There is Snow Business like Show Business! Of Beats and Beans, An Impromptu Coffee With Kingdom Rapper.
Saturday the 17th March. Just as we were fooled into thinking winter was over, the “Beast From The East” returned, and once again delayed our passage into Spring, as it had a couple of weeks prior.
Wrapped up and very much windswept I trundled over to Beeston Square. The plan was to observe and report on the making of a music video about Beeston by Benjamin J Howard, otherwise known as, Kingdom Rapper. By the time I had arrived gusts of snow were flurrying around the square, and the wind was picking up. The tarpaulin of nearby market traders flapped violently, and all signs pointed towards inclement weather. It was a far cry from the artic tundra, but it was still legitimately uncomfortable to be outside.
I noticed the crew bunched into small groups around the square. A drone had just been retrieved from flight on one side of the square, and on the other side of the square it was clear to me that considerations were starting to manifest regarding the shoot that was due to take place that day.
I introduced myself to the crew, things hit off instantly. They seemed just as interested in asking me questions as I was of them. Just after the point of no return; ridiculously high winds and out of control hair, a realisation hit me. I realised I had been very pleasantly, yet subtly coerced into a video interview for them, about Beeston. As well as filming the music video, Kindgom Rapper and his crew were also planning on making a short documentary film about Beeston and the making of his music video. Despite the weather, a faction of the crew were busying themselves, continuing to collect video content from passers by.
It wasn’t long before a decision was taken for the crew to discuss the options going forwards over a warm cup of coffee. The vote was cast, and the unanimous decision was to cancel the shoot for the day. No date for the re-shoot was set in stone at the time, but it was suggested that a couple of weeks should be allowed to pass to allow the weather to improve. Benjamin (AKA Kingdom) enthusiastically volunteered to film a short message to his followers on Facebook to explain how the weather had temporarily put a stop to the days plans.
In the meantime Kingdom had kindly agreed to speak to both myself and Christopher Frost about; his life and music, and the ‘I Am Beeston’ project, respectively.
I was keen to find out a bit more about Kingdom’s drive for making music, and, how he came to be in Beeston. So, as the “Beast from the East” raged on outdoors, we started chatting, and so it goes;
Kingdom Rapper moved to Beeston 3 years ago after living in various city centre locations around Nottingham. The pre-tense for leaving almost every city centre location named as a prior residence, from Basford to the Meadows was the same; getting involved up with the wrong people and ending up on a negative cascade. Kingdom originally comes from West Bridgford. He described a somewhat turbulent upbringing where his family were well meaning but had their own adversity to manage. To ride out the chaos at home Kingdom explained that he sought solace in music. One of the stories Kingdom recounted to me was a pivotal turning point in his life when he realised he had a connection with rap music. Kingdom said he was 14 at the time, his mother had brought home an Eminem album. After having taken a listen, Kingdom felt a connection with the aesthetic of the music and the messages conveyed within the lyrics. Soon after, he acquired a microphone and some software, and began to make his own music. Kingdom whilst recounting his earlier life also described how he had entered what he considered to be a negative spiral, he was on the way to developing a ‘smoking’ habit, of which he would later quit, but at the time this came about as not only as a coping mechanism but also as an aid to his creativity. Kingdom kept this within the privacy of his own space, but he did also say that on a wider scale some of his prior associations had connections to gangs and anti-social behaviour. Kingdom wanted to break out of the negativity and grow as a person as well as an artist. To do this, he knew he needed to become a more positive person in himself and engage with more positive people. People that would allow him to follow his passion and be supportive of his endeavours.
It was by chance that Kingdom ended up in Beeston. An opportunity for a house share arose with a group of friends, and that sealed the deal. Since moving to Beeston Kingdom has found that he has integrated into the community and found his support group. Kingdom describes himself as a community orientated person, and through his music aspires to be an inspiration to other young people who may also have to stand in the face of adversity. Kingdom also explained that since his move to Beeston, he gained momentum with his music and with his community outreach activities. The mantra “turn negatives into positives” was a running theme throughout our discussion. It was apparent that Kingdom really wanted his success to be a conduit for others around him to be successful. He described his ethic for supporting and promoting local businesses, and how they had helped him by lending his team media equipment or allowing a venue to be used as a platform for the promotion of his music. The majority, if not all (I didn’t get to meet them all) of Kingdoms team either lived or worked locally. Kingdom also said that if he ‘made it big’ then he would like to stay in Beeston and not allow himself to fall into the money orientated world that is associated with musical success. What was really refreshing to see was Kingdom’s down to earth attitude. Having had a minor dabble and walked upon various tourist routes through the music industry myself, I have had the privilege of meeting a fair few music artists. Sadly, a big driving force for many to make it, is indeed fame and the promise of a more affluent life. Kingdom seemed different, his vision was to make music to help people, and that fame overall was of no interest. He wanted to be a “catalyst for change” and change the world bit by bit. He believes he was given the skills as an artist, and that is what is enabling him to do what he does. He also sees his troubled past in a positive light through the ability to empathise with the struggles of other people within the community, as well as show them that with the right attitude, they can find their own way out of adversity and take a more fulfilling path through life.
As I asked about his progression into the music industry, Kingdom also explained how he did previously have a manager, but has since decided to take control of his own musical destiny and now manages himself. Kingdom described some of the more negative aspects of the music industry that had started to manifest, and he felt like he didn’t need to get caught up in contracts and allow himself the chance to become established in himself and be free to follow his own creativity. Being locked into a restrictive 2-year contract and pushed to give up the rights to his name so early on in his career was a big eye opener. His creative freedom was dampened, and he felt that his hands may as well have been tied. Almost everything he did was contract limited. This experience gave him the strength to go in his own musical direction, and I think that this will bring a breath of fresh air to the rap scene.
To draw the conversation to a close I asked Kingdom about his upcoming activities and events. As well as re-setting a date for the ‘Beeston’ music video he also said (and this sounds AMAZING) that there was a plan to film another music video in the Play zone in Lincoln. Various meet and greets, aka ‘chat and raps’, have been arranged with local schools around Nottingham. In terms of events, you can catch him at the Berliner bar for the Sw@g Testament Mixtape Party on April 30th and again at the Bodega on May 31st. As a man of faith Kingdom will also be presenting the Gospel Facto on July 7th. Various ‘in the pipeline’ bits and pieces about the BBC were also mentioned.
The best way to keep up with Kingdom Rapper and his movements is to keep an eye on his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/kingdomrapperuk/
If you want to check out Kingdom Rapper’s music videos and supporting documentaries take a gander at his YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk0c6CzCZ6od_AzvM-OuN4w