After a brief exodus from the scene, a chance phone call from 1 Step of the Krate Krusaders and a collaboration project later, Genesis Elijah was officially back on the UK hip hop landscape. ‘Before I Was Famous’ delves beyond the music and talks about the day to day struggles of life, set against old skool UK hip hop beats. I waxed lyrical with Genesis about his partnering with the Plymouth duo and all things Brit hip hop.
You have started 2011 with a bang, coming back on the scene in a big way. So tell me about the album “Before I Was Famous”?
Genesis Elijah: The album is pretty much something that the Krate Krusaders and I put together as a collaboration project. They sent me the beats over which kind of had an old school hip hop, old school UK sound to it, so I decided to make it a concept album.
I was pretty much talking about my journey to this point. I made it so that no matter what happens after this, people could look back at it and say that was the turning point. That is where he was before all the other madness happened. It is kind of like a little flash back, talking about things that I wouldn’t even talk about on a normal album.
Genesis Elijah: I am talking about family, growing up, the struggles of trying to get my music out there and the struggle of trying to live really. A lot of it really isn’t even to do with music. It is to do with just trying to live life, come up and survive out here.
Your music and your sound have been described as ‘intellectual hip hop for the streets’. What do you feel distinguishes your sound from the rest of what is out there right now?
Genesis Elijah: I think it is honesty. There are a lot of different styles of music out there right now; there are a lot of different emcees doing things. Because of our culture, British culture, we are understated and very cynical. We’re quite judgemental about things we don’t think are real… We are just normal people, yeah we rap but we’ve got kids, we’ve got families, we shop at Tesco, we pay bills, so where is that side of the music?
I am not staying that I am the only person that is doing it; there are a lot of people that do talk sense. But it just seems like, if you look at the urban scene as a whole, and you take a snap shot of it, there are not a lot of people out there that are doing what I would say are realistic nor has any sort of intelligence behind it.
Wretch 32 is pretty much one of the only artists in the mainstream now, apart from Devlin, that talks sense and puts music out there in a realistic and believable way, with some sort of intelligence and humour behind it… I think that is what a lot if artists are missing, because they do not understand that to be an artist, you have to be three dimensional and have other layers to you. So that is the difference. The music I make is not like what the majority of people are making to be fair.
I want to take it back a bit, because you talked about the fact it is a concept album, it’s got a classic hip hop feel to it, and I am feeling nostalgic anyway. Tell me, what was your earliest hip hop memory, and who or what influenced you to become an emcee?
Genesis Elijah: My earliest hip hop memory, I can’t actually remember who it was but I can remember… it was probably before the 90s to be fair… After that, it would be Big Daddy Kane. Not even the music, because I used to go to my aunties house and my cousins would have all their vinyl out… like Big Daddy Cane, Public Enemy and NWA and I’d just looking at the covers… so that was like one of my first memories… but I wasn’t into it that hard at that age, I would probably be about only eight or nine then.
Then when I was 10 I went to go and stay at my Nan’s house. My uncle was away, I think he must have been at uni or something, so I went into his room and he had Ice Cube’s America’s Most Wanted and for Christmas I had just got a walkman. He had a few tapes… for some reason the Ice Cube one was the one I liked the best, and I played that non stop for the whole summer holidays. I stole batteries from the remote when they ran out and literally listened to that non stop, all day. As soon as it finished, I would turn it over and start again.
I learnt every lyric and then my transition into becoming a rapper and writing things down, wasn’t really a transition at all… I didn’t understand that there was anything else I could do. I thought, that is what adults do, they do things and then write about it and I probably started writing about a year after that, and that is how it all kicked off.
You have, if you like, two experiences of the scene. How do you think things have changed, and how is it different now to how it was back then?
Genesis Elijah: I think that music nowadays doesn’t really get the chance to get the look that it used to get. It comes down to buzz and hype…. who is everyone talking about, who is the flavour of the month right about now… As an artist, you have to make sure that you are creating your own buzz, you are creating your own hype, you are being relevant and people are talking about you? It is a sad thing to say but it is part of the game. You want it to be just about music but that is not the case. If it was just about music, then the scene would be very different.
I would say it is the same needle but just a bigger haystack. It is like now we have so many different outlets. There are things that we thought were good at first that now we realise are a double edged sword. [For example] you can now get your music every where which is cool, but everyone can get their music everywhere, so now where is the edge?
It is almost going full circle, coming back to where it was before, coming back to who you know, not what you know. So you are getting into positions that if you don’t know the right people, you can’t even get into the door and the VIP club… Maybe that hasn’t changed, maybe it has always been that way…
What or who do you think is the future of British hip hop? What can we expect from Genesis Elijah in 2011?
Genesis Elijah: I think that the music scene is definitely changing. I couldn’t really tell you what the future is going to be because it changes so drastically. You have to remember that, the industry never leads, the industry always follows. It is such a weird thing; it is like a dog chasing its tale. What is going to be the next big thing? Who is going to be the next big thing? You can never tell.
Again you see an artist like Wretch 32… I have said for years that I think that he is the best lyrists in the country, so for some reason it has only just happened. That is a blessing in itself; I hope he does well to be honest. As far as what the future holds, I haven’t got a clue – I am hoping it’s me.
My prediction is that I will be a lot more talked about than I am now, and the mixed CD that I am about to drop in April, is probably going to put me on par with a lot of artists.
By: Thuto Mali