Being Black while creative is politics, in fact, Black art in and of itself is highly political. Expressing your views and talent in a space where there is not a lot of support initially is hard, but I want to explore how people navigate their way through this reality. This is a major project and this is something that I'm excited about; something I haven't been for a long time. This project is an exploration of what it means to be creative in a space where making a living from your art is uncommon. It's a breakdown and an analysis of the work of young creatives around me; exploring their struggles, their process and achievements. I want to show how much creative talent exists within our spaces so that other creatives who feel forced and boxed in to give up on their art have active examples of inspiration to draw from.
The first person I approached as a part of this project is an artist who attends my university who goes by 'Ishy Dee'. He is an inspiring young man whose work, motivation, and dedication to his art is powerful. I had a conversation with him about his growth as an artist to this stage and I am pleased to share it with all of you.
Q: How long have you been interested in music?
A: I've been interested in music my whole life. I was doing up dabs during the transaction from my father to my mother. From Birth.
Q: Was your interest in music fostered through exposure to it at church?
A: Not really. It seems as if I was always meant to be musical. My mom told me that my dad was into that kind of stuff. Apparently he played the guitar and he could sing, my whole family can sing any way. My brother also used to play a lot of bashment (dancehall) music and that was around me. Also a lot of influence from RnB and Chris Brown, however, I wasn't really exposed to oldies. The first half of my life I lived in Africa. We moved from Zimbabwe when I was aged 11 and back there the music is heavily influenced by the Caribbean side of things with the African Vibe and that's what surrounded me. I even used to conduct music with my friends... i'd have them beating pots and I thought how the hell did i know about that?
Q: When did you decide to make music your career?
A: I was 14. My friend introduced me to Fruity Loops and from then I would eat,sleep, think Beat making. That's still what I use up until today to build my music.
Q: Where do you pull inspiration from and what influences the lyrics of your music?
I know what you mean when you talk about lyrics being influenced by life or how I wish life would be, but I always try to stay real. I wouldn't sing about doing something if i'm not doing it. Sometimes, as a writer you may get inspiration from watching a movie or from your friends' stories. But i write mostly love songs... It might be what i went through or someone in my family.
Q: What drew you to be the 'Romance Guy'
A: When I was young I listened to a lot of Mario and Chris Brown and RNB and I naturally gravitated to that genre. I'm just filled with love so that's what I write and that's what I do. It's always love.
Q: Have your family always been supportive of the path that you're on?
A: -insert laughs- NOPE -even more laughs- It took me a long time honestly. After school, I had to make a decision about college. When i told my mum I was going to college to study music alone, by itself, with nothing else... She didn't take it well. That was also the same summer Whitney Houston died. She'd always say "Oh Whitney grew up in church... but the music lead her to drugs and it killed her" "You should be a Doctor" "How are you going to get a job". She even brought my Aunts and Uncles over to have a little intervention for me. I invited my mom to a few of my shows in college and that opened her eyes. I was always shy with her about my work... i'd never record anything while she was home i'd lock off. I did a music video and I decided to show it to her and she was like "ooooo that's my son!"
Q: How important would you say is having a supportive base as an artist?
A: It's hella important and it gives you confidence. If i know my family is supportive, my friends, those i keep around me; if anyone comes around that I don't know and they say 'your music is dead' I would laugh it off because i know my people have got me and they'll tell me the truth and where to fix up. You need that boost from people around you and once you have that you can take on anything.
Q: As a Black Artist, Do You feel it difficult to find support from our communities? Do You also feel people are quick to deter you from that path?
A: It is hard. Especially being in the country that we're in. It's John's and Peter's Country. My Mom told me when we came to this country that you have to work extra hard just to get a piece of what they have and you need to stand out from the people who surround you. The Art thing to them isn't necessarily enough to make it or isn't good enough to them.
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self knowing what you know now?
A: Keep Going and Keep Doing What You're Doing Ten Times Harder. If i knew what i knew now before I would have been somewhere else. I used to be with this management when I was 16 till about 21 and it didn't do much for me. If i had the sense I have now I wouldn't be relying solely on my then management to do things for me... I would have been doing so much outside. Now i feel as if i'm back in square one now i've left them. But now i'm making better quality music and i'm pushing for greatness only.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
A: Man time goes quick. I want to actually start my own label to help people who i know have potential and talent. I know a lot of people from ends who with the right opportunity can do much better than me. I want to be that help.
Q: If you had some sort of guidance or support from another local black creative how do you think that would have shaped you?
A: I always knew that I was good at this and other people recognized that. But if someone was to be like "yo i'm in this position and i'm looking down and I can see you" I would have been motivated to write more create more and make a sacrifice to be able to reach further with my art.
Q: How important is it to you that as a Black creative you build up a network with others like you?
A: It is very important. Look at the UK scene right now and compare it to 2 years ago. It wasn't the same. It was good but not where it is now. Even now when you check Spotify... so many young artists are in a playlist being shared and these people could be from my ends. I believe that the more we stand together as a community and as a race and build within ourselves we'd get further... If black people decided 'Boom' let's pattern up this whole industry it would be mad. Look at the Charts! Man Like Ramz! Debut single from Endz! Barking you know! 5 years ago he wouldn't even be in the top 10. I'm excited because we're breaking down the doors.
Q: What would you say is your favorite or best project to date?
A: This is a hard question. I feel that everything I do I give it 110%. The way I feel is that whatever I put out has to be better than the last. After I released my EP in 2016 I knew the next thing i released had to be proper. Then I released the song Right Now which was my first release without the label and I put it on Apple Music, Spotify, and I had never done that before. Then i started working on the next one and I came bigger with Come My Way. I did a music video went to a different country (technically it was just out of London) My First EP i'm still proud of that. I banged that out myself, mixed and mastered it, produced it, wrote it everything. I made sure that everything was pristine. I'm excited for the next thing and I feel like that's going to be my proudest work.
Q: How do you feel now about the growing support and recognition of your brand?
A: That right there is the real blessing. The other day i performed at an event at Uni and one girl came to me and she said that one of her friends from Cambridge or some far place saw me on her snap and asked how did she get Ishy Dee to perform at her Uni. I was like woah this is sick hearing that. That was a further confirmation that I'm growing and that people are liking the sound. I am a firm believer that God doesn't put you in a place to fail, he puts you in a place where he knows you'll win but you have to work and be patient. It's all just a blessing.
The Images in this post were taken by myself in Kew Gardens in Richmond. This is a continuous project and this post is the first of roughly 5. Watch this space.