"It's Been Enlightening!" Clash Meets Guvna B



East London legend on fatherhood, working with his heroes, and protecting his mental health...

Not many people can say they have two MOBO Awards, three UMA’s, eight projects spanning thirteen years and a book… unless of course, you are *Guvna B*. Hailing from East London, the seasoned veteran and author has become an integral voice over the years for many across the nation, from appearing on TV to voice his opinion in a controversial debate to stripping manhood and opening conversations surrounding mental health, the championed emcee is a highly respected figure within British rap.

Taking inspiration from the late American photographer Vivian Maier whose work wasn’t learned and recognised until after her death, Guvna B created a quality album named ‘everywhere + nowhere’ that explored themes of grief, peace, his background and hope, that went on to help many through what was an unforgettable year.

Reputable for his impeccable pen game and captivating presence, he recently returned – a year on from its original release – with an additional six thought-provoking tracks alongside a selection of boast-worthy guest appearances from D Double E, Wretch 32, Barney Artist and more. Adding further depth to what was an already top-notch project, his empowering stance and embodiment of faith helps navigate the listener through a wheel-up worthy experience that will leave you wanting more.

Following the newly released Black Edition ‘everywhere + nowhere’ deluxe album, Clash caught up with *Guvna B* for an in-depth conversation on his latest project, becoming a father and more.

Tap in below to see what he had to say!

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*How have you been? How has the past 12 months been for you as an artist?*

It’s been alright man; it’s been enlightening not being able to do normal life stuff. I had a son just before the start of lockdown which has been my silver lining. If I were doing my normal business, going here, there, and everywhere I would have missed so much stuff, first words, first steps and so on.

*Do you think it has shaped your music at all going forward?*

Yeah 100%. I’ve always loved music growing up; East London council estate culture listening to Kano, Wiley, and Dizzee Rascal etc, I was always a fan of the way they put words together which is why I started to make music.

In 2017 my dad passed away suddenly which was quite unexpected and then it’s almost like my art became even more important to me as it was a way of therapy. There was more weight to the words, so the music became more important as it was a way of communicating. So then when I had my son, it was as if I had someone watching me as a role model, so my words bear even more weight.

It’s gone from something I do as a bit of fun which I get paid for to something that helps people get through difficult parts of their life.

*As someone who is as creative and unapologetic as you are with anything you do, whether it’s being an artist, being an author or giving your two pence in a debate. I am interested to know what keeps you motivated or ticking? Some artists can shy away from being as opinionated on certain topics due to what it may do their brand. What are your thoughts on this?*

I didn’t get into music to be the most famous rapper, I got into it because of the way that artists put words together and I thought I could use my voice to make my society better. I don’t really think about what effects my brand, I think more about being a voice for the voiceless, the 14-year-old in his room, up North who isn’t fitting in to his friendship group or he’s getting racist abuse - so giving him a voice through my music. Or the 16-year-old that’s listening to my tunes that’s self-harming, she may be listening to my music and it’s giving her hope.

I’m not thinking, “Guvna B has to go quiet so more people will like him and he’s gonna be the biggest rapper ever”. Music for me is my God-given talent to make this world a better place. That’s why I don’t shy away from stuff, whereas some people feel like they have to speak on topics that are trending on social media. I’m not really like that; I prefer speaking on subjects that move my heart and I genuinely care about and think is important.

*You are going to release the ‘Black Edition Deluxe’ of your ‘everywhere + nowhere’ album that you dropped last year. This time you have an additional six tracks. Before we get into that, could you re-visit the meaning behind the title of the album for people who aren’t aware?*

I’m a massive fan of watching random documentaries, and it was a documentary on a photographer called *Vivian Maier* that give me inspiration. She was a nanny in New York who took thousands of photographs but didn’t ever get them developed. When she died, the person who took over the photography studio got them developed, and they were just the sickest pictures! After that she became one of the most famous photographers in the world but obviously, she wasn’t alive to see it happen.

It got me thinking about guys in the ends that have talent and potential and are working hard but for one reason or another, it may be the education system, or the government cutting youth services which effects their potential. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have it, but it means that their circumstances are blocking it. It gave me the thought of you can be everywhere and nowhere at the same time, you can have talent and not get anywhere but it doesn’t mean that you haven’t got it. I started talking about the nuances and I wanted to encourage people doing their thing, no matter what you do, if you are grinding and it’s not happening it doesn’t mean that it’s your fault. It just means life is tough sometimes and you have to keep going.

