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Lowkey – rap and revolution

Rapper Lowkey is hugely popular for his radical political message and activism. He is profiled by Matt Chew

“They don’t really know what revolution would mean, it would mean blood, it would mean pain, but it could be us that bring that change” – Lowkey

Lowkey is a revolutionary lyricist and political activist. As a prominent figure in the anti-war movement and recent anti-cuts movement, Lowkey makes no apologies for his far from low-key approach to music, politics and life. As well as speaking at numerous rallies and conferences, he makes frequent appearances on news channels speaking out against war, imperialism and social injustice. Lowkey is a prominent member of The People’s Army, a collective of musicians, poets and writers who have a common goal of combating the misogyny, violence and materialism that is often associated with hip hop.

Born in London with both English and Iraqi descent he began rapping at the age of 12. He first broke into the music scene with his Key To The Game mixtape trilogy which gained critical acclaim from the UK hip hop scene before he was 18. The third in the series, Key To The Game 3 give his listeners an insight into the trials and tribulations of being Lowkey. The album is written with an autobiographical approach, from his emotional Bars for my Brother, written about his brother who committed suicide after doctors failed to diagnose his mental health problems, to the more comical sounding Check-Up a frank song about an embarrassing visit to the sexual heath clinic.

After touring in support of Immortal Technique, Canibus, and Dead Prez, he set about recording his debut album Dear Listener which was released in January of 2009. Despite gaining much critical acclaim over the past decade, and collaborating with well-known artists such as Wretch 32, Reverend and the Makers and Logic, Lowkey bypassed the potential wealth and fame to direct his creative energy into publicising and supporting the struggle of the Palestinian people. He raised money for victims of the Israeli assault on Gaza with his no-budget song ‘Free Palestine’ which reached 18 in the iTunes hip-hop chart.

In February of 2009 Lowkey was approached by the Sabreen Association, a Palestinian music organisation, to perform in the Hip Hop For Gaza tour of the West Bank and some parts of Israel. On the trip he experienced a small measure of what Palestinians are forced to endure every single day of their lives. He was detained and interrogated for nine hours in Tel-Aviv airport, where many Arab and Muslim people are detained and questioned. His mobile was confiscated, and on return he realised that the only number that had been barred was that of the British embassy in Israel.

Lowkey uses his radical take on hip hop as a medium for change, understanding the need to reclaim hip hop as a liberating form of music from the capitalist record companies who exploit the genre to sell violence and misogyny. Lowkey said:

“The majority of rappers advertise a capitalist lifestyle which has been proven can’t support itself, one which is pretty much non-existent, a fantasy. So at some point someone’s going to turn round and say this whole thing we’ve been advertising is bullshit.”

His most exciting project alongside Logic and Jody McIntyre is The Equality Movement, a loose organisation which believes in equality regardless of wealth or background and the opposition to Capitalism and Imperialism. Recently they held meetings of hundreds of people on issues such as the role of the police, current affairs, the revolutions in the Middle East and more. This is a great opportunity for a growing movement of people against capitalism to discuss the way forward.

As the prospects and reality of millions of people becomes bleaker due to the capitalist crisis, there has never been a more important time for revolutionary artists such as Lowkey to make a conscious change in the way people see the world. Lowkey’s music is fuelled by his passion for every aspect of human interaction and his refusal to conform or compromise his work to sell records. It shows the importance of a radical culture of music and literature to accompany the growing social movements fighting back against the capitalist and imperialist elites.

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