listen as vivienne westwood makes her rap debut
The grande dame of British fashion urges intellectuals to unite and take over on new track by rapper Mic Righteous.
Punk-provocateur. Britain's best loved fashion designer. And now, five decades after she first kicked against whatever there was to kick against, Vivienne Westwood has added another string to her already impressively strung bow: guest rapper on a track by British MC Mic Righteous.
As London celebrates forty years since the birth of punk in her Kings Road boutique, the incendiary grande dame has lent her words to the opening bars of new Righteous release Be There feat. Tone with Vivienne Westwood, delivering a self-penned rap that takes in climate change, austerity and the impact of mainstream media over a contemplative piano backing.
"Intellectuals Unite," she posits, in a voice that still bears the hallmarks of her Derbyshire upbringing. "Everybody's talking but only our map gives the complete picture. The ice is melting. Fracking releases tonnes of methane. Water is more precious than oil. Plastic kills the albatross."
They're themes that Vivienne has visited before, of course, most notably in the notes to her typically grandiose Autumn/Winter 16 show earlier this year. And here, on the precursor to upcoming Righteous album, Dreamland, they become a rallying cry: one that urges the listener to "speak with one voice... Culture not consumption".
"We are building a movement," the year's unlikeliest rap star told i-D. "If you care about the world join IoU. Intellectuals Unite is open to all."
Listen to the track and read our interview with Mic Righteous below.
To be honest when I thought of collaborations, Vivienne wasn't the first rapper that came to mind! The album doesn't feature any other rappers but with the topics discussed in the project - from the refugee crisis, to the state of Britain as a country, to what the title and concept Dreamland is representative of as a whole - we wanted to make a statement and remind people the album should be about the process of art. I knew we needed more of an influential voice on my debut album than my own and that the project wasn't complete without another.
When did you first meet?
I met Vivienne at the Climate Change march in November when I performed a spoken word piece called Time to Act. She mentioned she written a rap/poem and I didn't even need to hear it. I knew it would be perfect for this project. It wasn't something I planned, it happened organically and I couldn't be happier. I wouldn't change the results for anything. It's an incredibly moving and captivating piece, very atmospheric. Hopefully it highlights the need to treat our planet with more respect. If we keep going the way we are, climate change will ensure the vast majority of our Earth is left uninhabitable for our children. Not for people born hundreds of years from now, but for people born today.
What is it about the message of Intellectuals Unite that appeals to you?
Because we are closer to an impending humanitarian crisis now more than ever. The world cannot keep running in the favour of the 4% of wealthiest people, while the rest of us suffer in silence without a movement to oppose any capitalistic regime. As a member of the human race (putting all our differences aside) the most powerful thing we can do is be the 96%, be there for each other and as artists writing our own life stories. We must collaborate, put our minds together and move the power from the greedy to the needy. Fight climate change, start at the top of our long list of global issues and work down and work together. In life we have three choices: be part of the positive change and fight the good fight, do the opposite or do nothing at all. I'm doing what I feel is right with my gift. That's probably why these opportunities present themselves to me because I put myself in the pathway of righteousness. The only way we will change the world for our grandchildren is to be smart and work together, that's why Intellectuals Unite appeals to me.
What was Vivienne like in the studio?
I booked the studio for a good few hours to make sure we had time. You'd be surprised, recording a verse might sound quick but believe me I have worked with some rappers that have taken days to finish 16 bars. Not Vivienne though, in and out in one take, delivered it impeccably first time, the amount of emotion put into her words you could feel it. It was incredibly impressive!
What is do you think that you both have in common?
Vivienne is very passionate about what she does, doesn't take no shit and isn't afraid to speak the truth, no matter what position she is in or platform she is on. That's something my peers always instilled into my mind state. Pick a job and don't stop till you get the job done, while letting nothing threaten you from ever stopping. Always get your work out there and your message for good communicated to as many people as possible.
Finally… What does it mean to be punk in 2016?
I've always viewed punk as a way of life, as a non conformist viewpoint that's expressed and communicated in beliefs through creativity - whether music, art or fashion of the highest order. It's anti-establishment and it's an attitude that strikes a chord with people who are seeking a greater truth than what they are subjected to through the media. Hip hop and punk are incredibly similar in that way. I've heard hip hop be described as the punk of 2016 but whether punk, hip hop, metal, rock, pop or electronic, to me, any form of art that is shedding light on important topics that don't get that air time and media attention they deserve is punk in spirit.
Text Matthew Whitehouse