krept and konan have done something brilliant
“Positive Direction exists to inspire the youth, to educate the youth and to lead the youth” -- rappers open a new foundation in south London.
Krept & Konan by Nick Dorey. Styling Hanna Kelifa.
This article originally appeared in The Sounding Off Issue, no. 350, Winter 2017.
South London rappers Krept and Konan have become quite famous since their version of Jay-Z's Otis clocked up five million views on YouTube back in 2011. Alongside Giggs, the pun-ready pair have taken the UK rap scene from the streets to the charts, sitting snugly besides its more chaotic cousin, grime. In 2014 their independently released mixtape, Young Kingz hit the top 20, leading to a record deal and a debut album; The Long Journey Home went to number two in 2015. Last week the pair dropped a double-sided mixtape , 7 Days and 7 Nights, featuring J Hus, Stormzy, Skepta and an arsenal of puns, punchlines and punchy production. 7 Days is currently clocking up over 1m streams a day on Spotify and just went to number five in the album charts. Wo, Wo, Wo indeed.
While they've worked with everyone from Skep to Rick Ross, eaten a Big Mac on Zayn Malik's private jet and been paid £12k JUST to play Mortal Kombat, instead of falling into rock 'n' roll cliché and splashing all of their cash on cars and chains (they might do a bit of that too), the pair want to make sense of what they've achieved by going back to where they came from. Channelling their funds into a new foundation, Krept and Konan are rolling out a new after-school initiative to support the next generation of creatives in music, film and art.
Having seen their own childhood youth clubs shut down, and disillusioned with traditional charity set-ups, the pair have formed Positive Direction, an after-school programme that aims to facilitate and encourage kids who want to learn life skill not necessarily taught under the national curriculum. Rolling out from November 6 at a school in Croydon, Krept and Konan tell us why they've set up Positive Direction and why -- and how -- they want to inspire a new generation of leaders and thinkers.
"While they've worked with everyone from Skep to Rick Ross, eaten a Big Mac on Zayn Malik's private jet and been paid £12k JUST to play Mortal Kombat, instead of falling into rock 'n' roll cliché and splashing all of their cash on cars and chains (they might do a bit of that too), the pair want to make sense of what they've achieved by going back to where they came from."
Krept: "Life changed for us, dramatically, in 2013. After years of hustling, freestyles, knockbacks and being ignored, we finally saw real success with our mixtape, Young Kingz. What has followed since has been a whirlwind. We've had chart success, travelled the world and met and worked with some amazing, incredible people. In 2016, we went to Abu Dhabi for a festival, where we performed alongside everyone from Drake to Rihanna and DJ Khaled. It wasn't like we were viewed as some little rappers from the UK that no one knew; we were legitimate and we were treated as equals. It's been amazing to see the success of the UK scene over the last couple of years; we're all succeeding and exceeding beyond our wildest dreams."
Konan: "While much of what we have achieved has been far outside of any expectations we had for ourselves, about a year or so ago, we started to think about what all this meant. What would our legacy be? What could we create that we could pass on to the next generation of kids that are like us, who come from places like us, who have the same dreams as we did back in 2006, 2007. We sat down for a long time -- over a matter of months-- and talked about what we could do to encourage aspiring rappers, singers, producers and so on. We are often approached about working for various charities, but we didn't want to just casually put our name to a charity where we didn't know where the money was going. We set up the Positive Direction [PD] foundation for the youth and it's based entirely on our own experiences as young, working class kids growing up in south London."
"Positive Direction is about giving the kids something to do after school that directs them away from the negativity of the streets."
Krept: "Positive Direction exists to inspire the youth, to educate the youth and to lead the youth and encourage those young minds to lead each other. When we were teenagers in south London, we had two youth clubs in our local area. We would go there every day after school, without fail. That's where we would MC, have fun with our friends, talk to girls and learn about music in a peaceful, post-school environment. One day, they shut the youth clubs down; lights off, no one's home, sorry. We never did find out why. The closure of the youth clubs left us with two choices after school: stay in and do homework, or go out on road with our friends and get up to mischief. What did we do? We were on the streets, causing trouble, getting into trouble, getting harassed by the police. Positive Direction is about giving the kids something to do after school that directs them away from the negativity of the streets. That life can be a very powerful force, so we recognised it was important that these young people are being given the opportunity to explore something that they actually love. They need something to occupy them and direct their energies in the right way, the most powerful way, the most meaningful way."
Konan: "It's been hard to put it all together, we've been trying to get it up and running for a while now. Initially we wanted to have PD in schools across south London, but we learnt pretty quickly that you have to try it out in one school, and then you roll it out. The first session starts on November 6 and we've got a lot of people that we know to get involved; there's a songwriting class from one of the writers we worked with on 7 Nights. There's a design workshop with Kritikal who does all of our artwork. There are production lessons with producers we've worked with over the years. Everyone who is a part of it has been handpicked by us, and we'll be going down too. We're fully involved."
Krept: "I graduated from University with a degree in Accounting and Finance, but they didn't actually teach me how to be an accountant. It's all theory, never practical experience. It was the same in school; we were "taught" but we never learnt the really important things in life, things I would need to know to be able to navigate real-life. It's great to learn the essentials of Maths and English and Chemistry, but you also need to know how to pay tax, how to manage your money, how to set up a business and how to write a business plan. This is an after-school set-up that the youth can do in their spare time and our aim is to guide young people for later life, to fill in the gaps that school misses. Positive Direction takes a wider look at the music industry, so it's not just about creating the next generation of rappers, it's about showing kids how to create an entire industry. Young people will be taught about the business surrounding music, from graphics, to artwork, videos, song-writing, producing, engineering, programming, mixing and mastering. It's about showing young people how to meaningfully create something for themselves, by themselves. It's about creating an industry of engineers, managers, A&R's, writers and designers so they are fully self-sufficient and well versed in all aspects of music, not just performance. There are a lot of great artists out there working alone in their bedrooms; we want to join them with their peers who have talent in other areas, to encourage them to build their own record labels and management companies and creative studios."
"If two kids from south London like us can achieve what we have, the sky's the limit for the next generation. They just need some help to get there."Konan: "Positive Direction is about taking kids out of a negative environment and teaching them about something they love, and the realities of that too. We've taken a long, hard look at our own experiences -- positive and negative -- and translated that into Positive Direction, a foundation that gives kids a foundation for life. If two kids from south London like us can achieve what we have, the sky's the limit for the next generation. They just need some help to get there."