Activist, Rapper, Poet
Hip Hop has grown enormously since its inception and like any piece of art or music its meaning, core traits and purpose could be debated depending on your experience with, and knowledge of the genre. In my opinion the majority of current day Hip Hop seems to be over-saturated with artists, most of which are often rapping about mindless violence or materialistic ideologies, far from the original Hip Hop ethos. Potent Whisper is an exception to that rule, given his use of the music genre as a platform for raising awareness about important societal and political problems. Potent studied the English language as a theatre student at the BRIT School in 2004 and soon stumbled upon a passion for creating music, having realised its potential of influencing society and politics. 4 years later he joined the collective We Are Dubist, who were offered a record deal with Congo Natty Records, but the group later disbanded due to artistic differences. Potent continued to pursue his solo career in Hip-Hop and after a few more years of hard work creating and releasing singles, in 2012 he received his first major radio play with his track ‘Between The Lines’ on BBC Radio 1. A month later he collaborated with Jungle legend Congo Natty (aka Rebel MC) and Nanci Correia (Nanci & Pheobe) on The Boom Bap Bounce, which became the official anthem for the notoriously popular Boom Bap Festival and received even more BBC Radio support. In 2013 Potent began to build momentum, playing larger shows at the Wembley Arena and the Tate Modern, performing tracks from his LOVE mixtape (available for free download here), as well as performances at international festivals in Senegal, France and Belgium. He also performed his new ‘anti-war’ single, Just Wondering ft. Lara Lee, in France, which was to be the first of many collaborations with revolutionary video production company Global Faction, the single also received continued support from BBC Radio 6’s Tom Robinson. Wrapping up the year, The Guardian published a full page feature on the up and coming rapper/activist, as well as being included in the “Hip Hop Around The World” TV documentary, directed by Hip-Hop legend Kurtis Blow.
2014 brought new challenges, as Potent wrote his first play, Invisible. Collaborating with the london-based charity Raw Material, Invisible, was a piece of invisible theatre (performing in public without any of the audience being aware of the fact its a performance), aimed at engaging the local youth resciding in four different cities, touching on subjects such as the idea of ‘home’, homelessness and immigrants. The idea behind the play was to encourage young people to get involved with Raw Material workshops being held throughout the week, to ultimately include them in another performance of the play. Expanding his talents further he began his journey into the spoken word community with the launch of his new spoken word series “Yeah, I Said It!”, using the art of rhyme to respond to, and challenge, social and political issues. The spoken word project led to collaborations with the CND (Campaign for nuclear disarmament) and the release of his much anticipated LOVE mixtape.
In 2015, Potent continued his endless pursuit of influencing positivity and unity, shining light on more social and political issues with spoken word TV performances on Russia Today and London Live. He later collaborated with Lara Lee on a new single, Brixton First, addressing the gentrification and social cleansing of Brixton, London. Filmed at the protest march Reclaim Brixton, the song draws attention to the huge number of ongoing evictions, tripled rent prices and the general behaviour of Lambeth Council not acting in best interests of its community.
A QUICK CHAT WITH POTENT WHIPSER
Q. Yo Potent, how are you?
A. Peace bruv, I’m good…. healthy and busy.
Q. What was your dream job as a little ‘less potent‘ whisper?
A. haha Well… as a teenager I loved acting. I took it seriously and worked hard to secure a place at the BRIT School to develop myself theatrically. In the end, I found myself more interested in writing scripts than acting in the productions, so I tinkered with that for a while. Ultimately I found Hip Hop and started to write rhymes in stead. Now, funnily enough, I sometimes write scripts… in rhyme… and act in my own productions! Funny how things work out… haha
Q. Did you grow up listening to Hip-Hop, or was it a passion that developed over time?
A. I grew up listening to Metal, Punk, Rock… bands like System of a Down, Crass, Nirvana, Red Hot Chilli Peppers… as a young teenager I actually played drums in Rock band. Hip Hop wasn’t really on my radar. It was only when I went to college that a friend (S/O Wu-Lu) introduced me to artists like Immortal Technique, Aesop Rock and DJ Shaddow. That’s where it started for me!
Q. Who are the the main rappers, or people, that you take inspiration from?
A. I’m inspired by so many people… people who love in the face of hate… people who hope when their reality dictates despair… people who spend their time and energy trying to better the lives of others… I know too many of those people to mention!
I could tell you some of the artists who inspire me but that would feel like I was putting artists into a different category to people, which would seem weird given that artists are people too… they just happen to love, hope and help with art!
Q. Do you think there are any benefits to spoken word in comparison to music when creating content about social or political issues?
A. I definitely see the benefits of both. Spoken Word is great for putting specific points/ messages across because peoples attention is with the words as opposed to the music. Spoken Word, especially when delivered a capella, also allows more freedom for the artist to vary the pace of delivery and place more emphasis on specific lines or sections of a piece. On the other hand, politically/ socially responsive Spoken Word artists often risk being perceived as preachy, if they aren’t careful with their choice of words and tone, and not many people want to engage with an artist when they feel like they are being preached to. That’s an instant lock-off point for a lot of people. So sometimes it can be more effective to make great music that stands strong without the lyrics, maybe something with a catchy top-line melody, and they lyrically sprinkle it with with the message; introducing people to the message in a fun and inviting way.
Q.What is your favourite memory from your music career so far?
A. I don’t have a music career. 99% of all music that I’ve ever released has been made available for free and most of the money from the sale of my CD’s goes towards supporting various grass roots/ community campaigns. Music is my way of giving to the world and my creativity isn’t driven by money or personal progression. That being said, my fondest memory from my musical journey so far might have been performing at the launch of the Radical Assembly; one thousand activists at the Institute of Education. I was asked by my friends at the Brick Lane Debates to open the assembly with some Spoken Word. Another highlight of my journey was having been asked to perform at the CND’s ‘Scrap Trident’ rally outside the houses of parliament.
Q. What can we expect from you in the future?
A. There’s a lot in the pipeline. I’m currently working on a Grime EP, a Hip Hop EP, continued work on the @OurBrixton community campaign, some short books, two new Spoken Word series and a short film. Then I have some music that I’ve been sitting on for a year or so… it’s just about finding the right people to work on the releases… All in time and space!
Thanks for taking the time to answer some of our questions here at Subsource Magazine. We look forward to seeing you continue on your path of spreading love and positivity!
A. Pure love bruv, thanks for your time! Respect
Potent Whisper’s relevant social media and website links can be found below: