Photo cred­it @Stnlens.

So, I am going to start with some­thing corny if that is ok? To any­one who doesn’t know Sophia how would you describe your­self in one word?


Com­pared to who you were when you first star­ted your jour­ney to now, what would you say has evolved with you?

Ooo, I am a lot more con­fid­ent in chal­len­ging the craft before I might have wanted to stick more inside the box. This was the spoken word, slam poetry box but now I have seen poetry from a wider lens and my heart reflects that…I hope! (laughs)

You have had quite the cre­at­ive jour­ney, from per­form­ing at Gla­ston­bury, BET, BBC, Sky, Nike, to name just a few and now you are here at the icon­ic Jazz Café. Can you describe what this jour­ney has been like?

 Man, it has been a river of ebbs and flows (laughs) I have gone through some funny poetry stages. I remem­ber when I first star­ted, I was doing events that were only centred around free­ing Palestine. Then I did loads of really Afro­centric events, then just female empowered events, then domest­ic violence…I have gone through loops of events but now I think I should just put on events of my own (laughs) and then sort of loop everything back togeth­er. It’s been amaz­ing because I met phe­nom­en­al people inside all of these spaces who cham­pi­on dif­fer­ent things, I think I have soaked in a lot to sort of tell my stor­ies now. But again, it might be a phase I might stop doing my own shows who knows.

With most poetry it is done without a back­ing track and your poems are strong enough without them. Was it your inspir­a­tion from Hip-Hop and artists like Erykah Badu that made you decide to col­lab­or­ate with musi­cians? Or is there more to this?

 I think music adds anoth­er lay­er to words and I think any art form essen­tially trans­lates words in its own way, and I think when you put four voices togeth­er it’s going to be more power­ful. So, I think I found that and I come from a music­al back­ground my broth­er (Latir Thak­ur) is per­form­ing as well — he is doing sound­check now. Yeah, I come from a very music­al back­ground, learnt instru­ments from very young and I think that has always stayed inside of my head and I have listened to more musi­cians than I have poets. So, I think that is why I am prob­ably more inclined.

Kumasi is your latest track…correct me if I am wrong but was this track that was inspired by you close friend who you lost to can­cer? If not, I apo­lo­gise BUT what was the inspir­a­tion behind this mas­ter­piece?

 That track was Dance, Kumasi is about the story in Ghana where I made a mis­take (laughs) as we all do, two things happened in Ghana I made a mis­take and I heard more Afrobeats then I have ever heard in my life and I real­ised ahh ok that I am in Africa. Because you could be in like the Ghanai­an ver­sion of Star­bucks but the norm is Afrobeats because you are in Africa. So, I came back and I just had that hop in my sys­tem, so when I went in to stu­dio I was like for­get all this poetry that we have been record­ing I need some­thing to this hop and it ended up being this song. I think what was really nice for me, I was able to tell the story in a more con­cise way, so that means that with me I don’t have to tell you all the details because I am not silent, and not just using words for 8 minutes because there is still a chor­us and a bridge but I am still going to get my point across. So, I think it was a more subtle way of telling the same story which I quite liked.

Many cre­at­ive people includ­ing myself come across the notori­ous “cre­at­ive block” what do you do when you find your­self in this place?

Man­nn, I just ride them out…yeah…I just think that if it doesn’t want to come just leave it for a bit, just let it brew for a little bit. If it gets to a point where I got a brief or a cli­ent that I need to write a poem for then I soak myself in inspir­a­tion. So, I listen back to old poems that inspired me some­times, I may go to an exhib­i­tion, see a dance show. I really sat­ur­ate myself with things that should trig­ger words at least, and If noth­ing is still com­ing then I may read a poem or a bunch of poems that really inspire me. And I may write a poem based off one of the lines in the poem, and let’s say the line is ‘he was a gap in ocean’ I will take that line and make it the title and then sort of free flow from there. So, the top­ics will give them­selves to me then even­tu­ally some­thing will just start vibrat­ing, but if I’m not hav­ing to rush to catch a cli­ent or brief then I just ride it out. You can’t be flu­id all the time that’s not how it works even rivers are like that (laughs).

Your TED Talks are amaz­ing and very unique and I love the com­bin­a­tion of mix­ing poetry with a strong mes­sage. Why did you decide to approach it this way?

