[INTERVIEW] GUVNA B
With several projects under his name, Guvna B comes as no stranger to the scene. He makes his much awaited return to music with a new drive and aspirations in line with a raw energy of sound ready to be delivered to the masses. Know as a Christian rapper to some, Guvna B has always been a pioneer in promoting a positive message within his music and his new material seems to hold no lack of it. With past experience, trials and tribulations and further challenges ahead, it’s apparent it has been a long journey for the award winning artist. But with an album dropping in May and newly released music we have been in long anticipation to hear whats next of East Londons own. I got the chance to interview Guvna B detailing the significance of his past, grievances, and faith. It’s clear he’s at no shortage of fresh material when it comes to furthering his message and diversifying his sound, tapping not only into spiritual matters but the community and youth culture. With continued support, its plain to see that Guvna B is here to stay.
So going off your name, Guvna B. I’d say your somewhat now a governor of this game in terms of the music industry as you’ve been in it for quite a while now and have achieved great success. So I’d like to know what it feels like to have maintained your position and still have a loyal following up until this day after 4 albums?
Guvna B: Yeah this would be my 4th album but 5th project altogether. It feels good I suppose because when you start out it’s just a hobby, you just do it because you love doing it. I never started writing because I wanted to go on tour or have bare people buy my music or whatever, it was just my way of communicating because I’m not the best communicator. So like I can’t sit down in a conversation and be like yeah I feel like this, this is what my emotions are saying at the moment. I do that the best through music, so the fact that people buy into that and want to support me for a number of years is wicked man! And obviously, because of the kind of music I make it’s not really like normal, it’s a real positive and uplifting message, so the fact people still know who I am outside of the circle that I should be in is encouraging man.
Yeah man, that’s wicked. So music is definitely a way of expressing yourself and as you said your not much of a communicator so you put it in the music. That’s like a free space for you. Moving on from that how have you managed to stay relevant since you’ve been in the game for quite a bit?
Guvna B: That’s a good question. I feel like life is always moving you know what I mean so the same issues or the same situations that I’m going through now aren’t the same that I was going through 5-6 years ago. So there’s always like new things to talk about. So I feel like the people that have been with me for time they’ve kind of just been following my journey. They’re going through their own life situations, and there’s always stuff I can say which they can relate to. So whether its like when I was in uni, when I was 21/20 and I was chatting about that experience listeners might feel like “oh yeah I can relate to that because I did uni, I was in college”.
Or when I’m getting a bit older and I’m starting to travel a lot more. People can relate to just going for their dreams. Obviously, just recently I lost my Dad, so anyone that’s dealt with loss or grief can be like oh yeah I can relate to what he’s saying. So I guess its a case of just being honest with the situations that I’m going through and obviously on the sonic side it would be working with new producers that are really kind of current and know what soundscape music is trying to go in.
Definitely, so what your saying is it’s a growth process in how you’ve stayed relevant like you’ve been growing with the times and you’ve been developing off that?
Guvna B: Yeah I think that’s the key man because what’s life if we’re not growing. If we’re not becoming better people, if we’re not becoming stronger people, if we’re not learning these things then it’s just like you’re kinda wasting experiences and you’re wasting time. So growth is definitely like a big thing for me because I don’t want to be the same person I was yesterday and I want to be a better person tomorrow and I feel like we should all want that.
So touching on that where do you draw your creativity from and like whats your process in terms of writing, obviously like you’ve been saying experience and stuff, could you just tap into a bit of your process?
Guvna B: Yeah I think with this newer stuff that I’m putting out the two main places that I’ve drawn inspiration from is obviously my dad because he was such a big influence in my life and now he’s not about no more. It’s kind of like I feel very nostalgic about things that he taught me and I’m just remembering these things that he’d say which now just seem much more important to me. And then other than that I’m drawing a lot of inspiration from youth culture at the moment. I live in south-east London. I grew up in East London and I was just reading this morning that we’ve had like the 19th death due to serious youth violence so someone that’s been stabbed or been shot. So when I read stuff like that it inspires me because I feel like every young person is put on this earth to do something great, because we’ve all got potential, you get me? And so I want to try and inspire as many youths as possible to not make some of the same mistakes that I made. So I guess it’s like grieving over my Dad and also trying to inspire younger people are the main forms of inspiration at the moment for me.
