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