I can give a talk; I pub­lic speak so I can give a talk and it doesn’t have to rhyme… but I just think that the beauty of poetry is that it’s the fine line in-between con­ver­sa­tion and art. Which means it is under­stand­able so every­one can be privy to what you want to get across, but the art side means that it pen­et­rates and I think for me that is the only art form that really does that. So, I think when I do stages, such as TED Talks, or Gla­ston­bury for example I just think if I want to get to the core of you, and I really believe in the mes­sage then I am going to com­bine that art and con­ver­sa­tion, because you’re going to get the angle and you’re going to feel it.

‘My boy­friend isn’t allowed to cry’ unfor­tu­nately is a true and unfor­giv­ing tale of a struggle that many males go through. Since you gave the TED Talk what reac­tions have you got from it?

Ooo so, I did the bad thing, I checked my You­Tube com­ments and I have nev­er done this. I pretty much just use You­Tube as a thing that I put my stuff on and left it. So, for years I haven’t looked at the com­ments and then…I looked at these TED Talk com­ments and it was a sea of men say­ing, ‘ahh it’s anoth­er women telling us how to behave’ or ‘that’s the prob­lem with these fem­in­ists’. Remem­ber I was 18 at the time as well and I mean I was not even that well versed in come back I was just hurt and I was just upset by it. But that being said now I do a lot of work in the space of tox­ic mas­culin­ity, because I think at a time like now where fem­in­ism is the loudest and strongest con­ver­sa­tion, there is no such thing as lev­el­ling the play­ing field without talk­ing to the men in that same breath. When people are get­ting more power than they have ever had at any giv­en time, which is women at this point in time, a lot of the time it can almost become a reverse reac­tion and can become even more one sided. I think some of us can for­get these stat­ist­ics that men are the biggest com­mit­ters of sui­cide, and men do exper­i­ence men­tal ill­ness, and I am more inclined to speak on my prob­lems than you are. Because cul­tur­ally it is the case across more cul­tures than any oth­er cul­ture with any oth­er sort of con­ver­sa­tion. So, I think I am really pas­sion­ate about that as I think where, we have a for­um at the moment to express and talk, its mak­ing or for­cing men to be quieter and that is not healthy… it’s just not healthy.

You per­formed with the Lon­don Sym­phony Orches­tra as part of UnFOLD’s col­lab­or­a­tion with Jer­wood com­poser+ Jas­min Kent Rodg­man at LSO St Lukes. What was exper­i­ence that like and how did the whole thing come togeth­er?

Man, it was so cool so I worked with UnFOLD pri­or to this and it was just like a string quar­tet and we went on a UK Tour, and strings are I would say the closest thing to an opera sing­er very, very emotive. I think the elec­tric gui­tar sings like a human, the piano is like the base of someone’s voice but I think strings are almost like the cry of a per­son. So, what they asked me to do was a big com­pos­i­tion, it was a shade show, put on by Jas­min who com­posed it and the whole talk was about shade or shadism in race. They heard this poem before and they were like we want to do this poem I worked actu­ally with Kam­ila and a few oth­er people sort of piecing it togeth­er. And I just remem­ber the first rehears­al we went into you go in with an image of how you think it is going to sound, and I was very much like this needs to be like this, this, this. But then when you’re work­ing with very intel­li­gent musi­cians who under­stand the com­pre­hen­sion of the poem it takes it to a whole oth­er level. And they did, they just got poetry, they got that we are not look­ing for beats and bars, you’re look­ing for like a line or verse that will sort of make the change. They got that and I think that took it to a level and it really pulled the emo­tion out of me as well because it changed the whole per­form­ance. The way I per­formed was very dif­fer­ent to when I just per­form to a Hip-Hop Beat to how I per­formed with the Lon­don Sym­phony Orches­tra, was very, very dif­fer­ent but it was amaz­ing.

‘Just a friend’ with Chozen is a beau­ti­ful and raw emo­tion­al story about hav­ing a close male friend com­bined with the Biz Markie song. How did that col­lab­or­a­tion and idea come about?

So, I saw Floetry’s song, I can’t remem­ber what it is called but (starts singing the lyr­ics) …but yeah, they did that, and I thought why haven’t I done a col­lab­or­a­tion with a poet this is so sick? I was doing the poetry cir­cuit with Chozen at the time and we tried to write it…and it is weird sud­denly writ­ing with someone, and we knew we wanted to be so close-knit with the con­ver­sa­tion. We were like 1617 at the time as well so it was very weird try­ing to write togeth­er. I think we took a pic­ture that we were work­ing togeth­er and a show called Vocals & Verses con­tac­ted us to per­form togeth­er, and we were like yes but we hadn’t writ­ten the poem at this point. So, we had two writ­ing ses­sions, we got like pretty much noth­ing done, and then the writ­ing ses­sion before the show we got the whole poem writ­ten. It was very flu­id once we sort of stepped into it, it was very much like he was say­ing some­thing, ‘but you said this and I said de, de, de, de, de ’ and it became a really flu­id writ­ing exper­i­ence once you sink into that same rhythm, but before that it was just a mind block.

Your book Some­body Give This Heart a Pen (Paper­back) a col­lec­tion of your amaz­ing poetry is out now. Like many artists who go through the pro­cess of selec­tion and elim­in­a­tion how did you decide which ones to keep in and what ones that didn’t quite make the cut?

I think I set myself the tar­get of writ­ing a 120 to cut it down to 60. So, I wrote like a 110 then I cut it down to 70, and it was very much the poems I would go and read again like what poems if I picked up the book would I be happy to see. And I was very com­fort­able to throw poems away, I was like you don’t give me a strong feel­ing, you’re not even a true story, no, this didn’t actu­ally hap­pen, no, the rhyme struc­ture is off, no, then I got the final 90 and that’s when it became hard. Then I made chapters and thought ok what fits in the sort of story line in the book and I think that was final cut­ting it down part.

You men­tion the con­tra­dic­tions of how people assume you to be and in the inter­view with Reform Funk you men­tion that the thing that was hold­ing you back was not actu­ally the expect­a­tions of oth­ers, but your guilt for not con­form­ing to these ste­reo­types. What was the “ohh” or “aha” moment that bought you out of this thought pro­cess?

Wooo, I was at uni I star­ted real­ising what people would laugh at, and what people wouldn’t laugh at, so I wrote accord­ing to them. And then I real­ised I am sad and I think it was the last day of the tour this was way back…I think it was Manchester to Lon­don when I was start­ing this whole jour­ney I felt like I was a clown, I felt like a comedi­an and didn’t  really feel like I was writ­ing from the space I wanted to write. I didn’t think I was an artist, “ARTIST” I didn’t feel like I needed to be like hon­est I didn’t think I needed to be like that. I felt really, really sad and I just thought if I knew that if God has told me to speak, and chan­nel him and the stor­ies around me why am I mak­ing these people my God. Of course, I under­stand writ­ing from grief and writ­ing for cer­tain medi­ums but right now I am writ­ing for your laughs, and your approv­al if you know what I mean. I wasn’t let­ting God chan­nel through me for the whole peri­od, once I real­ised this is my pur­pose and this is my gift I am doing a dis­ser­vice, mak­ing some­thing else my God oth­er than the writ­ing pro­cess I just switched back and I was like yep this is for God.

Last but not least what is next? Any exclus­ives that you can give us with what maybe in the pipeline?

Ooo, I have anoth­er single com­ing out and you are the only per­son who knows that at the moment…but I won’t give you a name!

And finally, we would love to have you on the I Am Hip-Hop Pod­cast would you do us the hon­or and join us for one of our shows in the near future?

Abso­lutely, of course, of course, of course.

Sophia Thak­ur­’s book ‘Some­body give this heart a pen’ Is out now. Get your copy here. 

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Jay St Paul

Jay St Paul

Jay St Paul AKA Uncle JuJu is Founder & CEO of Hi…Creativity LTD | Dee­jay | Graph­ic Design­er | Illus­trat­or | Journ­al­ist | Writer | Pod­cast Host | Radio Presenter. Born and raised in West Lon­don Jay has always found love and solace in being cre­at­ive and express­ing him­self. Always look­ing to improve where he can and look­ing to learn new things as that is the jour­ney of being a cre­at­ive.

About Jay St Paul

Jay St Paul
Jay St Paul AKA Uncle JuJu is Founder & CEO of Hi...Creativity LTD | Deejay | Graphic Designer | Illustrator | Journalist | Writer | Podcast Host | Radio Presenter. Born and raised in West London Jay has always found love and solace in being creative and expressing himself. Always looking to improve where he can and looking to learn new things as that is the journey of being a creative.