Lime interview - Books & Spoken Word
George the Poet
You know when there's an awkward silence during a conversation and most people attempt to fill it by spouting inane, mostly irrelevant drivel? George the Poet is so not one of those people.
Everything George says is measured, every word deliberate. He radiates calm. If you are, just to pluck an example out of thin air, a busy-to-the-point of lunacy, viciously-overworked journo, there's something about being in George's presence that's instantly soothing.
The world is a lovely place so long as George is talking, which might explain his phenomenal success to date. Shortly to graduate with a degree in Politics, Sociology and Psychology from the University of Cambridge and in addition to having a successful musical career of his own George has written with some of the biggest names in the industry. Despite this, there isn't a hint of arrogance about him.
Clad in jeans and a hoodie, George is the definition of cute. He has large, sincere eyes and the sort of cheeks you have to physically restrain yourself from grabbing whilst making a 'wozzle wozzle wozzle' sound. At more than a decade his senior I feel the desire to mother him, but I imagine his looks and demeanour make him popular with the ladies in the Student Union.
I first became aware of George when I saw him speak at a TEDx event in Hackney. He spoke about destiny and how coming from a humble or difficult background doesn't have to define or restrict us. He cited Malcolm X as someone who had overcome adversity in order to make an impact. He certainly has a wise head on his twenty one year old shoulders.
In this candid interview, George talks about the things that real matter - life lessons, aspirations and listening to your mother!
Hello George! For those who aren’t familiar with you, what do you do exactly?
Hi. [thoughtful pause] I’ve always felt that the future, particularly if you live in the inner city, is to explore your creative talents whilst pursuing educational success. So, what I’m doing is exactly that. I’m about to graduate. My education informs my poetry and vice versa. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive. Like, rapping helped me pass my GSCEs.
I rapped my study notes! It helped me remember the information. And the more I revised the more fluid my rapping became.
Do you want to get into politics, after you graduate?
H,mm... I don’t WANT to. But I might...
Ooooh cryptic. For what it’s worth I think you’d be great. How did you get into poetry?
I started rapping when I was 15. When I came to Cambridge, I wanted to continue rapping. But I wanted to do it in such a way so it wouldn’t alienate people. It was other people who branded my work as poetry. I guess that’s what rapping without music is.
Having heard your TED talk I have to ask – How did you get so wise?
[laughs] I listened to my Mum! My Mum has a lot to say and she talks a lot of sense. I also think it’s important to be conscious of how little you do know, because it makes you more proactive in wanting to understand the world more.
Have you ever had a ‘pinch yourself’ moment?
Yes, last year I did a show with NAS. He is one of my biggest influences, both in terms of content and style.
Wow, did you get to chat?
Yeah, I did speak to him, but I made a total fool of myself. I told him how much his work meant to me. He was very cool and down to earth, though.
Describe yourself in three words.
Over-thinker, perfectionist, happy.
Do you know, it annoys me when people say ‘perfectionist’ like it’s a good thing. My perfectionism makes me work slower and become very obsessive – it’s a problem for me.
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
I had to overcome my anger. Where I grew up, I was often on the receiving end of other people’s anger. I’d get into fights, the Police would show up. And that made me angry, in turn. I directed that anger towards my area. That was foolish of me. I didn’t see the wider social forces at work.
What sort of forces?
Unfairness, racial tensions, abuse- The people at the top don’t really pull their weight. They dodge their taxes and don’t do what they could to help the little guy.
What’s the best lesson you have learned?
I always say to myself “if it makes sense, don’t fight it. If it doesn’t make sense, don’t fight FOR it”.
BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS
What does the future hold for George the Poet?
I’d love to do bigger shows and experiment more with music. I’ll also be taking more of my workshops into schools – I work with children allowing them to engage with the curriculum via poetry. There is a whole section about that on my website.
What advice would you give to those kids and others their age?
Take the time to know yourself. It’s important. And to know what you really want.