The other influence on the title came after my dad passed away, it felt like he was nowhere to be seen but memories have been made everywhere which inspired me to keep going.

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*Why did now feel like the right time to release the deluxe edition a year on?*

I’ve been speaking to a few different artists that also do music, so I’ve had the songs there but because of the pandemic I still haven’t toured yet, as it keeps getting moved - this should be in September now which is cool!

That has also made me feel like I can’t just move on to the next project because it would feel like the album didn’t exist as I didn’t maximise it, I didn’t get to tour it, meet people face to face and see it impact them. I didn’t get to see how people would go mad in the rave, club or venue. Even though a year has passed I knew there was still life in it. I spoke to some of the features, D Double, Wretch 32 and they were like: chuck it on the deluxe! Six new songs and we can still go again with another album in a year or two. We have lived through the pandemic, so it has new emotions on there, too.

*As mentioned previously, you have an additional six new tracks dropping. Are there any that resonate with you more in comparison to the writing stage?*

Probably, 'Very Original' with D Double. When we were recording it, it sounded like a high tempo grime track, talking about the ends and stuff. It sounded like fun but real at the same time. When I got the master back and really took it in, I realised it’s a panoramic view of what goes on in the ends like the drama, the violence, the struggle, talking about potential of the youth trying to make a better way. It’s really deep when you think about it, it’s not just fun and up-tempo, its real life.

It hits harder that I want to see a better community and Double is older than me, so he’s been there, done that and seen it. I viewed it as a soundtrack, I felt like I was watching Top Boy when I listened back!

*Were there any topics or messages that you wanted to explore in particular?*

Peace. Which is why I did the 'Peace Of God' track. I grew up in church, I didn’t really like the hymn thing too much but because I’m a rapper people expect to hear a certain thing from me. After speaking to loads of different people, I’ve realised a lot of people have had a mad year, not just because people have lost someone, but people have lost jobs, or struggling in different areas but the one thing people may have needed is peace.

Every time I hop on socials and see George Floyd and then something else happening, it’s so depressing! So, the one thing everyone needs is peace and so as well as the high-energy stuff, I saw what Chance the Rapper has been doing recently as well as Stormzy with *'Blinded By Your Grace'* and I can see that there is a space for that in the community.

*I’d also love to touch on your book Unspoken! For people that haven’t read it, could you tell us a bit more about this book and what inspired you to create it?*

Inspiration, it was the fact that growing up I felt like society conditioned me to view real manhood, guys don’t cry and be strong etc. That’s all good, all of those things are great but when my father passed, and I tried my best to be strong and not to cry, I realised it was detrimental to my mental health. I realised the importance to listen to our mind and body, and if you don’t listen then it can be harmful and toxic.

The book is about my grief process and redefining what true manhood is. I don’t want any of my boys to feel like they have to go through similar things by themselves, I want them to feel like they can share that.

*How has being a father helped shaped your music, or even your outlook on life in general?*

The biggest thing is that I am his role model whether he knows it or not, he’s watching everything I’m doing so I need to set an example. I’m coming from a place where I didn’t have it all handed to me on a plate there was a lot of negativity around me.

I wanted to prepare my son and not shield him from the realness of that, but at the same time I don’t want to stay in that spot, I want to be more progressive and put more positive and aspirational messages in my music so he can achieve way more than I’ve achieved.

*What are your thoughts on the British scene as it stands musically?*

From a functionality point of view, it’s in an inspiring space. The culture as a whole. When I was growing up the Spice Girls, Madonna and Michael Jackson were number one. My son will be saying *Tion Wayne and Russ*, which is a mad to me — it’s in a sick place! As a youngster, footballers and American rappers were who I looked up too. Now you have black executives, black label owners, black artists charting, and black A&Rs and it’s in an amazing state and long may it continue.

*Is there anything else we can expect to see from you this year?*

I’m really excited to go on tour, because of the pandemic it has been rescheduled twice, I think 18 months after the original dates. Obviously there has been a lot of music that has come out in the meantime so I’m looking forward to performing that. Even as a music fan myself I’m looking forward to live events, you will probably see me inside a mosh pit somewhere!

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'everywhere + nowhere (deluxe edition)' is out now.

Words: *Elle Evans*

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