The Pros and Cons of Being a Recognizable Face

Stamina MC shares some of his experiences as one of the more recognizable faces in the UK music scene.


For a large part of the time that I’ve even been aware of such things, I realized a lot has been made of both fame and success as concepts, and what they mean for those people whose lives they affect. For me personally, having a life of music really gave me a sense of what either of those things could plausibly mean. I definitely don’t deem myself as ‘famous’, to be clear. And in the grand scheme of things not notably ‘successful’ either, at least not compared to what’s attainable! Successful enough as to look after myself of course, which was the only real ‘goal’ anyway; lofty ambitions such as, I dunno, paying off my Dad’s mortgage or whatever really wasn’t realistic for someone like me! With that said, the conversation does/has come up quite a bit between me and friends, or maybe even just random people, asking me to explain how either or both of those affect me personally, what my views are and such. I’m intensely grateful that my level of notoriety is not such that upon leaving my house I’m likely to be mobbed by paparazzi, or perhaps accosted for autographs or photos while on a shop run or something equally mundane. The fact that in my specific situation there’s a distinct difference between my personal and professional endeavors makes me greatly happy.

Perhaps the question most asked of me is some variant of “you’ve been on TV/had a music video on MTV etc, don’t people recognize you on the street because of it?” They’re all so incredulous when I tell them “no, not even once!” I guess opportunities rarely arise as to even ask someone (who could give a useful answer) something like that, so to be met with that response is inconceivable to them. However there a couple of ‘almost, but not quite’ scenarios that I might share with them if time/situation permits, just ‘cos if they were unexpected for me they’ll likely be so for others too…

The first one I always say doesn’t really count, and you’ll maybe get why — it was all the way back in 2002, the same year my first and the arguably biggest track was on heavy rotation both in clubs and on mainstream radio. I happened to be attending a club night at iconic West London venue The End but attending merely as a ‘punter’ like everyone else. I get to the front of the queue and am maybe a couple of people away from getting a quick search from the door staff so as to be on my way, and a minicab driver, one of a few stood around outside (for what reason I don’t know, as it would only have been midnight or something at that time, so people were on the way IN rather than OUT) says to me something to the tune of “I recognize you, you look familiar.” My tried and true response to that has always been (and will likely always be) “yeah, I get that a lot. I must have one of those faces.” He wasn’t having it though, insisting that it was an actual thing. I did my obligatory shoulder shrug and hoped that nobody else in the queue was gonna blow up my spot (they didn’t). So while the door staff took their sweet time with the guys ahead of me he mulls it over, eventually coming to the realization that he’s seen me in a music video. MY music video. He couldn’t recite any words, but the way he explained what he remembered was very much correct. So I concede; the game is up. I get my pat-down shortly afterward and in I go. But I say that that one doesn’t count because even though I can’t know whether or not he was an actual fan of the track or the genre, me being in that environment, the very place where ‘the artist version of me’ thrives, meant that I would be THAT person to pretty much everyone there; I’d be able to count the number of people that knew my full name on my fingers.

The second one was ULTRA random and was just last year. I’d finished my radio show on Rinse FM and was headed home on public transport; at that time of night, it’s two buses to get me home. So I’ve rung the bell to alight the bus and descended the stairs from the upper deck. I’m on the phone with someone overseas, talking music talk of some nature to whoever was on the line. The phone goes down, and the driver taps on the perspex and beckons me to him. I go over. He asks me “are you Stamina?” In this specific context, there’s really no charade I can play, no way to have any fun with it, so a simple “yes?” is my reply. He tells me he RECOGNISES MY VOICE because get this, he used to listen to Rinse back in their pirate era since he lived in the area of East London a lot of those guys were from, and he ran off a few names of people he knew. That one blew my whole mind, I can’t lie. Not even my face, but my speaking voice, distinctive enough basically two decades after the era he was referring to. Madness. He asked me to pass on his number to the station’s owner who he’d not seen in years, I said I would, and that was that. Suffice to say my brain was awash with thoughts for the remainder of my journey.

Those were the only two though, in almost twenty years. And that’s how I like it. Even though it would never be something I could ever assert control over, I’d always give thought to the kind of projects I’d like to involve myself in insofar as what level of success a track achieved would do for my relative level of fame — it struck me as unarguable that after a(n undetermined) point being more successful also meant being more famous, and I really wasn’t willing to ‘give up’ the simplicity of the life I currently led for monetary gain, critical acclaim and all the other stuff. So it did tickle me just a little bit to end up having my first big tune in quite some time be a duet of sorts with one of Britain’s most famous faces… but more on that another time.

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