Kwaku Pen had been wanting to catch up with LyricL a pioneer of Spoken word, BEFFTA award winner and progressive performance poet with a multitude of talents that has been on his radar for a while. Now with her sophomore album just released now on Tokyo Dawn it was the right time to get to it. Read on to find out what LyricL had to say to Kwaku Pen…
LyricL: Thank You for your interest in my creative work plus finding the time to poise Q and A interview questions for me for British Hip Hop (BHH) Kwaku Pen, I am honoured humbled and happy to share my findings. Thank You.
Your welcome 🙂
You’ve released your second studio album what was the inspiration for this?
LyricL: Wanted to make sure that after the Toronto Jazz Festival and then the Ghana tour, I took a sabbatical break from performing in order to make a conscious decision to do the exact opposite from poetry events, open mics, sharing and performing. Starting 2016 after libation at Cape Coast and then returning to UK and having family friends gather in prayer for all the new endeavours for the year ahead… which pretty much mirrored what was said in Ghana, I knew it was imperative to reflect rebuild rejuvenate and renew myself experientially physically spiritually emotionally and otherwise.
If you do the same things the same way you get the same results and consequently I needed to document my journey and feelings into one central place. This primarily and selfishly, was to heal myself, as well as make sure that there was something available to aid me and others when going through a number of emotions, so readers, listeners, friends, family, LyricL fans old / new and people intrigued or interested in my musical word art actually had that option… so it needed to exist. So here we are.
How long did it take to complete?
LyricL: Less than three years of application. Screening a video in Hackney Attic, BFI Southbank via S.O.U.L then Ehalacasha Ghana. Attending physiotherapy due to a basketball then car situation teaches you patience… as a patient haha… but more so the value of time, healing and AppreSheLove.
I was running weekly, entering half marathons via RDC running crew, bridging the gap, FullJoying life, traveling dancing, training, yoga, mentoring at an Arts College, creatively paying it forward, writing seamlessly about the good bad and indifferent aspects especially of myself, my life then during 2016 – which I believed many would identify as the ‘horror film’ year, a number of close creative friends and family transitioned.
I didn’t even understand how to feel about Maurice White, Prince, Bowie, Ali and others respectfully saying, just because all around me was a whirlwind or delicate unexplainable space to be in, but I knew I was healing and building something important so continued in the direction with the decision to persevere. Various songs / pieces portraying and reflecting these motions. If as an artist you cannot find a particular poem, rhyme, verse, song or extract to meet your need… and you’re actually aware of that, I believe it is y/our responsibility and obligation to then create one.
I was experiencing an empowering and outstandingly beautiful creative space and whilst there wanted to collate the pieces of the journey from my debut album ‘AMAZED’ to this unfamiliar yet new ZEN like space, in an UnequiVocaL way… hence the birth of my anthology book ‘AmaZEN’ and today this last offer ‘UnequiVocaL’… didn’t have an end goal, didn’t have a label, contract ended so this was the springboard for Nkechi da LyricL… so I jumped.
Love is something that pops up a lot in your work, how important to you is the element of love and why?
LyricL: I LOVE love! I wrote REASON about my understanding of love in its romantic stance relationship wise, partly from a relationship with my forever guy which didn’t work out because of logistics and life but we remained blessed, another which made the world small whilst being across continents and one which made me mistake my caring a lot and having a lot of concerns for someone as ‘love’ and so when they disappeared and returned saying all the right things, it was confusing for me to see and understand where the truth begun and the lies ended, as the proposal was the truth, but the constant lying was the lesson we both learnt from.
To be a healthy happy musically focused and full individual in life that society perceives as an unmarried single African Woman with no children, for a while was a problem, although not for me, but socially and culturally. To then experience different perspectives of love, whilst the all important question I asked myself was, “what would it feel like to actually be allergic to my love of sound or music?”
I had tinnitus from a young age and used to dislike people eating with teeth touching cutlery and other audio gripes but found healing in writing at the beach or sitting in the bandstand in parks, found out about misophonia and with my own experience of the 528 Hz frequency pitch which lead to the making of REASON as the opening track for the album and a visual that identified that.
Most people tend to lay blame when it comes to love, but if you actually cannot respond, deliver or express such a powerful vibrant and beautiful thing, then perhaps look deeper into the why. I have and will always show share and present love in and through my lifetime… as well as the next, because the planet, news, people tend to feed us the opposite. If you participate in more solidarity marches then hugging a tree, whilst the tree has experienced everything and still gets cut down for a new hotel, shopping mall or coffee shop… we need to work on our LOVE muscle more.
As a creative being do you have a formula or structure in the way you approach your writing or does it just come to you whenever?
