As I approached The Garage in Highbury & Islington for Lowkey’s album launch, ‘Soundtrack To The Struggle,’ at 7pm, there was already a massive queue of fans outside. The bouncers tell us that even though we are there to work, we have to get in the guestlist queue. It was never going to happen, as myself and the photographer for the event make our way round to the back of the venue, and into the backstage area.
The first DJ is already playing with host Jonzi D. We go outside and talk to Iraqi born, 18-year-old rapper Crazy Haze, one of the supporting acts for the night, who tells us what he’s been up to at the moment and that he has just come back from a tour of the Middle East. At 8pm the legendary Charlie Sloth graces the stage to gear up the crowd, who to be honest, don’t really need much hyping up. As he comes on stage he announces, ‘I was walking down here and I saw the queue and I nearly cried, it was emotional. Real talk.’ That’s kind of how I felt when I saw the support for Lowkey, who’s video’s and songs have been blocked from most airwaves.
While Charlie Sloth is in the background playing the best in UK and US hip hop, I’m introduced to New Jersey rapper Hassam Salaam, who gives me his album ‘Children Of God’ – which I’ve now listened to and am blown away by. He tells me, ‘I met Lowkey a few times, he told me he was having an album launch tonight. I haven’t heard the album yet, so that’s why I’m here to check it out. I know what his work is about and I know what he’s about and I respect him.’ I also hear him freestyling later and he is not a rapper anyone should sleep on, with Haze remarking, ‘where did this guy come from?’
Camden rapper Awate came on the stage to perform some tracks, including some acapella performances, which got an amazing response from the crowd. After this DJ 279 came back on, with Logic’s performance up next. Logic performed tracks from Freeman and Listen including ‘Price Tag’ and ‘Begging You.’ Special guest Jody McIntyre came on next to perform his ‘War Poem.’ One line I remember strongly from this poem is, ‘fight with a pen, but write with a sword.’ For those of you that don’t know, he is a journalist and political activist, and a very inspirational character. The last supporting act of the night, who comes on to rapturous applause, is Akala. Host Jonzi D comes on the stage and announces, ‘who told you conscious music does not fail.’
It was now time for Lowkey to come on. As he touches the stage he exclaims, ‘I feel like I’m Michael Jackson.’ He performs a whole list of songs including, ‘Obama Nation,’ ‘Obama Nation part 2’ with Black The Ripper joining him on stage, ‘My Soul,’ ‘Terrorist,’ ‘Voice Of The Voiceless,’ ‘Alphabet Assassin,’ and ‘Too Much,’ with Shadia Mansour. ‘Dear England,’ ‘Haunted,’ and ‘Cradle of Civilisation,’ which all feature singer Mai Khalil, when Lowkey performed, ‘Long Live Palestine,’ he got the crowds involvement, chanting, ‘Long Live Gaza, long live Palestine,’ before he performed the track. He also dropped a freestyle during the night, and was joined by another special guest Ghetts at one point. All in all this was a great night for political and conscious music, and one of the best albums of the year by far.
Lowkey briefly talks to me about the album, ‘the album is a culmination of all of my last few years of my life and the last few years as an artist. The main issues I talk about in it us being human. The experience of being a flawed human being in a world where we have clear currency on human beings. Some human beings are worth less and some human beings are worth more, and that’s something I want to change. That’s what the album is about, that’s what my life is about, I try to even the score.’
‘My favourite tracks are Dreamers Or Haunted because they’re both about very personal matters. When writing them I went on the longest journeys. A good song is where when your writing it, it takes you on a journey. You’ll be writing the chorus, and it will take you to a place emotionally.’
Words By Shireen Fenner and images by Sai Photography