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Q. For people unfa­mil­iar with your work, what type of artist would you describe yourselves as?

Malik and the OG’s are artists who aim to con­tinue con­ven­tions rooted in African tra­di­tion, which were trans­ferred via slavery. We are a con­tem­por­ary world­wide out­fit with a back­ground in polit­ical and civil rights poetry. Gil Scott Heron and The Last Poets, who were most instru­mental in the devel­op­ment of the out­fit, were part of the late six­ties move­ment of civil rights, the right to vote, deseg­reg­a­tion, and the scourge of inter­na­tional apartheid in all west­ern colo­nial nations. Although the move­ment star­ted in Amer­ica, The Last Poets brought it global appeal, as did people like Ben­jamin Zephaniah in the UK, and ourselves. People like Lin­ton Kwesi John­son talk­ing about the Brix­ton riots has meant that con­tem­por­ary black spoken word still has the inspir­a­tion to teach con­text and inform­a­tion just like the civil rights speak­ers in their day, and that’s what we try to do.

Q. Do you view poetry and music as sep­ar­ate entit­ies that come together, or just a rep­res­ent­a­tion of art? What made you move across to music?

Music is the spoon­ful of sugar to help the medi­cine go down. Being a poet I aspire to not just wake up in morn­ing and find what to write about. I feel that is the wrong way to go about it and can lead to work that is self-indulgent and misses the point being made. I start with the con­text, feel it, then artic­u­late it to inspire oth­ers. Hav­ing the music along­side it means that it can be easier to digest and aids my mes­sage get­ting across.

Q. What drives your poetry?

My poetry is rooted in the pain of racism and oppres­sion. I feel I need to take that pain and artic­u­late it to the people who gave it out because people don’t under­stand how it feels. I do not take dir­ect action such as riot­ing and march­ing, but am inclined to a more peace­ful means of protest, or “Quiet revolu­tion”. Revolu­tion is noth­ing but change and the begin­ning of revolu­tion is when you change. Think of indi­vidu­als like Rosa Parkes not sit­ting in the segreg­ated sec­tions of the bus, or Bar­on­ess Doreen Lawrence fight­ing for justice for her murdered son. They affected change by mak­ing the estab­lish­ment feel their pain. Effect­ing change through thought not viol­ent con­front­a­tion, much like the civil rights move­ments, are sen­ti­ments I echo. My many years tour­ing with Gil Scott Heron and learn­ing from The Last poets has shaped my iden­tity and given me focus as well. I learnt an awful lot and am very grate­ful to them.

Q. Tell us of your involve­ment in Hust­lers con­ven­tion and what it means to you? What can we expect from your set?

Jalalud­din Mansur Nur­id­din (one of the found­ing mem­bers of The Last Poets) per­son­ally reques­ted for us to open show, and of course I jumped at the oppor­tun­ity. Chuck D of Pub­lic Enemy is cur­at­ing an exhibit at Smith­so­nian on Hip hop as part of their African Amer­ican His­tory and Cul­ture com­mem­or­a­tion, and to do this a film was com­mis­sioned. The Hust­lers con­ven­tion was the first Hip Hop album to really send a mes­sage and make a state­ment about civil rights at the time and the move­ment that was in place, and it is import­ant that the value of this work is not lost. This is the 1st live per­form­ance in over  40 years!  Industry stars like Orphy robin­son from Jazz War­ri­ors Col­lect­ive jumped at chance so it wasn’t dif­fi­cult to put together. The Jazz Café felt like the per­fect venue as so many of us have played there before and so many greats have also. It was just the right time and right venue to give Jalal and the oth­ers the recog­ni­tion they deserve for start­ing the move­ment off.

Q. What is it that we can expect from Malik and the OG’s this cel­eb­ra­tion of the Hustler’s Convention?

The essence of rap rooted in spoken word and civil rights, not pimps and hoes. What we see in the pub­lic eye and media today is a per­ver­sion of true hip hop. Malik and the OG’s go back to roots of it. Our albums (Rhythms of the Dia­spora volumes 1 and 2) are rooted in spoken word and raise polit­ical aware­ness. It is a con­tem­por­ary inter­pret­a­tion of drum and poets, just like The Last Poets in Har­lem on the bas­ket­ball courts in the 60’s., and that is what we aim to bring.

Q. Do you find there is a dimin­ish­ing audi­ence for arts which are not per­ceived as main­stream or is the sup­port as strong as ever?

I feel Hip Hop is try­ing to recal­ib­rate itself and try­ing to find its way again. The Gos­pel com­munity is a prime example of people who feel they are no longer rep­res­en­ted. What we have at the moment is Hip Hop which not mor­ally rep­res­ent­at­ive of its true essence and every­body gets tar­nished with this same brush.  How­ever, artists like Immor­tal Tech­niques and KRS-One still going strong.  These artists which are stand­ing up and say­ing what is worth speak­ing about are still deliv­er­ing the mes­sage. Even the big names in the industry like Kanye West are look­ing back now. He was at Gil Scott Heron’s funeral and has done a song when he doesn’t just sample Gil but pro­duces over the entire song.  A won­der­ful tribute.Common is heav­ily involved in CNN’s cam­paign against mod­ern slavery, and teh Haiti Appeal. He has a social con­science which has been endorsed by Gil, who described him to me once as “a fine young man”, so there are still people out there who are rel­ev­ant and mak­ing the right sounds amongst the noise.

Q. What does the future hold for Malik and the OG’s?

To con­tinue to per­form and spread the word. What we want to try and main­tain is the mes­sage, as a wise man once said, that “We are who we are, because they did what did”. That is a mes­sage than can­not be for­got­ten and we will con­tinue to sup­port that.  We are look­ing to do some­thing for UNESCO Inter­na­tional slavery remem­brance day, although noth­ing is con­firmed yet, but we will cer­tainly look to con­tinue to bring new ideas and mes­sages in the future.

For more inform­a­tion on Malik & The OG’s visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Malik-The-OGs/171722166201820

Sunny Sharma

Sunny Sharma

 

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