LyricL: Stillness. Share your own truth. No one on this planet can consistently do a better you impression than YOU. Not to be afraid to wait for what feels right intuitively and to be nourished and encouraged by elders. If your Grandparents taught your parents how to cook, ate a certain way yet had longevity and strength to outlive a parent, why are you off sick from work? To go to Bosnia, Ghana, Russia to see people of all backgrounds and not just the music event or tourist people presented to your eyeline, but walk around and see people who at times have less, but wholeheartedly do more… sincerely, out of warmth just because, is beyond life-changing.
I enjoy my work, voluntary or commissioned and once you live in a city that hands out more “No’s” than yes’s, you realise the old thing you have complete power or control of is your art and create accordingly. There is a formula law rule and structure to everything but we must remember whether religious or not, professionals built the Titanic and amateurs built the Arch. If something feels right and you aren’t hurting hindering or hating… do it… then do more, even if only for yourself as a journal blog or diary.
What do you like and dislike about being an artist in the UK?
LyricL: The expectancy. The feel of being a human vending machine but not aesthetic enough to be noticed and when you voice it you’re portrayed as an ‘angry black woman’ *yaaaawn* I don’t remember actually being angry about something I myself really couldn’t and cannot change, I just know UK hasn’t been designed to support a creative of my kind or calibre and that’s kind-of-it really.
If I save money to fund a project it looks like I don’t need investing in. If I perform in another country the “well okaaay hello miss jet setter” comes in a luscious envious green. If I collaborate with someone from the US who refers me to a label in Germany when every UK label I approached said “yeah send me your stuff” “sorry L you’re too big for our independent label” or “we’ve got too many artist backlogged but please let me know when it comes out”… errr… OUT… like from my computer to the stores without a vehicle? That’s like inviting me to dinner and not giving me your address.
I’ve been told how I need to be and why other artists are famous and not me, as if that was my end game in a city where Mica Paris, Desree, Jamelia, Terri Walker are not exalted in the way Beyonce is and Michelle N’deochello is not or millions are spent on music TV competitions but the winners aren’t important after the end credits. It’s just cumbersome because they audience Fanbase or interest I’ve built through the years is received so well and these individuals are so loved, I just wanted to give them something new from the heart as a Creative offering… and didn’t want to leave London to do so, but hay. It is whaaaaaat it is.
How do you feel you have grown as in artist?
LyricL: Mindset. Perspective. Knowing the importance of being a Black African British born Creative Woman with a voice unapologetically. To reach and teach through a medium that doesn’t show people that look or sound like me consistently delivering and representing the fun loving lively serious and innovative perspectives of my generation which was inspired by a generation that came to the UK from a War in an aeroplane flying out of an airport that blew up.
Forget Hollywood I have recipes, culture, stories and a fractured language from growing up in a house of love, laughter, vintage vinyl, clothing, singing, music, proverbs, discipline and faith still from that era that is infinite innate and real. It’s nice seeing the interpretation and knowing the source.
How would you describe your style?
LyricL: Effervescent… haha… ok, seriously ‘Progressive Hip-hop, Spokenword World Music’… then I would stop and ask people themselves to describe it. Art is subjective and if you hear it a say “how” it makes you “feel” as opposed to WHAT the definition of the music is, my work is done so smile emojicon… smile!
Have you experienced any sexism along your journey and if so how you cope with it?
LyricL: It’s like asking have I experienced any prejudicial conflicts in my lifetime the answer is yes and as days go by, more so than ever. Being a Hip Hop emcee and basketball player I was outnumbered since childhood in what was and is still predominantly a space setting that wasn’t laid for me. To express yourself sexually in an explicit way, to not and to have an asexual style etc., media stereotypes and society will always say, [show] depict you in ways you won’t like and will disagree with.
I have learnt, experienced and grown seeing ideals, groups, conflicts, joy and pain through this and asking what coping mechanism is implemented is like asking how wet was the last glass of water you drank, without understanding if I was thirsty, if it was to take medication or vitamin, if I was lying in hospital after surgery or on a beach after honeymoon.
People don’t want to look at the deeper ‘why’ the same way Mother Nature is both beautifully and destructive. Fear. That’s my analogy. I wrote LADYLIKE which presents many sexist contrasts but will still most likely offend people. I’m sure if Joyner Lucas put out the exact same track word for word called “I Am Not A Sexist” it might be received differently. I’m not categorizing racism and sexism, it’s just complicated experiencing both. I will fight for you and you SHOULD fight for me, but it’s not your fight… basically.
The album has influences of different genres, what inspired the musical direction of this album?
LyricL: Growing up as the daughter of a Nigerian drumming instrumentologist and Vinyl DJ, listening to High-Life, Reggae, Blues, Soul, Pop, African Jazz, siblings singing Rare Groove, Old School Hip Hop, Lovers Rock, Roots, understanding tales and stories, writing poetry, entering music competitions, New Jack, UK & US Soul, D&B, Ragga tracks with Hip Hop artists, Open Mic Hip Hop events emceeing, Alldayers, Weekenders, Raving and touring with HipHop BrokenBeat House AfroHouse, dances, styles, cultures, music evolution social issues life and travel.
