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by Frances Leate
Friday, October 19, 2012
Defying convention is something hip hop artist Jonzi D does with style and not much hesitation, but even he admits refusing an MBE back in 2011 wasn’t an easy decision.
The outspoken 43-year-old has been rapping and dancing in clubs and on the streets since the early 1980s and has also worked as a poet.
In 2007, he was named in the top 10 positive black role models by MOBO.
To be offered an MBE would for many be the icing on the cake. But for Jonzi D it just didn’t fit.
He explains: “It was really difficult to take that decision but it was also really easy. The main reason it was difficult was because I knew what it means to society, but I’m also aware what it means to other sections of society in which we live and it is not ‘one size fits all’.
“It is a bit like wearing a very uncomfortable mohair jumper. It wasn’t about protest, it was about the fact it didn’t quite fit with me.”
Over the next two weeks, his talents will be showcased in the Lilian Baylis Studio at top dance house Sadler’s Wells, where he’s an associate artist and produces the annual breakdance festival Breakin’ Convention.
From today (Thursday) until Saturday, Lyirkal Fearta will feature some of his best-known works, including Aeroplane Man and Silence da Bitchin’, both of which have been screened on Channel 4.
Then for three nights from next Thursday (October 25), The Letter and Other Works will see Jonzi present his first new stage works in 10 years, based on his reaction to the world today, his experiences growing up in east London, and his rejection of the Queen’s honour.
Matching rhyming spoken word with a DJ and dancers and performers, the show focuses on a number of controversial topics such as police brutality, deaths in police custody, black-on-black violence, gun crime and cultural displacement.
He said: “I think a lot of young black men living in London will be able to identify and relate with the messages I am putting out there .
“I’m also really happy this is going to be shown during Black History Month, because it is very much about the black experience.”
Born and raised in Bow, he began rapping about the things that mattered to him and the place he lived.
He said: “Bow has a history of being a poor area with a poor community and this history goes back hundreds of years. Poor working class communities are often from Bow.
“What has been interesting over the last 40 to 50 years is the way in which the ethnic make up and migrating communities have changed the face of east London.
“My work reflects this quite a lot.”
n Lyrikal Fearta and The Letter and Other Works are at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in the Lilian Baylis Studio from October 18 to 20 and October 25 to 27. Tickets £15, call 0844 412 4300 or visit www.sadlerswells.com