He says there is a “White rapper” scene in the UK, but that no one puts him in that category or categorizes rappers that way much in the UK. So, look past Professor Green’s milky exterior to the MC that he is – passionate, honest, eclectic even. As one of the UK’s most popular lyricists of the past five to 10 years, Professor Green has built his name on strong tracks and smart marketing, and not necessarily the way he looks or where he comes from.
Admittedly, had Professor Green been 14 years old this year, he says he would have been one of the young rioters who helped destroy parts of London. And, when he spoke up, which isn’t common for the rapper who’d rather focus on music, many people spoke back, and they weren’t all happy with his views. His aptly named track, “Read All About It” goes far deeper than politics, though, and it has helped catapult him up the charts in the last month.
Read ahead as AllHipHop.com is taught some interesting facts about rap and revolution from a thoughtful UK rapper named Professor Green:
AllHipHop.com: First off, I want to tell you that we’re celebrating “UK Week” on AllHipHop.com, and when I asked around about who I should profile, everyone across the board insisted that I had to talk to Professor Green. So, why are you like “the man” over in the UK right now?
Professor Green: I don’t know. I haven’t got a clue! I haven’t been over [to the U.S.]. Things are going pretty well here!
AllHipHop.com: Where are you located right now?
Professor Green: I’m in East London.
AllHipHop.com: As we focus on UK Week, what are some of the important things that our global audience show know about the Hip-Hop scene over there right now?
Professor Green: I suppose that what was kind of like the early 90s for the States – you know, what was happening on your side of the water in the early 90s – is happening for us here now. You know, we’ve really found our voice, and the music’s beginning to cross over, but it’s still maintaining its edge. It hasn’t gotten to a point where it’s suffering yet. It’s in a really good place…it’s healthy!
AllHipHop.com: Okay, so what would you say are some of the differences between the American rap scene and the UK rap scene?
Professor Green: Yeah, we’re a much more a territory. I think musically we have a different sound because we have slightly different musical influences. Especially people of my age, we came up around jungle and drummer bass and garage, and what came from garage was grime. [There’s] a lot of break beat and a lot of rock influence as well.
Obviously, we took a lot of influences from you. But I think one of the main reasons we’ve become more successful is that people have stopped trying to imitate. It’s happened before. That I’ve never understood. How could you expect to compete if you’re entertaining with something that isn’t true to you. It doesn’t make sense to me. But a lot of people here used to rap with American accents.
AllHipHop.com: Hmmm!?! Interesting…
Professor Green: Yeah! For me , that was always crazy. That was like…I couldn’t understand it! How can you put on an American accent? I think a lot of that comes from people not really knowing about the UK rap. I didn’t know about UK rap for ages. My first introduction to UK rap was a guy called Skinny Man, who for me, made my favorite UK rap album of all time called Council Estate of Mind.
AllHipHop.com: Okay, so tell me about some of your American rap influences. Who did loved when you first discovered it?
Professor Green: I was about 12 years old, I think, when I first heard…there used to be a place near where I grew up that we used to go to called Roller City and cause trouble and do whatever we did. And they played music – it was a skating rink – and they played Biggie’s “One More Chance,” the remix. That was kind of my first introduction to rap, and Biggie’s still my favorite rap artist today. After that, I got into Westwood over here, and I got it on cassette, which is showing my age more! [laughter] I’ve always preferred more East Coast rap than West Coast.
AllHipHop.com: Hmmm, why do you think that is?
Professor Green: I don’t know. The main thing is…what are they called? Ones? That sound was always in West Coast production. I never really got it, and I think it was more to do with the production than anything. I always had an ear for East Coast production.
AllHipHop.com: It may have something to do with the distance between us as well. On the East Coast, we’re a lot closer, and there’s still a lot of English and European influence on the East Coast, especially in New York and the New England states. That’s really interesting to ponder. I want to ask you about the change in the music industry. Over here in America, CDs aren’t selling anymore. Everything’s pretty much all digital downloads now. Is that one of the obstacles that you face trying to market yourself in the UK?
Professor Green: Entirely! We didn’t even…my first single “Read All About It,” which is the first single off of my second album, is #1 here, but we didn’t make any physical copies. We didn’t sell any CD singles. It was all just digital downloads. We’ve still done amazing numbers, but if you think about it, it’s kind of upsetting to think of how well it would have done if the industry was like it used to be 20 years ago. We got 153,000 in our first week.
AllHipHop.com: That’s amazing, and I bet that’s one of those reasons that everyone said I needed to talk to you! You mentioned “Read All About It,” which I’ve listened to, and it’s a pretty emotional and soulful song. That’s how I would describe it. So, is that personal for you, or are those just lyrics you wrote?
Professor Green: No, no, no. My father committed suicide a couple of years ago, and we had a turbulent relationship anyway. I hadn’t seen him for six years, and then when he passed, I kind of decided to try and talk my life out a little bit. It helped me turn things around. It was either going to bury me further, or I was going to support myself up.
But when I gained my success – you know, my first album only came out last year – and when that happened, his widow…I wouldn’t call her my stepmum, but she came into the press and said I was trying to capitalize off of my father’s death. I had spoken about his death in an interview and how it had affected me. I’ve never spoken about that women in any way, and that was kind of where the “Read All About It” comes from.