I’ve had music reach countries I’ve never even been to so I wanted to encapsulate as much of my journey as possible through collaboration and innovation. My aim was to bring people together at a time where the world was doing the absolute opposite. I now truly love the backstory as well as the end product from a personal place.
Who were your influences growing up?
LyricL: My Pops, Omar & Bobby McPherrin were the beatbox singing percussion people who mesmerized me just by captivating the people. Oriental Brothers Prince Nico Mbarga with patterns stories and the musicality. Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Nas, Ice Cube, WuTang, Onyx, Tribe Called Quest, De la Soul, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Common, Queen Latifah, Monie Love… theres nuff…
Marcia Griffiths, Michael McDonald, Christopher Cross, Kevin Everett “Gabriel”, Black Uhuru, Kofi “Black Pride”, Sandra Cross, Deborah Glasgow, Jones Girls, Foxy “Madmoiselle”, Anita Baker, Gospel songs… Sounds of Blackness, Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley pre and post The Wailers… anything that really shared people true experiences thoughts life and feelings, with imagery truth and stirred thought provoking emotion.
As an African woman how important was the movie Black Panther to you?
LyricL: It was important to me personally, as the invisibility blanket of dark skinned, skilled, intelligent, independently forward thinking, strong, beautiful, bold, influential individual decision-making leaders, who are African Women outside of African, was now revealed removed and presented to the world by the most unexpected person you’d never ever expect to present you… Hollywood.
The empowerment of seeing something or someone on a broader and higher scale that you can identify with, if only for one cinema trip moment is this… then I am thankful to have been alive to witness exactly that. The day and age where South African Koikhoi ‘Sarah Baartman’ had no voice, to modern day African American Nikki Minaj who did is just a glimpse of its importance.
I’ve had a shaved head, natural hair and worn African print just because it was practical and Mum had miles of material since my teens so it’s beautiful seeing richness and colour outside of my home and family. The question is, what about tomorrow? *curious chin holding face next to arm crossed chest emojicon *
So to round this up who can you see yourself becoming in the next five years?
LyricL: Using my Anthropology Masters and using Art Therapy to do more whilst being thankful to have made it here… five years in… is a celebration within itself. I’m still growing and flowing whilst becoming a better version of myself day to day, so as the Mentor, Songwriter Lyricist, Performance Poet, Artist Tutor, Humanitarian, Author, Actress, Musician and Mistress of Ceremony with a Masters, I’m just thankful to have left something of value along the way… even if only for me.
My Goddaughter thanked me for allowing her to star in the video for “Fight It” without even thinking that her being an A grade student, playing four musical instruments as well being a successful gold medalist at 12 would be something someone somewhere would be inspired by for just three minutes. This pattern needs to change. I asked her to share this with her teacher… so hey, who know. It’s UnequiVocaL.
Any shout outs…?
LyricL: Yes please Kwaku Pen. You for having an interest. Goddaughter Cariosa. My family UK, Naija, Europe & US. WAC Arts. Oihana & Michelle. JJ Jemiyo. Andre ‘LL. Pugs Atoms for the connect. Stella & Nat for the same. Marc TokyoDawnRecords for not sleeping. Lee Gomez and Dazikue. Especially Vencer Cafe, Cue, Boyzee in S.A. Shaun Ashby, Enrico Delves, Josh Grooves, Andrea Clarke Kingman and family.
Aunty Cecilia superman Mum. Far Simon, Rachel Huggins, Marianna Zappi. Ray Estaire, Paul Bloomfield in Holland. Stephen BAM Busette for being real from day. 3rd Person Joseph and Breakplus for being patient and positive. Kevin Mark Trail and Adiktiv for being hard work and seeing the horizon.
Villy for the GH Naija love. Kay Bridgeman, Chippy, E Double D, Morpheus Soul, Patrick Eyption. Nephew Yahael, Kengo for always finding time. Julia Cheng for always making time. Aunty Mariska GH, Octavio and Esie Mensa Toronto. HKB FiNN my sensei. Kat Francois. Caroline. Westbury James for stepping in and LyricL for finding her footing on an unbalanced turbulent journey.
I have both made new and lost old friends and family enroute and hold very dear everyone who has listened, spoken, shared and cared from a sincere place what that closeness actually means to them through our encounters. I am very happy to now take my place from in front of the speakers, exhale listen watch as well as enjoy the view with you as we see the proverbial music vending machine replaced. It is import to be present and embrace the everything so with that I say ‘Dalu’ darling and ‘Jesike’.
Blessed wishes and love.
By: Kwaku Kwaku