Yeah man that deep, also sorry to hear about your Father as well man.
Guvna B: its cool man.
Listening to your music I definitely heard the passion and things that you’ve learned from him through your delivered through your expression. So it’s great to hear that you know.
Guvna B: Love bro.
Touching on that I think definitely with you, you’re a very real person and straightforward with your lyrical content and style.
Guvna B: Yeah
You touch on a lot of personal struggles, hardships, temptations but also positives like your endeavour, love and gratitude. Specifically, you spoke on your father within your recent releases and gave us an insight on the lessons he’s taught you. How has the passing of your father shaped you personally and your creativity?
Guvna B: I feel like when you lose someone you see life from a different perspective. He used to tell me all this stuff like make sure you stand out or never compromise who you are, or like your a king, so don’t move like some vagabond on the street or whatever. But when your in those situations you don’t really take the advice because you’re like I know what I’m doing, you get me. But when you get a bit older and you realise like rah all these lessons were actually true like, you know what I’m saying? It’s kind of like, I think Giggs was saying it the other day on his Instagram, how all the mandem don’t need to be running around on road that life leads to nothing. But man don’t really want to take peoples advice, they’d rather do it themselves and experience it for themselves.
Yeah, like you don’t see it till you’ve gone through it right?
Guvna B: Exactly you know what I’m saying. So now that I’ve gone through it the advice that my dad gave me means so much more. But I feel like if I didn’t go through it for myself I wouldn’t be able to cherish it like as much as I do now. We all have to go through our own ish like, we all have to make our own decisions but at the end of the day when the elders are telling us nah like pattern your ting this way or pattern your ting that way, it’s important to take it on board because the people that love us want the best for us. Yeah, that’s where the kinda fire comes from with these new lyrics.
Yeah definitely hear some new fire man. The first project I heard from you was ”Narrow Road.”
Guvna B: Ahh yeah old skool.
Yeah, old skool. I definitely feel like the title ”Narrow Road” has been a reflection of your career as an artist?
Guvna B: Yeah
You’ve always like steered away from the norm or the mainstream sound and pushed your own intuitive lyricism. Also, spirituality is a big thing with you I feel and just being a master of your own path. How hard has it been for you to stick on that narrow path in an industry where you can be easily influenced.
Guvna B: Yeah it’s been tough, it was easy on my first album because I didn’t know if anyone would like my music you get me so I was just having fun with it. But then when you realise that people are into it and then you’re trying to push on to the next level because that’s what we all wanna do init. We all wanna always be pushing to the next level. Then you realise that certain publications or certain radio stations are not really with it because there’s like too much spirituality or whatever, you do think ”ah should I just like water my ting down or like make my ting sound like everyone else’s because it’s gonna be easier to get exposure.” But at that point, you gotta look in the mirror and you gotta think what’s more important. That momentary acceptance from whoever you wanna be accepted by or staying true to yourself? When you stay true to yourself you’re being you and know one can take that away from you. I feel like I’m reaping the rewards of that now because you got like Stormzy with ‘’blinded by your grace’’, you got Chance the rapper with ‘’blessings’’, Kendrick Lamar is talking about a lot of spirituality at the moment so it’s like more people are open to it. So it’s kind of like ”ahh my time has come now, it’s cool, it’s a cool chance for me to get my foot in the door.”
That’s definitely a true say man, you’ve been ahead of your time to be honest. How do you feel about those artists and the new upcoming Stormzys’ and Kendricks’?
Guvna B: I think its sick man because music is art at the end of the day regardless of what your background is, you feel me. So the fact that they’re talking about spirituality and their faith means that their fans just get another side to them and it opens up the conversation even more so that’s definitely something I’m pleased with because if you make the kind of music that I make, that’s the angle that I’m coming from so it’s just encouraging that people are down to hear it.
