i-N conversation with wretch 32 and george the poet
In the first of our i-N Conversation series, we eavesdrop on a conversation between two creatives from two disciplines; rapper Wretch 32 and poet George The Poet.
Tottenham schooled Wretch and Cambridge via Stonebridge educated George are both known for delivering more than a hot verse on an 808 laden riddim; they're here to make you think. It follows then that the two hold a lot of opinions on the music industry, the media and much, much more. We let the pair blow off steam and get into the political, racial and cultural implications around Bobby Schmurda and Kim Kardashian and why they're Team Fuse ODG when it comes to Band Aid…
George: When it comes to musical processes we both write our lyrics of course, but there are some differences, right?
Wretch 32: I have a different vibe for each tune. Some tunes I need to write at home maybe, some tunes I prefer to do everything from scratch and sometimes I just write to the beat. It all depends on the piece of music that I'm recording.
George: For me it's much more lyrical than what it used to be. When I was young, I was an MC and wrote freestyle bars to instrumentals. Now it doesn't take much. If I get drawn out, I start going on rants because I've got a rant in my head every minute of the day. Sometimes I have to take time out. Like yesterday I wrote a whole tune; it's a straight up rap, four solid minutes of just bars. I can't wait to record it; it's everything in my heart, it needs to be my next single. I just had a moment of clarity, with no beat, no nothing. I just wrote it. I do that with a lot of poetry but then I might be in the studio and something clicks. There's no method, I'm inspired by this conversation, seeing someone miss the bus later, a joke.
Wretch: Have you seen this Bobby Schmurda video?
George: (Sighs) Yeah I saw it, why is everyone talking about it now though?
Wretch: Do you know what that reminded me of? I'm just gonna say this, it reminded me of modern day slavery. I'll tell you why; when we used to have to do something to get something. Although he's an artist, I know at that point he was thinking, 'I've actually just got to do this' but just looking at it, the feeling wasn't right.
George: What, they made him do it?
Wretch: Yeah, I hear that they do that. It didn't sit well with me, I didn't like it.
George: Every now and then you've just got to check reality. It's not like the struggle is over and the fight is won. We are progressing as society is progressing, so generally society is getting more decent, less obviously violent and less obviously racist. Cool, but at the end of the day, you go on a prison visit there is black, black, black. We're not rated at school, we're not the biggest property owners proportionately in the country, in fact we're probably the lowest on the property ladder. In the African community fatherlessness is 36%, in the Caribbean community it's 48%, we could go on for a while, welcome to my world, this is what I walk around seeing everyday. When people talk to me about Kim Kardashian, this is where my mind is. The other day people tried to get onto me about my use of the N-word. I don't use it in my music, with my friends it might come out. I do think its existence in the public sphere is problematic, that's why I don't use it there. What I say amongst my brothers means something different and I am not the problem, racism is 100% the problem. So if you're not gonna do anything about all of these stats that I just listed, jog on because that's the reality.
Wretch: The only thing where I differ is a year ago in my music I was very conscious not to use the N-word at all and I still use it in everyday life. People are always going to be sensitive about whether you're allowed to redefine it but I feel like it has been redefined. One guy called me a ni**er when I was a kid and it felt so serious. That was the first time I was like 'This is real'. That word made me feel such a way I went home and told my dad. My dad got the chopper out, wasn't even a joke. I think now it can still be used as a racist word but I feel like the new generation of people have kind of revamped it, so you can no longer hurt me with that whip anymore
It's not like the struggle is over and the fight is won...
i-D: What did you think of Fuse ODG refusing to do Band Aid because of his disagreement with the lyrics…
Wretch: I haven't listened to it but just hearing about the whole Fuse situation, as an artist, my love for him has grown knowing that he turned it down. Obviously a lot of people look at it as a big opportunity to expose yourself to a bigger audience, but there still has to be some integrity, your integrity. He didn't agree with the lyrics and I was quite disappointed that he had spoken to Bob Geldof and they couldn't agree to change the lyrics because if anyone was to know about West Africa, I'm pretty sure it would be Fuse ODG and not Sir Geldof.
George: I can't opine on the nature of the music or the quality of the music but what I work with and what I'm building my career on is communication and messages and I know there are lyrics in that song that are less than helpful.
Wretch: Also, the other thing I thought of automatically when I saw the line up was, although I still haven't heard the record, where is Dizzee? Where is Skepta? Or where is Tinie? Like where is their input?
George: The actual West African talent.
i-D: Did Kim Kardashian break the Internet?
Wretch: The Internet did not break.
George: This is what pisses me off; they got us out here thinking that life is Kim Kardashian. At the end of the day, not to pass judgement on a person, but people can do what they want. I can't say I didn't look at the pictures. Who is Kim Kardashian? She's someone who got famous off a sex tape. It's even pissing me off that I'm sat here talking about it. Why do I have to have an opinion on her?
Wretch: She's just as important as each individual makes her. So for me, that's just a flick past on Instagram and I go on about my day. If it was Beyoncé, I would be affected but from [Kim] it's like seeing Ronaldo score a goal, that's what he does innit.
George: What is beautiful?
Wretch: If I'm honest, I'm semi-shallow because I do like the look of a girl and I do like a girl's aura as well. I think it goes hand in hand because I'd never be with a beautiful idiot. If I'm honest I don't really want make-up either. It just fucks up my pillow, my white shirt, very often it's mwah mwah and I'm covered in it, so that's my personal preference. I don't feel like girls have to wear loads of make-up to be attractive.
George: I don't think they have to but I think girls like make-up. I don't care either way because I need to be into you. I think all relationships are an issue of trust. Trust is the main thing in any kind of relationship, even if you take fame out of it, is this person the person they claim to be? Then when you add fame into the mix, there's motives, there's people stunting, so I think the best thing you can do is surround yourself with good energy.
Wretch: I think that whole problem with Jay Z and Beyoncé is everyone looks at that and thinks 'I'd love to have that' but we only see the best part. You see them on stage kissing, you see their beautiful child, you don't see the real part. I think the idea of having that beautiful relationship where everything is perfect, is what makes people go for the fame on fame.
George: That's the idea but at the end of the day as human beings they've just got to work it out like the rest of us.
Wretch: Yep you don't know what happens when they're in the lift…
Text Nardene Scott
Photography Amber Grace Dixon