Interview: Potent Whisper (@PotentOfficial) On Empowering The Community Through Hip Hop

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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!

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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/

You can down­load ‘NOW’ via Amazon or iTun­es. 

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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.

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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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Lana Bell

Lana Bell

Author / Poetry Edit­or at I Am Hip-Hop 
Lana Bell, is an eight­een year old Lon­don­er who is based in Bris­tol. She is an emer­ging Spoken Word Artist, and the Poetry Edit­or for I Am Hip-Hop Magazine. She has been writ­ing for a dec­ade; though she has only been per­form­ing on from the age of fif­teen. She got into Hip-Hop music at four­teen, and she found a massive interest in Old Skl Sounds and the out­let that Hip-Hop music offered her.

About Lana Bell

Lana Bell
Lana Bell, is an eighteen year old Londoner who is based in Bristol. She is an emerging Spoken Word Artist, and the Poetry Editor for I Am Hip-Hop Magazine. She has been writing for a decade; though she has only been performing on from the age of fifteen. She got into Hip-Hop music at fourteen, and she found a massive interest in Old Skl Sounds and the outlet that Hip-Hop music offered her.