With the help of our patrons community, we’ve given a grant to London rapper Kwakzino, for his new project ‘Livewire’. Our good friend Joel Wilson spoke to Kwakz about his journey, process and hopes; they also discuss why hip-hop and grime seem uniquely accepting of expressions of faith, with mainstream artists from Stormzy to Kendrick leading the trend.
We love to support artists who are embedded in their scene and serving their community, while they work on their craft. Join our Patrons scheme for as little as £5 / month – and we can help artists like Kwakzino to keep getting better and better.
Can you introduce yourself and your creative work?
My name is Kwakz, aka Kwakzino. I’m a lyricist, rapper – I also do youthwork, putting on community projects for young people. I feel the Lord gave me a gift when I was young, sparked a passion in me when I was 13 years old, and it’s continued with me ever since.
What was your pivotal moment when you took your art more seriously?
I remember hearing different sounds in school – and back in my day we had pirate radio stations, so I remember trying to tune in my cassette player to find a particular station. I started trying to write and rap lyrics to my peers – then I found likeminded individuals, so I become part of a tribe. We called it a crew back then. It was buzzing, that’s the only way to describe it, this new sound in London at the time.
How much has your inspiration changed over time? Who gives you that same energy?
That’s a whole different conversation! My inspiration comes from things closer to home – my sons, my wife, friends and family members. I’m very thankful to even be alive, to have a family, to see my kids grow. That’s what inspires me.
I can’t deny God’s love when I see my boys waking up, jumping around, farting! I’ve got to give thanks. It’s not easy out here.
Tell us a little about the project Sputnik is funding.
The project is a song called Livewire. It just sounds clean, very professional. That’s my friend Illusion – he’s a real maestro on the keyboard. The beat kind of reminds me of 21 Seconds from 20 years ago – we’ve captured that kind of sound, but then pairing it with 20 years life experience since then. It’s reflecting on the journey, and how God came into my life.
Before God came into my life, I was like a live wire, a ball of energy. Until God came and grounded me. That’s why I like to say it’s ‘because of him’, he’s connected me, and now I’m in the circuit and now everything’s flowing, instead of being all over the place.
So who’s your audience for this? What do you want people to get from your work?
It’s a question I’ve asked myself for years. My music is targeted at the hopeless – because God gave me hope – but not in an inauthentic way, or cheesy way, just in an honest way.
But it’s also for people with hope, to encourage those with hope for them to get active on their projects, for them to want to take on life, help others, show love, be grateful.
What’s special about grime or hip-hop that people can talk about faith, and people seem to accept that? Christian faith is perceived as mainstream for rappers.
It’s a very deep question. I take my hat off to Stormzy, because he’s been more vulnerable than I’ve ever been. I believe God had his hand on Stormzy in that.
I think Hip-hop is unapologetic. Grime is unapologetic. That allows people to say what they want to say on those types of beats. We’ve had Lil Nas X rapping what he wants to rap about. Lil Uzi Vert rapping what he wants to rap about. And then we’ve got the Novelist, I Am Deyah, others who have a faith and they’re not ashamed to say it.
There’s never been such a healthy time for artists to express themselves. I’m a Christian and I make music, but the majority of my fans are not Christians.
Can you talk a little bit about themes or concepts that are recurring in your work?
Well God worked on me. I was living a negative lifestyle; selling drugs, robbing, treating girls wrong. It was anger. God knew I didn’t want to live the lifestyle. I hated myself. I couldn’t even look myself in the mirror. Every day my mindset was- who am I going to abuse? Who am I going to negatively affect today?
God provided me a way out. I was facing jail – the judge said if you ever come back to me, you’re going straight to jail. I managed to get out of my area my God’s grace. That’s when I started working with young people – I didn’t want them to be making the same steps I had. I’ve been doing youthwork heavily for the last 8 years.
Because of my life, and the circle my life has gone on, in my music I talk about this. What it was like before God, what it’s like since God. I won’t lie, I wrote about it so much, I hated it! I was sick and tired of talking about the street. I’ve talked about it. I was like God, I need a new song now.
I want to talk about family life. I’ve not written a song about my kids, but they’re everything to me. But that’s what’s to come.
Keep up with Kwakzino on Instagram.