The recent drops that I’ve seen from you have been ‘’everyday’’ in 2017 and ‘’been hustlin’’ this year in 2018. Was that like a deliberate play on words? I feel like you dropped ‘’everyday I’ve been hustlin’’ like your on your Rick Ross haha.
Guvna B: Haha nah I’d love to say I planned it all out but it was totally random, you can say it was a play on words if you want to haha.
But yeah basically just from the titles of your tracks could you say your sending a message that even when your not in the public eye, your still actively working?
Guvna B: Yeah
Is that what inspired these tracks?
Guvna B: Yeah man, I feel like…I was gonna tell you the name of the album but I don’t know if I’m allowed to. But it’s all about one specific piece of advice that my dad gave me. He was like you know what like, theres a lot to do! Like everyday don’t wake up like you ain’t got a purpose, don’t wake up like you ain’t got things to achieve because you’re not just like a name on a register, you’re not just here to tick off the numbers but you got a purpose. So when you wake up, you wake up like your on job, like there’s stuff to achieve. Always put your hand to something, always look at achieving, always look at pushing to the next level. And whether I’m putting out music or not that’s something that I’m always trying to do on a day to day basis. And we live in a time were there’s so many opportunities to just use what you’ve got, and just push yourself, so definitely trying to make the most of that.
Yeah, 100 percent man. One bar that you said on ‘’been hustlin’’ that really stood out to me was “I don’t just thank God in my good times but I thank him when it’s going south.”This stuck out to me because I was in church recently and basically the pastor said that we need to stop asking when we pray and saying please but instead be saying thank you for we’ve already received. Like how you’re saying there’s so much for you to do, so in that, we already have the the tools to make it through the hard times, like Christ has already died for us..you know what I mean?
Guvna B: Yeah, I normally meet two kinds of people. You’ve got the kinda people that kinda like thank God in the good times you get me. But when they’re going through their ish they’re like I don’t see God in this light so I’m gonna have my head down in the dumps. Then you got the flip side where there are people that get all these blessings like or whatever and don’t really thank God but when they need something or when they’re in trouble then like oh yeah God come help me or like my nans in hospital, get her out, that kinda stuff. But I just feel like we should be counting blessings every single day, even on our tougher days theres’s something to be thankful for. So that was just like the vibe behind the bar, even when shit is hitting the fan there’s always something you can find to be thankful for.
Definitely man because that’s what keeps you going. Especially all the stuff you’ve been through, like how you were touching on your car crash on ‘‘everyday’’ and all these other things.
Guvna B: Yeah exactly.
So like what else have you been up to? We saw the release of your book last year, ‘’Unpopular Culture.’’ What can you tell me about that?
Guvna B: Yeah so I wrote that because I just feel like if you’re a young guy that’s growing up in the ends, the narrative is get ps, get girls like cars or whatever and these things satisfy you. And my thing is like all those things are calm but that can’t be it. That can’t be all life is about. Like there must be more to it because I know man that got enough ps but they’re still depressed and I know man that get with enough girls but they’re still not satisfied with their life. So is there more? Can we help other people, can we be there for people in need, can we look after our family, can we be there for our friends, can we have faith in our difficult times, in the good times? I’m just posing bare of these questions to try and see if there can be a difference for a more satisfying way to live.
I have discussions with my brothers and friends constantly about if there’s more to life. I feel like you touched on it again in ‘Been Hustlin’ were you rapped about what you viewed as success in the past and what you view it as now. How did you change your mentality? What was it that sparked that interest in seeing something else?
Guvna B: Yeah, from young success was just like I’ve got a BMW 3 series or like I’ve got the latest trainers or my girl is wavy. Those kind of things that people look at externally but I think I was like, must of been 20 years old when in my room at uni and I was like rah man I’m living this life but I’m not really happy. Like I’ve got these things that people say should make me happy but I’m still not satisfied. Then I just remember praying like ah God if theres something more too life just show me init. And it was just like a journey of realising that I can’t really put all my hope in like collecting all these material things or these relationships, because yeah they’re sick but if I make them my everything then I’m always going to be looking for something more. So I guess that’s what it looked like, it was the realisation that I have these things that mandem are chasing after because that’s what I wanted but when I got there I released they’re not all that they are cut out to be.