AllHipHop.com: Wow. That’s pretty deep. The album is called At Your Convenience. Is the flavor sort of that personal, deep stuff throughout the album? How would you describe it?
Professor Green: Those are loads of different shades. I’m not into making 15 of the same songs. It’s getting harder to sell albums because people are picking off one or two songs that they hear and they like. But I still approach it as an album, so it’s not all deep and all personal. Everything comes from things that have influenced me and things that I’ve been through. There’s upbeat and fun stuff as well as the serious stuff. As a rapper, you can’t always be serious.
AllHipHop.com: Well, I’m looking forward to letting more people in America know about the album, because I think you’ve got a real eclectic style…like you said, it’s really diverse, a lot of variety. So I want to shift and ask you about some current events kind of stuff. Over here, we watched the riots go on in London earlier this year, and we saw a lot of anger, especially among the young people. Do you think your music can be therapeutic? You talked about using the story of your dad to work through that in song. Can that help with what’s happening over there right now?
Professor Green: Well, it’s hard. I’m not one to preach. I grew up in the same place. If I was 14, I would have been taken part in the riots myself. I’m just fortunate enough to be older and to have…I think when I learned to communicate was when I became a lot less angry. And a lot of people don’t have a voice here. They’re not even sure exactly why it is they’re angry. Now when it all happened, I knew that if I didn’t say anything, I would be called a coward. But if I did, I was gonna be attacked for what I said.
I never tried to justify it, but what I said was, ‘You have to look at why people think it’s okay to behave like this.’ And as soon as I said that, the amount of people I got saying, ‘Now how can you justify this?’ I never tried to justify it, nor did I condone it, but there is a reason for things that need to be looked at. Politicians over here were saying it was the fault of what they call “urban music.” And I really don’t think it was about putting blame on anyone. But there are problems that get highlighted that people just ignore.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, and now you see all of these “Occupy” movements happening all over the world right now, so people are speaking up and demanding their voice now. As an artist, it’s risky to go there…
Professor Green: If I didn’t say what I thought, I’d be another contrived artist. I can’t tell people I’m honest and not speak truths if I feel something, so…I’m kind of willing to take the backlash for it.
AllHipHop.com: Good for you! Another top I’d like to ask you about…recently, I’d say in the past two weeks, we’ve had somewarring going on between some of the White rappers, particularly Yelawolf and Machine Gun Kelly who was just signed with Diddy. And there’s a White female MC named Kreayshawn who a lot of people have negative things to say about. So is there the same notion going on there? I know most of the MCs there are “Black” if that’s a term you use…
Professor Green: Yes, Black, that’s the same way we’d address it. But no. There’s no "White-on-White crime" going on! [laughter] It’s weird. Here…I don’t know about America…I think you all still suffer from segregration. Here, every square mile there has to be a certain percentage of, I think you call them “tenament” buildings. There’s a certain percentage of those per sqaure mile in London, so even with a class divide, everyone is still here on top of each other. So the whole color thing, it doesn’t really exist here. At least in London anyway.
AllHipHop.com: Well, why do you think they’re fighting here?
Professor Green: I think everyone is caught at the moment, and we’re just at a space where we’re actually getting somewhere. So everyone’s kind of [mutually] happy about that. In the underground, there’s always people taking shots at people or whatever, but that’s part of the sport. It’s nothing major, just rap bullsh*t. We’re nowhere near a Biggie and Tupac thing here. Or even a Yelawolf and Machine Gun Kelly! [laughter]
AllHipHop.com: [laughter] Ha! Okay, I’m thinking about the year 2011, and I’ve been asking people lately what their biggest Hip-Hop moment of the year was. Can you think of one? Or yours personally?
Professor Green: There’s probably been a whole heap, and I’m struggling to think of one off the top of my head. For me personally this year, probably the release of that first single. At one point, it didn’t even feel like I would ever have a first album, so to release the first single off the second album…for me, that was my moment.
AllHipHop.com: Congrats. So, is there anything else you want to share with the audience about the UK or what’s coming next for you?
Professor Green: I’d just like people to listen to it and give it a chance, really. It’s always going to be hard, but I think we really have found our own voice now. What I used to find interesting about American rap is that I didn’t quite understand all of it, and that intrigued me. That’s why I got so deep into it. And hopefully, the same thing can happen vice versa.
AllHipHop.com: Well, hopefully we’ll help make some new fans of the UK from this interview. I’ll embed some music so people can listen to it, but where can they purchase it? Professor Green: I haven’t released in Americ a yet! So for now, they’ll have to check for stuff on YouTube. I have a meeting about that soon. I think I’m coming over to New York in January ata EMI. Fingers crossed, that will be the beginning of it. AllHipHop.com: Do you have a website they can check out?
Professor Green: Yes, www.professorgreen.com/uk.
AllHipHop.com: I’ll be sure to include that. Thank you for taking a few minutes with AllHipHop.com. Best of luck.
Professor Green: Oh, thank you for reaching out. It was lovely talking to you.
Learn more about Professor Green and his new album "At Your Convenience" at www.professorgreen.com/uk.