Born and raised in Manchester, Bugzy Malone’s youth was hindered by poverty, domestic violence, gang involvement, criminality and a stint in prison. Yet by managing to transcend his troubled past and difficult upbringing, Bugzy is the embodiment of achievement in the face of adversity. To date, he has released three Top 10 EPs, his tracks have been streamed 200 million times, and his YouTube channel has exceeded 100 million views.
In the ‘90s Manchester was a dangerous place to be, not only the drug-swamped streets but in Bugzy’s family home, where he was forced to defend himself and his mother against an abusive relationship. The situation at school was tough with Bugzy eventually being expelled. But he had been a promising student and had won English competitions and poetry contests regularly. Inspired by endless rewatchings of the Risky Roadz DVD series, he’d relay bars to his mates using their phones to transfer beats.
But it was later on at Her majesty’s pleasure that he fully recognised the transformative power of his words—in jail he’d spit lyrics through the window of his cell, drawing crowds of cheering inmates. He remembers a 16-year-old Bugzy smiling in the dock when the Judge announced his prison sentencing, because “ One, I thought I was bad, but two—because of how dangerous it was getting on the streets.” Jail was a safer place to be. Stuck in solitary confinement, Bugzy “felt like I was in a bin, society’s bin”. Yet instead of ruminating on the hand he’d been dealt in life, he saw it as an opportunity to get his head in the game.
“In those moments of feeling beaten up and like life wasn't even worth it, I'd come out of that situation and think, ‘I'm gonna be somebody when I grow up’,” he says.
Once he regained his freedom, Bugzy found refuge in the nearby Moston & Collyhurst boxing club, thriving on the structure and discipline it gave his life. There he met local boxing legends Tommy McDonagh and Brian Hughes MBE, a “grandad-like figure” whose passion for the sport kept a load of kids out of trouble—something that placed him up with Bugzy’s all-time heroes Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, and Joe Frazier. Working for three years at the club while honing his own moves in the ring, Bugzy nearly went along the same path as the aforementioned greats, before narrowly missing out on making it a full-time career. He experienced depression as a result: “I'd gone snakes and ladders all the way down to the bottom.”
Realising that music offered him the kind of self-expression you couldn’t get in boxing, he began writing lyrics over beats he found online, using rapping therapeutically to process the true stories of his rocky past. He distilled that chequered past most famously into his now-legendary Fire In The Booth. Having received the call from Charlie Sloth, Bugzy took the opportunity of stepping into the booth very seriously. “This was a chance of a lifetime for me & it was go big or go home. And then I thought about what home was for me and realised I don't have a home. I remember it bringing tears to my eyes in the back of the car, because I knew what life would be for me if I didn't make a career in music, and it wasn’t a life I wanted”. That debut Fire In The Booth performance is still the most-streamed of all time, having clocked up over 16 million views.
He had made his mark and his first chart placement arrived soon after, his debut EP ‘Walk With Me’, entering the UK albums chart at number eight, quickly followed by ‘Facing Time’ also entering the Top Ten. 2017 saw ‘King of the North’, Bugzy’s most acclaimed project to date which cracked the Top 5 peaking at number four, and with each EP accompanied by ever growing sold out tours, national radio stations started to pick up on what the legions of fiercely loyal fans already knew - that Bugzy was a force to be reckoned with. To date his music has been streamed 200 million times, his YouTube channel has over 100 million views and his social reach exceeds over a million people, statistics which affirm Bugzy has arrived in the upper echelon of contemporary British artists
Now Bugzy is set to release his debut album ‘B. Inspired’. It’s a brutally honest collection in which Bugzy strips back his outer bravado to reveal the man behind the surface.
Unafraid to rap about issues which are be too painful to speak about in person, Bugzy’s tales pulsate with raw emotion. These are immediately relatable narratives: heart-breaking flashbacks to a traumatic childhood viewed from the perspective of an adult, and stories of everyday folk desperately battling against the tide – some swim to a brighter future, while others are submerged by overwhelming odds.
Above all, however, it’s a message of inspiration. If Bugzy can emerge from his background to become one of the nation’s most vital artists, he can also inspire the next generation to fulfil their potential.
“In those moments of feeling beaten up and like life wasn't even worth it, I'd come out of that situation and think, ‘I'm gonna be somebody when I grow up’,” he says. “I’m now in a place where I can speak to a lot of people and my whole ethos is switching on the belief switch in people's heads. If people take inspiration from that then it's priceless.”
Alongside focusing on his music, Bugzy has turned his attention to revamping the Moston & Collyhurst boxing gym that helped him so much as a troubled teenager. “I wanted to clean the place up so that parents, if they were taking their kids there, could take the place seriously,” he explains. Not only is he breathing new life into the gym, but also launching the ‘B. Foundation’, where he’s working with Manchester College so that underprivileged children can take Maths and English qualifications. “If 100 kids go through that door, and just 30 of them have a similar experience to me, then they've got massive building blocks to help them go on to their next life,” he says.
Had a different turn of events taken place, Bugzy Malone might have been doing armed robberies for a living, but instead he’s on a mission to champion young people who’ve been dealt a bad hand in life. “I’m now in a place where I can speak a lot of people and my whole ethos is switching on the belief switch in people's heads,” he explains. “If people take inspiration from that then it's priceless. I'm flicking as many belief switches as I possibly can.”