It’s just very surface level it’s not really for the soul. It doesn’t touch you, you know what I mean?
Guvna B: Yeah exactly, because like even something simple like when your running after bare girls that seems sick like oh yeah you’ve got bare girls. But now I’m married and committed to one it’s a much more satisfying feeling than just running around doing what I used to do you know what I mean. So if you tell a man in the ends yeah just like one girl, settle down, find that someone that you love that loves you, marry her for the rest of your life…there like rah like!? One girl for the rest of my life? That’s mad I can’t do that. But when you’re in it you realise this is more satisfying to be with one of my best friends, than just running around after like 10, 15, 20.
Yeah we’re all searching for security and stuff like that.
Guvna B: Yeah
So linking from ‘’Unpopular Culture’’ do you have any frustrations with like what the media promotes or are you just content with your own agenda and continuing to push what you push?
Guvna B: Urrmm, I went through a phase of being angry at other people and being like nah man I’m doing something positive people should be jumping on it. But I just realised everyone’s got their own thing to do you know, in this life no one owes you anything. So I’ve changed attitude and I’m just grateful for everything so if the media want to put out the stuff in the way they want to put out I might not agree with it but I get that everyone’s got a job to do. The only thing that I’m really passionate about is youth culture. The media might say it’s Grimes fault or hip-hop’s fault because there’s so much negativity in the lyrics. And then the grime artists or hip-hop artists might say nah you can’t say that because what about films, there’s bare violence in films. And then they might look at the government and be like nah it’s the Government’s fault because they ain’t investing in the ends and all the youth clubs are gone. I just feel like we’re in a situation where we could point the blame because it’s true, it’s not Grime’s fault it’s not just about the music but the reality is there’s various factors. The thing that’s really going to change it is, if everyone takes ownership you get me. So if the artists take ownership, the government takes ownership, the media takes ownership, everyone comes together and works together to try and see less and less young people ending each others lives. So I guess my main issue when I see a lot of people shifting the blame, I’m like yeah that’s calm because it’s not one persons fault but instead of shifting the blame can everyone just take some ownership and come together you feel me.
Yeah just like you’re saying I do feel like there are various factors that influence all this stuff. I feel like music is something that plays in everyone ear and does touch you subconsciously, like how you do see a lot of youths nowadays who don’t live the life that people from the ends do on a day to day basis promote stuff that they don’t understand themselves because its popular culture now, you know what I mean?
Guvna B: Yeah
But obviously when you have diversity of sound, such as yourself pushing different messages it allows a wider audience to relate and show youths from the ends a different side of life, allowing them to become more of themselves, I guess instead of losing themselves. What do you think could kind of break the mainstream mold, would it just be as you said ownership?
Guvna B: Yeah, the main thing is looking in the mirror and asking yourself do I really care about a situation and what am I doing to help it. You don’t even have to shout it from the rooftops it could be something you’re doing from behind the scenes. But yeah it’s just looking in the mirror and saying to yourself if I really care about this what am I doing to help it.
Obviously, we see and hear that faith plays a major part in your life. Do you consider yourself a solely christian rapper or do you play like two roles one in which you can speak to the church and the other in which you can also speak to the youths on the street?
Guvna B: Yeah, I don’t really mind to be honest. Obviously, branding and PR is important because for example if you think of Guvna B you might think christian rapper or if you think of Stormzy you might think grime artist but then again one of Stormzy’s biggest songs last year was a gospel song ‘Blinded by your grace’. So labels and boxes make people feel comfortable so I get why they have to do it but in reality I’m just doing what I do, people can call me whatever they want but I know that I’m comfortable in the church, im comfortable at a rave, I’m comfortable at a grime event, I’m comfortable at yard, I’m just comfy wherever I am init. Obviously, my faith shapes my world view but I’m not some freak of nature.
Thats sick, do you find yourself going through any conflictions street-wise in regards to your faith as you try to spread a message?
