This Monday night October 13th, at London's Scala, a young man from northwest London will make his first big live debut. This young man is being hailed as the voice of urban Britain, the voice of positive change in black music and a huge star of 2015.
George The Poet's new EP - The Chicken And The Egg.
PIC COURTESY ISLAND RECORDS.
I have witnessed him perform to local crowds and key influencers in the music world, and there are whisperings behind the scenes akin to him being the new coming, with his return to a more ''conscious, positive'' moment for hip hop content. Talking about his first official release, his EP The Chicken and the Egg (released on 20th October) he explains his musical philosophy.
The Chicken and the Egg is about the cycle of premature parenthood and particularly fatherlessness. I wrote it because I feel like popular culture should align more closely with issues that are more relevant with people's lives because then you get more informed citizens. With more informed citizens, you get more people making better contributions. Firstly, better contributions to society, secondly you'll get people making better-informed decisions based on their leaders and what they ask of their leaders. So I want to show people how you turn a relevant contemporary issue, into a piece of art that people have no choice but to discuss. It was important to me that 'The Chicken and the Egg' was uncompromising and unconventional.
You tackle serious issues in your music that affects the whole community, quite conscious subjects.
Do you know what the problem is? I don't fit this world. Why is there a category called conscious rap? You tell me what that implies about the rest of rap? Unconscious rap? Do you think I came out here to be unconscious? I know people call my stuff conscious and I think that's the coup, I think that's what we've been tricked into. We've been tricked and sleepwalked into thinking this is an acceptable situation that the radio is full of air. I don't know what the use of that is, sometimes I think 'maybe that helps keep the peace.' If you nullify the people, if you pacify them, maybe they won't be aware of all the things that are really crazy, maybe people aren't built for the real world. But then I think to myself, no, people are stronger than that. I believe in people, I'm someone who believes in people so where am I going with that trail of thought? So my mission isn't even to try and make conscious rap cool, my mission is to talk.
What are your thoughts on the recent debates regarding tax cuts and the benefit system currently in place?
I feel like, there are two sides to the discussion. On the one hand, let's get people out of dependency, we need a country that is about people who want to work, contribute and that is all well and good. Do that proportionately to the people that can contribute and are able to stand on their own two feet. Don't take advantage of people that can't fight for themselves, and furthermore, you're making a mess for yourself further on because if those people don't get the requisite support, they're only going to be more of a strain on the economy, on society, you're setting yourself up for another riot, so I do think the situation as it stands is dangerous and we need more informed citizens. We need more people making important decisions; we need people engaging with the powers. If you're doing nothing to pull people out of poverty but also help people cope with poverty, reductions to child benefits and tax credits, changes to the welfare system, increasing the cost of education, making the experience of education more exclusive and difficult for different learning types. Not accommodating for the fact there is difference first of all, secondly there are different levels of difficulty, there's inequality of opportunity. Now if you're not doing anything about that, you're completely doing a disservice to the people that you're supposed to be governing, you're supposed to be leading. Again, there's no talk about this, I go on the radio and people cut it out when I mention the word riots (don't riot kids!)
What do you think needs to be done to engage more people in politics?
I think culture, pop culture, let's stop saying we are gonna swear, let's stop f*****g around, let's stop messing around with the pop culture thing, let's start giving people information that will actually affect their life because no one's content, you talk to anyone and they are complaining about their job, do you know what that is that working class consciousness you feel what I'm saying that's the proletariat saying yeah getting exploited and it doesn't make me happy everyone feels that every single day but we've expected that that's the game, why? I'm broadcasting live and direct ad artists with things to say, don't give me a microphone, you didn't know who u were letting into the room, did you well cool I'm here now,
Jasmine with George and Wretch.
PIC COPYRIGHT - JASMINE DOTIWALA.
Wretch 32 said that he sees you as a figure of mediation, between everyday people on the streets and the government. How do you feel about that and can we expect you to go further down this political route in your music in future?
That's an honour, When I was younger I thought I was going to have to be an MP. I was cool, I'll play the political game, climb up that greasy pole and everything is going to fall into place eventually. But what I realised is that, in the political game there's too much smoke and mirrors and I can't deal with that. I started of narrating experiences, the first poem of mine that ever got popular I was talking about how much I hated my area. I was talking about like, I don't want to be here anymore, just before I went to Cambridge University I'd got my acceptance. There's not a robust interface between my community and power, there's not. So I just feel at this point, we need a healthy conversation, a fairer conversation right now, so I embrace that role. If I can be a mediator, in any way mitigate. It's embarrassing man, you go prison on a visit and the room is full of black guys. What? You go anywhere else in the country, you can't find that. What's that about? You think genetically we're incapable of getting it together? No, there's no robust interface between my community and the powers that be and we need to star engineering that deliberately. A rapper being conscious is an anomaly.
Snoop has said that he doesn't think homosexuality in rap will ever be accepted because "rap is so masculine". T-Pain has concurred that rappers will not work with Frank Ocean "because he is gay". Wretch 32, however, recently said that homosexuality is accepted in hip-hop, and that people only have a problem if rappers aren't genuine. Where do you stand in this argument?
I do think Snoop has a point- the way people's minds are- especially in Snoop's generation- they're not open to that idea of homosexuality in rap. But I think, in my generation, homosexuality in rap will find its place, because people are more open-minded now. Times change. As times change, especially with the direction of communication and globalization. Communities find voices. 40 years ago, rap couldn't have existed. But it's all out there now. The way people thought about black people back then, it's similar to how some people may feel about gay people today. 'Don't wanna hear it!' But yeah, times change.
Jasmine With George.
PIC COPYRIGHT - JASMINE DOTIWALA.
Robert Alford, in 'Constructing Race and Masculinity in Hip-Hop Culture', says: "Hip-hop shapes white perceptions of young, black men as objects of fear and fantasy, and it also limits and determines the possibilities of racial and masculine identity for those individuals themselves."
That is someone's truth. There are a lot of white people out there who look at black men and think 'ooh'. There's a long running discourse on the hyper-sexualisation and the fascination of the black man. All the myths they used to build for racist ideology. Like, 'look, this guy's biological makeup is different, he's a bit more animal, he's closer to the animal, and he's closer to the beast.' Yeah, hip-hop is the modern day minstrel show. We don't have informed citizens entering this game. I tell people all the time- if you knew how smart your enemies were, you'd pick up a book.
Hip hop acts talk about their wealth and acquisition of assets as well as having a reputation for building business brands, so why are most of them broke or experience tax issues?....MC Hammer, Lil Kim, Lauryn Hill and Ja Rule and, the initiators/innovators like Master Flash. Hip Hop as an art is often really blingy and flashy...
Again information! We need informed citizens; so many artists from the Hip Hop genre go broke because we do not have informed citizens. We're from the working class; we don't have a culture of money management and networks. Why don't people talk about that? Why don't I hear songs on the radio about that?
What do I think could be a solution to making young Hip Hop artists more clued up? We've got all these Hip Hop artists out here holding microphones, start saying something that matters!.
If you want to hear more of my music, I'm doing a co-headline show with JP Cooper at Scala, Kings Cross on October 13th. There I'll be showcasing even more new sounds and I promise to confuse everything.