C.D.: So, is this all just part of your everyday life – bumping into headz you know as you go about town?
Jonzi D: It’s the same thing every day. I guarantee you there will be more people we’ll bump into. I’ve been on London streets for years, man. I’ve been raving since ’87, constantly – so it’s only natural that I’m gonna get to know people on the regular; and I’m the kind of person that does talk to a lot of people.
C.D.: You’ve been on the scene for so long. How have you seen the whole hip hop scene change?
Jonzi D: I tell you one thing, I think the fascination with hip hop has changed from a kind of young wide-eyed kind of discovery into this “Yo, I’m the fucking man, fuck y’all” kind of attitude. I suppose the bravado has always been there, but now it’s like a ‘scene’ thing. The industry is throwing hip hop down everyone’s throats as opposed to how it was in my day when you had to search for it. I still think the real underground shit is there, and for me, doing hip hop in the theatre is an example of trying to keep it fucking real on the level of the creative aspects of the culture.
C.D.: How did you get into the rapping side of things?
Jonzi D: ‘82 was when I started rapping – [listening to] the Sugarhill Gang. I was writing lyrics, bits and pieces, then I started rhyming with a guy called Mikey Supa. It was also around that time that somebody gave a tape of my rhymes to Sparki Ski who produces for MC Mell‘O.’ So that’s how I hooked up with them guys and I ended up touring with MC Mell‘O’ and DJ Pogo. I did the whole Gang Starr ‘Hard to Earn’ tour along with Jeru the Damaja. That was in 1994.
6:50pm – 7:20pm: I sit in the Young Vic Theatre’s coffee shop sipping my can of coke listening avidly to the animated conversation between Jonzi and Josette Bushell-Mingo. Josette is in the process of organising ‘Push’, a theatre festival due to run in early July as a celebration of contemporary Black arts, culture and media. She explains thoroughly the objectives of the festival and Jonzi excitedly describes various pieces he has previously performed that might be suitable for the festival.
7:23pm: With the meeting concluded, I leave the Young Vic Theatre with Jonzi who is now in a more reflective mood…
Jonzi D: This is what I wanna do – this whole ‘hip hop-theatre’ thing. I’m happy that my original profile is from a hip hop background as opposed to a theatre thing. Not wishing to diss the theatre, but the culture that surrounds the theatre ain’t where I’m at.
Here in Britain, the institution of ‘the arts’ has attached to it a stigma of hierarchy. So when we [as Black people] go into the realms of the arts, people don’t take our shit seriously and sometimes even we don’t take our shit seriously. Our concept of Black dance is African dance and [people think] that’s as artistic as we can get. But actually, there’s an artistry within hip hop dance that’s so obvious just waiting to be used in a theatrical context to create new, original movement. It’s funny how people ain’t seeing that shit!
C.D.: Through your theatre work you’ve had the chance to travel all over the world. Would you say that audiences in different countries take to your shows in different ways? What kind of response do you get?
Jonzi D: Americans lose their fucking minds! They go fucking potty! There were regular standing ovations whenever I performed in America.
C.D.: Why do you think that was?
Jonzi D: I think they’re more open. I think they’ve got a culture of people that understand aggressive art, what with hip hop and stuff. I think aggressive Black imagery and words here [in Britain] is seen as rant, whereas in America, they were definitely feeling it…
C.D.: The Aeroplane Man’s London run finishes at the end of May. What are you up to after that?
Jonzi D: In June, I’m doing the old show, ‘Lyrikal Fearta’, in New York. Then I’m gonna fly over to San Francisco and depending on whether we can work it out I’ll come back to London to do that Push show.
C.D.: How do you think your theatre work fits into the hip hop context?
Jonzi D: There’s the creativity that’s involved, the understanding of different music and genres that’s needed, and the fact that I’m a hip hop head. I’ve been into hip hop all my life. I love it. It’s what I do. And the more of us who love the culture so much and can say that, the stronger hip hop will become as a culture in Britain…
You know how it is when you meet a hip hop head from some other country and you start talking about hip hop? You can talk for hours. Hip hop really does bring people together. So I’m proud of that and wear that shit on my chest!…
So what the deal now is, we’re heading to Leicester Square. We’re going to meet Nicci Cheeks, [US rap group] Black L.I.B.’s manager, and we’re gonna try and get into this ‘record launch thingy’.
C.D.: What’s this?
Jonzi D: It’s some sort of music seminar, or some shit! Whether I can get you in or not, I couldn’t tell you geezer. That would be an out of order ending to the interview. Imagine it: “Anyway, at the end of the day, Jonzi just fucked off and left me outside!!!”
(Laughs all round)
8:05pm: Jonzi and I meet up with Nicci. Luckily she’s got a spare ticket for the press launch of the Urban Music Seminar, so the three of us are able to make our way into Leicester Square’s swanky Red Cube bar, where it is being held. Hosted by Kwame Kwatan (of D’Influence), the event featured a P.A. by Shola Ama, deejaying from Dodge and K-Gee, plus a load of celebrities making appearances to show their support for the cause. UK hip hop was represented nicely in the form of Ty, Malarchi, 57th Dynasty, Big Ted, Dave VJ, plus General and Barb from The Homegrown Entourage…
10:00pm: Jonzi and I finally leave the Red Cube in high spirits after catching plenty of jokes inside, but not having been able to take full advantage of the alcohol on offer (£5 for a bottle of Bud was a major piss-take!!). We make out our way to Leicester Square tube station…
C.D.: Another day in the life of Jonzi D!
Jonzi D: Another day in the life, man. This is a very average day – nothing particularly special, just bare madness!
C.D.: Well, thanks a lot for letting me chill with you.
Jonzi D: It’s all good, blood! All good, man! It’s been fun. I hope you enjoyed yourself too.
C.D.: Definitely! Definitely, man! It ain’t every day that you can get into the life of a true hip hopper.
Jonzi D: Respect! Even though we were hardly in a hip hop environment, we still managed to carry the hip hop spirit with us!
Check out ‘The Aeroplane Man’ while you still can!
27th May 2001: Derby Playhouse
29th May 2001: London – Queen Elizabeth Hall
30th May 2001: London – Queen Elizabeth Hall (Final Performance)
Get the full lowdown on Jonzi D at:
Details about the Push festival can be found at:
For more information on the Urban Music Seminr 2001, check out: