A Hip Hop award winning poet, playwright and political activist Karim Dennis aka Lowkey raps the things you don’t want to hear but you need to know. He’s a ‘true to self’ artist trying to be the voice of the voiceless in an industry that promotes the culture of ‘bling bling’. In his interview with ‘Live from Gaza’, the 23 year old half British half Iraqi MC tells us about his life, music and future plans.
LFG: Since “Live from Gaza” is mainly a blog about life in Gaza, as you came to Strip. How can you describe the situation as you witnessed it? And what the visit left inside you as a human and an artist?
Lowkey: Unfortunately I was not able to stay for long, but what I did witness was a population of displaced, dispossessed and ultimately subjugated human beings showing humbling hospitality under enforced isolation, in every definition of the word, isolation. The people were hugely welcoming to all members of the convoy including Rabbi Weiss and the other Jewish brothers who accompanied us. Humans are humans and I think once people dispel the intense propaganda they are bombarded with on a daily basis they see that this siege is merely another form of slow, silent murder, the kind of silent murder which Israel specializes in. It is not just the Government in Gaza who are being isolated diplomatically it is the people of Gaza who are being starved and dictated to at every point of their existence. The bottom line is this; Israel is attempting to play God with the Palestinian people. The Egyptian Mubarak dictatorship is only still surviving because of US support, so that Government will do whatever it’s masters demand, at this point the masters in question are demanding the complete starvation of the Palestinian people in Gaza. I felt inspired by the courage and will to live of the besieged people of Gaza but also aware of how sophisticated and multi faceted Israel’s dominance of the Arab people is and has been been for over half a century now. People cannot be expected to accept this dominance, and must not accept this dominance under any circumstances; it is the Arab leaders who have betrayed their own people in exchange for American and Israeli sponsored power. This dominance must be opposed and resisted in any and every way possible whether artistically or politically.
LFG: Your past trials and tribulations and your Iraqi identity that you spoke about in your song “Cradle of Civilization ”, how these things shape the person that you are today?
Lowkey: I cannot separate myself from the background and world, which I was born into. As I say on the song, I feel like an Arab amongst Englishmen and English man amongst Arabs, that is quite a strange position to be in, but I think it helps me to view things from a human perspective first and foremost. I feel as if I am both but neither at the same time. I am a human first and foremost and people have far more in common with each other than we think, there is far more that unites us than divides us as humans and I hope that message is conveyed through my music.
Lowkey: As you are musician and political activist, talk to us about bringing both together.
That was never intended way for me to go, but it is just the path life has taken me down. I got an email regarding Long Live Palestine from Norman Finkelstein, which was quite a big deal for me, as he is someone whose books have enlightened me greatly and whose struggle has inspired me. To be honest if I wasn’t making music, I would be politically active anyway, it just so happens that the music goes hand in hand with it.
LFG:How can the underground musicians like yourself, face off the mainstream labels which do not support artists which tackle daring, political and controversial topics?
Lowkey: The Internet has changed everything, those who had a monopoly on the music industry before are losing power daily. Which means artists such as myself who receive minimal support from mainstream sources are gaining power daily. I am sure you would not know about my music were it not for the Internet, also I think the Internet has vastly increased the freedom of information, which can only be a good thing.
LFG:Alphabet Assassin, personally, is one of the most creative and smart songs I have ever heard, how did this song come to being?
Lowkey: Thank you, I’m glad you like it. I heard the song Alphabetical Slaughter by Papoose and wanted to try the same concept, I think it is good to push oneself creatively, and to me it seemed like a challenge, so I just did it.
LFG:Your new album is coming this March; the first single “Something Wonderful” is out, would you tell us more about this album?
Lowkey: The album is called “Soundtrack To The Struggle….” And is the type of music, which I feel the world is missing, in that I hope it provides a soundtrack for those who struggle daily for equality and humanity. The album will probably not be out until June at this point.
But the single Something Wonderful is out now on iTunes. It is a song, which I made after listening to Hip Hop for years and hearing rappers, degrade women in their songs. I think it’s important for young people who listen to Hip Hop, particularly young boys to value women beyond their physical appearance, I feel like a lot of Hip Hop artists objectify women relentlessly, and I for one am sick of hearing it.
By the way the beautiful cover for this single was designed by Lina, thank you very much for that, it was 100% appreciated.
LFG: What influences your lyrics and music for most?
Lowkey: My lyrics are influenced by my everyday life and the things which keep me awake at night, the voices in my head which trouble me and the things in the world which I feel need to change. My music is protest music it is resistance music. Ultimately I make music that I feel is missing from the world, I’m saying things that I feel need to be said.
LFG: What’s you advice for the young people who look up to your music?
Lowkey: I would say to celebrate the message and not the person bearing it. Our aim must always be equality of all, not supremacy of some. Self-glorification is not my aim and it never has been. Do not misunderstand my message, as human beings we are one, until we appreciate the fact that we have more in common than not, then equality will never be possible.
LFG:“Long Live Palestine-part 2” comprises many artists from the Middle East, what other artists would you collaborate with?
Lowkey: There are many artists I would love to make music with at some point from Gill Scott Heron to Damien Marley. I have been blessed to work with some very brilliant people in my lifetime from members of the Arctic Monkeys to Immortal Technique, so you never know what the future holds, there will be many more collaborations coming soon, definitely.
LFG:Finally, What’s next for Lowkey?
Lowkey:My new single Obama Nation will be released digitally on May 3rd 2010, you can watch the video here.
I am also about to embark on a tour of the United States until May. I have a mix CD entitled “Best of Lowkey Volume 1” due to be released in May/June, my album “Soundtrack To The Struggle…” will be coming out in June/July at this rate. The album features The Cradle Of Civilization, Voices Of The Voiceless ft. Immortal Technique, Long Live Palestine, Something Wonderful and Obama Nation plus many never heard before tracks. I am shooting videos for quite a few different tracks very soon also, expect videos for I Believe, Revolution Music ft. Faith SFX, Reverend & The Makers, Special, and The Cradle Of Civilization. So look out for all of that. Thank you to Lina for the support and giving me a platform to speak my mind. Much respect to everyone reading this who listens to my music and promotes it, there is much more to come from me in 2010. Free Gaza, Free Palestine and grant the refugees their right of return.
Peace + Love
It’s an honor to have Lowkey featured in my humble blog. Thank you so much for your time. Keep spreading the word!