London based Hip Hop hero, Potent Whisper bridges the gap between the struggle and the platform of hip hop culture. He reaches particular the UK youth culture and he has invested himself and his continued encouragement in a wider hip hop and sociopolitical movement that has resonated with him and helped him represent himself and his community in a community cohesive way.
I Am Hip Hop catches up with Potent Whisper; in this interview we find out what his latest manouvres have been in the scene and the beautiful collaborations he has been involved with. Potent tells us, ‘For many of us Hip Hop has served as an introduction to a new version of ourselves.’ We also get the low down on how gentrification is taking over our communities. I Am Hip Hop is proud to present this interview and we all look forward to more from Potent Whisper in the future!
Tell us a bit about what you’ve been doing recently? What are you involved in?
The past year has probably been my busiest to date. Artistically, I’ve been working on a lot of new material:
- A short film ‘What You Saying?’, written in rhyme and delivered in sign language. (Starring BSL actress Vilma Jackson)
- A short film ‘The House of Palestine’ which explores Israel’s immoral/ illegal occupation of Palestine (Filmed by Global Faction)
- A Spoken Word series ‘The Rhyming Guide to Housing’ which explores the housing crisis
- A Grime EP ‘Deep Cutz’. (An aggressive attack on the Conservative government, specifically within the context of austerity)
- A Hip Hop EP ‘Songs from Below’ (ft. MOBO award winner Fola Philip)
- A Spoken Word series ‘A Call to Arts’ which explores the power/ importance of art in society. (Filmed at The BRIT School with Ken McGill)
- An EP with Electric-Harpist ‘Maria-Christina & The 7 Pedals’. Tom Robinson just played our début single ‘NOW’ on BBC Radio 6.
I’ve been working hard! In fact, I could really use a manager…
Things have also been busy in the community. I’ve been working closely with traders at the Brixton Arches, in their fight against Network Rail. (Tweet @SaveBrixton for more) I also co-lead an anti-gentrification campaign called ‘Our Brixton’. We aim to support local housing campaigns by fusing art with direct action. Most recently, some of our young members wrote a song about housing entitled ‘Make a Change’. We went on to work with them to organize a ‘Youth March for Housing’ — in collaboration with South London RCG — where Global Faction shot the Music Video for their song. I’d love you to check it out!
What is the message behind your track ‘NOW’?
It’s basically a call to arms. It aims to agitate people and highlight the need for urgency.
Musically the single is a fusion of Harp and Rap; politically responsive lyricism set to the experimental — non romantic — sounds of the Electric Harp. After hearing the single, a reviewer asked me how many musicians feature on the track and I had to explain that it’s just the two of us. Every sound that you hear on the track was played by Maria-Christina. She has a hundred and one different ways to manipulate her Harp, she’s a real innovator in that respect. http://www.mcandthe7pedals.com/
What do you think Hip Hop does at it’s best?
In 2012 I was honoured to have made a release with Congo Natty, in which he stated “Hip Hop saved my soul”. I think many of us feel the same way. Hip Hop is not simply an amalgamation of art forms/ skills, for many of us Hip Hop has served as an introduction to a new version of ourselves; a window of opportunity to self realization, new information, self empowerment and purpose. That was certainly the case for me.
But beyond empowering individuals, Hip Hop can also empowers communities. I think one of the main ways it does this, is by creating space. A space for people to come together… to meet each other… to share our humanity… to celebrate our joys, to entrust our vulnerabilities… to listen to each other… to teach each other… and to love each other. Amongst the heavy cloud of propaganda that is the mainstream media, deep within the individualistic ideology of a consumerist society, in a land where big corporations can purchase, deface and devalue entire schools of thought, Hip Hop provides an independent platform for a true voice, a space for us to find ourselves, to know each other and rise together.
How does gentrification affect the working class?
Well, let’s look at Brixton. Not so many years ago, a property in Brixton would have been worth next to nothing. Literally. It wasn’t considered a desirable place to live. Over decades, a working class community built the area up into one that was truly vibrant; culturally rich and economically thriving. The social and economic value that working class people gave to Brixton began to attract a lot of middle/ upper-middle class people and suddenly, swarms of wealthy people all began to gallop towards Brixton with a cheque book in one hand and a Starbucks in the other.
When large numbers of wealthy people decide that they want to move into an area, a few different things happen. Firstly, land and property prices increase dramatically. Landlords realize that they can now get a lot more money for their properties and they increase rent prices by up to 300%. Of course, working class people who are already living in these properties are not able to pay the new rent prices and they are made homeless/ forced to move out of London to clear the way for their landlords’ new wealthy tenants. This of course means that people don’t only lose their homes, but their jobs, their children’s school places, their friends and their life.
Rent increases also devastate local traders and shop owners, who are forced out of business because they can’t afford the new rents.The only small chance that independent traders have to stay is business/ survive is to re-brand and start selling completely different products, which cater to their new wealthier clientèle. This in turn means that the original communities who lived in Brixton, before this new ‘Rich Rush’ era, are now no longer able to access/ purchase the products that they want and need. But not all of the effects of gentrification are so visible or talked about. Consider the families who manage to stay in the area, who are now barely able to afford to survive because of the cost of living. Consider the young man who see’s his mum crying every day because they have no money, however hard they work. The young man who sells a bit of weed to help his mum pay the bills. Well… these new people moving into the area don’t smoke weed, they prefer to sniff coke. So the clientèle changes in this market too, and people are forced to take bigger risks; just to survive. There’s so many angles to it… but in a nutshell, gentrification/ greedy landlords/ corrupt councils are tearing whole communities apart, making thousands of people homeless and ruining lives. @OurBrixton
What are your plans for the near future? And what can we expect from Potent Whisper?
I’ll be continuing to build in the community and producing more art that serves our struggles. There will be a lot of it — very soon! @PotentOfficial | www.potentwhisper.com
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