t think I were that bad during our interview, but we got on stage and I was like ‘Err,’” he admits, with the decency to look vaguely chastised. “That’s why we always play with the backing tracks. We’re too much of a risk.”
There’s some credit to be clawed from their honesty, and yet it doesn’t change the fact that Bad Boy Chiller Crew have become role models to a huge youth fanbase of Brits. It’s not necessarily a responsibility that they asked for, but amid all the drinking and swearing, what are they hoping that kids are getting from their music?
“Just enjoyment, innit,” says Kane. “As you get older, you don’t get as excited by much. You lose the fun, so fucking let ’em buzz off it now. The ones from around here, they love it, know the raps better than we do. With the meet-and-greets, we get everyone. Today, someone asked Clive to shave their cat. They’re all as mental as we are.”
Despite the chaos, some societal good did prevail. A foodbank trolley outside the venue was filled with donations, offering up the chance to win one of BBCC’s custom motorbikes. It’s an initiative they are proud of, one that will continue throughout the tour as an easy way to give back. “I might have to dip into it meself on the way home,” quips Clive. “There’s nowt but beans in my fridge.” The trademark group laughter rings out, followed by a chorus of huffing smokers’ coughs. This only causes more laughs and hence more coughs. “Fucking hell!”
Clive is often good for a punchline, but today he looks calmer, if admittedly knackered. He and his partner have not long had a baby and last night he was responsible for the 2am feed. “I’ll do that shift, but then I’ll start fake snoring to get out of the next one,” he jokes. Working by night and raising a newborn is proving a challenge but he feels he’s settling into it. “It’ll be nice when he’s old enough to bring along,” he smiles. “He loves being held, so I’ll put him in the carrier and bounce him about to the tunes.”
One day in Bad Boy Chiller Crew’s future, they know that some of their decadence will have to be curbed. No party lasts for ever; there are kids to be raised, livers to be healed, money to be invested in something more reliable than turbo-mobility scooters. But underneath all the downed drinks and the non-PC wisecracks, there is something quite powerful about their deep-seated desire to put some fun out into a world that often feels anything but. Sooner rather than later, resistance to their cause will be futile. For now, why not embrace life on the run?
Taken from the June/July 2022 of Rolling Stone UK. Buy it here.