Loki, One of the most well known Emcees from Scotland, a Glaswegian activist who raps in his real accent. I interviewed him when I went to Glasgow last week, the real souvenirs I took with me from Scotland were all the interviews that I did there. Listen and read this interview… you hip hop heads are in for a real treat!
You can listen to it here :
Q. How did you get into hip hop?
I listened to it passively all through my childhood because it was there and it was an emerging thing commercially. I got into it more actively when my friends started bringing around CDs of everything from Gangster styles, to Tupac Shakur at first I gravitated to mainstream hip hop artists like Biggie Smalls, Wu Tang Clan. Then I first saw Eminem on TV in 1999 and I remember being sort of transfixed – “what is this? It’s really different from all the other hip hop I’ve heard up to that point”. Also I’ve always been a writer and always enjoyed writing as a kid as so it was a natural progression.
Q. What is influential to you and your peers in hip hop? So you were saying some emcees such as Eminem…
Well Eminem was more of a formative influence, I wouldn’t say so much now, I know it’s a very polarizing thing to say in underground hip hop – but for me, other formative emcees that have influenced me, Kool Keith cause its quite surreal and non conformist , Mos Def – in terms of the conscious element of the hip hop and also music influences behind them whether it’s a lot of funk and jazz, I’m not an aficionado of music by any means I can go on with what I hear and how it makes me feel. So I’d say that and MF Doom, in terms of his consistently and his attention to detail lyrically, and the non linear approach he has to lyricism. If you incorporate those influences into your own style you’re giving yourself a lot of freedom and room.
Q. In an interview you said rapping in Glasgow style is honest, it’s true it reflects my personality gives meaning, real meaning to experience as lived right now… Could you talk a bit about that?
One of the founding principles of hip hop is this idea about being yourself and a lot of emcees in particular talk about being yourself. But in society it is the biggest issue they face – people find on a personal basis is being yourself, going quieter deeper, finding out who they are. In my music for anyone who pays attention to it over the year they’ll find that struggle of a person getting the wrong idea of who they are, a bit of truth about that, reflecting on that truth and coming up against more experiences that continue to shape who they are. My music is personal for cathartic experiences –but as times went on but I came aware how my experiences are a universal one, so when I’m writing I try to draw on more common experiences. The listener doesn’t just feel on my behalf but feels for themselves – It’s all about developing an awareness as an artist and a person.
The background was underpinned by a strong community ethic and in the face of lots of challenges in working class areas, which is predominantly where hip hop grows we always felt comfort in the community spirit – whether I like it or not, I am bringing that to the table – because it’s part of who I am, so when I am expressing myself, that’s a big part of it
Q. ah, So are you Hip Hop?
I am Hip Hop!
Q. Hip Hop at its best, what do you think it does and is doing?
Hip Hop at its best raises consciousness and it gives individuals within a community context, gives their lives focus and meaning and currency – once I realized how my story and how I tell it gave me a value, in terms of expressing yourself once I became aware of that it made me feel a lot more self worth because I knew I could contribute something I did not have to acquire anything material in order to do it. In this day and age it’s a very important thing to uncover that truth in life – the material world is vacuous with the relentless pursuit of requiring things is meaningless if you have nothing to channel through the material things. Hip hop has given me a map for living.
Q. You are actively involved in the Yes campaign — do you see hip hop having a role in motivating young people to vote yes in the referendum?
Yes definitely – it’s been something I’ve been banging on about for about 2 years – any way I could get involved –whether it’s in a consultancy role for other people who have resources to make things happen– or me directly campaigning in my own way, working with other campaigners. Then It’s really trying to alert young people to the idea that yes, I understand why your apathetic towards politics but everything your allowed to and not allowed to is the result of a political decision–to not be aware of the syntax of your own society is leaves you a tremendous disadvantage, and that’s the way the powers that be would prefer it to be.
So this is about critical consciousness this is about having an awareness about how your society is joined up… challenge yourself to think in a new way.
Q. That’s creative, you said ‘syntax of our society’ what do you mean?
I may be misusing the word but I imagine syntax as being the code, the language what everything is made up of.
Concepts such as economics and law are fundamental to society – most people don’t know about any of these – most people need a lawyer in court to represent them in civil court which is silly, most people don’t understand the economic model we live under never mind alternative economic model that’s not based on debt. That’s why society stagnates. Everyone accepts the way the world is presented to them.
Q. : Some non-American rappers speak with an America accent? Why do you think it’s important to speak with your own accent?
A lot of people intellectualize the reasons for doing that and say that it’s because that is what they listened to – because of commercialization – I need to appeal to a broader audience…. You guys who are doing that, just Fuck Off – I’ll say that again, just fuck off.
Really it’s a form of self delusion, self hatred within an imperialist society, one that’s in decline and perhaps at its most aggressive– with a ‘culture’ that’s about reducing everything down to a homogenized mono-culture into very narrow terms because it’s then easier to sell your stuff. If people doing it to then the [hip hop] message will get diluted and it will be all about materialism and image and all these vacuous things… I’ve no time for that
It’s natural for young people at first, but to people on the national hip hop scene if you rap with an American accent – you are seen as suspect now. As aspiring rappers they are coming out in their own accent now – that’s culturally significant because how we act we talk is now seen as cool.
Q. Have you got any favourite UK/London MCs?
I’ll be really honest – there’s a lot of Hip Hop I am a wee bit too old for it. But I really love Leaf Dog (High focus records). I love everything they are doing. They are really changing the sound and vibe of hip hop culture. We are so used to being pulled by the gravity of London-centric everything. People are so cynical. It’s hard to discern what is a ‘London’ sound? Because so much sounds like that and it’s so influenced by America. If you haven’t heard him, check it.. Leaf Dog
Q. What are you up to at the mo?
Just now I am working on 2 projects, I’m working on my new album Government is and a collective album ‘Toy Control’. We’re a collective of the most high profile hip hop artists in Scotland right now (others might think not – that we’re doing competitive A‑Game hip hop, But you cant just say you’re the best – you’ve got to prove it. We are battle MCs, we are having fun, challenging the very idea of the scene and questioning if there even is a scene.
Interview by Lana Bell
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