Guvna B: Ahh, not really. I guess the only thing is that you always gotta make sure that you’re trying to be the best that you can be. I don’t really view God as this guy that pressures us into being perfect, I feel like he knows we’re imperfect but as long as you’re trying to be a better person then; thats all I’m tryna do init, so I don’t really see conflictions I’m just tryna be the best that I can be. Sometimes I might flop, then cool but sometimes I might do alright, just keep it going init.
So touching on the youths that you spoke about earlier, you know how crime is rising with a rise of stabbings and shootings, and the atrocity at Grenfell tower. Are there any initiatives you’re pushing or trying to get involved in, what’s something that you want to say that’s on your mind about everything?
Guvna B: Well I’ve been doing a lot of mentoring lately. Just going to secondary schools and linking up with mandem that are either at risk of getting expelled or have found themselves in some tough situations with gang violence or they’re involved in drugs and that kind of stuff. I’ve just been, just like chatting to them on a level and trying to help them see that they’re more than what the ends tells them that they are. I never had a big brother you know what I mean, I feel like if I had a big brother I could relate to or male role model that I could relate to then I might of made better decisions. So initially that’s what I’m doing. A lot of mentoring and there’s a lot of things that are kinda in the pipeline, so like Akala’s working on a wicked initiative to help get more young people off the streets I’m gonna try and get involved with that. I’m just doing all I can really to help, like anything that I’ve got capacity to do.
Definitely, I feel like we live in a timeline age where a lot of people talk for the social media etc and we don’t know if they’re really down for some of these initiatives or they’re just promoting I guess their brand. So it’s great to have real artists like you on there ground engaging, we really appreciate you, people really appreciate you, its wicked.
Guvna B: Love bro, appreciate it man thank you.
Yeah man, that’s definitely Gods grace at work. Yeah so back to the music, do you have anything in store for us coming soon?
Guvna B: Yeah so there’s a new album out in May, which I’m pretty excited about. ‘Everyday’ and ‘Been hustlin’ were the first tunes off that. I’ve got a new one with an MC called Melvillous ‘Dun all the hype’ that’s landing. Yeah like there’s just going to be lots of music coming out man, like I’ve been away for awhile before ‘‘everyday’’ so now I’m just gonna go for a bit of a run and have fun with it and see what happens.
Any expectations or are you just letting it go?
Guvna B: Yeah man I’m just going with the flow. I don’t feel like I can intervene or interfere with what’s already written you know what I mean. So I’m just gonna work as hard as I can and let God do the rest.
Last few questions, who are your musical inspirations and who are you listening to now on the up and coming that you feel people should have an ear out for?
Guvna B: So when I was growing up my inspirations were Kano, Kirk Franklin and Juelz Santana. Kano was just because he was the sickest mc, for me anyway. He was obviously from the ends, he was from east saw him on MTV base and I was like rah like someone from our ends on tv and they’re sick. It kinda makes you feel like you can do that to. Kirk Franklin because my family were like into gospel. They’re Christians, they always had gospel playing. He’s just a sick guy, he’s like a gospel artist but you see him in few genres like with Chance the rapper and 2 Chainz, he’s just about it everywhere. Juelz Santana was just like the whole hip-hop culture for me, he’s one of the rappers that I gravitated towards the most. In terms of new guys, Melvillous is impressing me a lot I like him, I like Dave quite a bit; I know he’s not really new but I feel like he’s on his way to doing some amazing stuff. But yeah Dave and Melvillous I’m really feeling.
Finally, what would you say to aspiring Guvna B’s or just artists in general who are looking for advice on what they need to make it in the industry?
Guvna B: I just say be yourself. We’re in a time where you don’t have to water your message down, you don’t have to compromise who you are, you can just be you and people will love you for being you. I’m experiencing that right now just from sticking at it. I dropped ‘‘Everyday’’ and it got like a million streams on Spotify and for me, that was just a confirmation that after all these years it’s starting to go. Consistency just really works if you’re true to yourself. I feel like Giggs is seeing it now he’s never ever compromised his sound, he’s always been doing what Giggs does and he’s flying now. So I just feel don’t try to be another Guvna B, Giggs or Kano but just be yourself and see where it goes.
Words by Tawana