Growing Up in Tottenham, Being an Internet personality & More – Poets Corner Interview

Wait before we start our intro, do you guys not know who Poets Corner is?!!

Whether it’s appearing in Filthy Fellas, Comments Below or Fifa & Chill, broadcasting his debut documentary on the controversial rise of grime in Blackpool courtesy of Noisey, co-presenting the final of Red Bull Studios’ Grime-A-Side, working with the likes of GRM Daily, SBTV, Copa 90 & Channel AKA and his work with Vibbar, sharing the vibes between him and his mates, Poet is a guy with the non-stop work-rate of N’Golo Kanté.

With his infectiously-funny personality and laid-back demeanour, it’s not a surprise in how popular he and his content are now. Despite the success he’s enjoying now, it hasn’t always been like this for Poet. Before his musical projects, Poet used to work for Tottenham Hotspur, working with the youth in his neighbourhood in Tottenham where he grew up in. However now, Poet is one of the most influential and recognisable content creators in the game at the moment. Here’s how his story has panned out:

What did your youth work comprise of?

“When I was working at Tottenham, I was at college and I was at uni. My role was to set up youth action groups throughout the summer holidays. I was the head coach and head youth worker at the youth centre I set up at Ferry Lane Estate, Tottenham. My job was to facilitate and look after 60 people. I was about 17/18 when I got that job. Being 18/19 having to look after 22/23 year olds was weird sometimes but my whole motive behind it was that I’m from a big family, we always look after each other and do things in big groups, and we had fun. I remember growing up on the estate, it was so much fun then all of a sudden, I don’t know what happened but the youth club was gone. I made it a point to create that same vibe that I had as a kid again and do it for the whole of Tottenham. It became the most engaged youth group in the whole of Tottenham at one point. It was the most successful youth club in Ferry Lane.”

Did you get any achievements or awards from it?

“No, I didn’t want to. When the council was asking me to do the things to get nominated I declined it. I didn’t want to lose sight of where I wanted to go with the youth club. So the moment you start giving people awards for the things they’re done it takes the actual meaning behind why they first did what they did. We also had Ferry Lane FC, we had to play Barnet Youth Club in a cup competition, they had all their fans in the stands cheering for them and we had couple man from the ends just standing on the side. We went on to beat them. We then played Dagenham and Redbridge, we lost 3-2 to them. They had 6 first team players while we had the likes of Nile Ranger in our team, he went on to play Premier League football, we had a couple of my boys who were some of the sickest players I’ve seen. We did so much at a young age, it’s all mad.”

How did you get into music?

“Grime was popping, grime was getting really, really big around 2004/2005, it was the thing to do, it was like collecting Pokemon cards. You kind of felt peer-pressure to do it and my cousin started spitting. It was a bit like a trend to us you know, the hashtag before the hashtag existed. I wanted to do because I used to write poetry, I used to always run jokes and that from that, it digested into writing lyrics. Growing up, music was a very big thing, there used to be a group in Tottenham called Venom and we all aspired to be like Venom. They were so big, they were like So Solid, they had videos shoots and we’re young, we’re watching people doing video shoots and people doing the B-Side and I was like, “this is mad!” and they had a mixtape, I’m in awe of everything that’s happening. So when grime’s popping from our generation, I was like “this is sick, I want to be a part of this” so I started barring, going to radio, Axe FM, Heat FM, Mystic [Radio].”

“I done so much work for the community, I sort of neglected my own needs. I kept giving out but as time went on as you know, the hood was really bad. You may think it’s bad not, when I was growing up, it was horrendous growing up. In that sort of environment, the whole grime phase is making people more divided, everyone getting territorial, asking people what areas they are from, asking them to spit bars, it was that real in that era we were growing up in so I tried to transcend my ability to MC and the youth work and bring it into this so we (Poet and Scribz) were at radio, I’m trying to run jokes, make an experience of it, to appreciate the way people consumed grime because grime was gangster, Crazy Titch, “I’m not a mook phase.” It was happening everywhere across London.”

How did you fit in as an artist?

“I felt like I was the outcast, I’m from road, I know exactly how road is, my older cousin is in jail, me and my brother has been through tons of things, I’m talking knives to the stomachs, to the necks, guns, everything. Everything that happened to me would have happened to a roadman but I’m not a roadman, I’m not about that life. I just like being cool, having a laugh and I felt like there was space for this sort of person and then when Kano came through, him and Ghetts were mine and Scribz’s biggest inspiration, we used to study them, study the bars and rhymes that they would use, we studied the game like it was university.”

Parents not getting it

The generation before don’t understand what we are trying to do. We’re trying to go into the creative arts industries and they understand that. I’m saying to my mum I what to get into youth work and she doesn’t understand it. When I said to her I’m dropping out of university because the lecturer asked me why am I late and I said because I’m not on time, everyone laughed and I said this ain’t for me and my mum didn’t get that, she was like “why did you do that then” and I was like “I’m gonna do youth work” and she didn’t get that. So I started doing youth work and alright it’s working but then when I said I wanna do music, she was like “no”. She doesn’t get it and it’s so bad that in our generation, for us to say I’m doing YouTube or you’re doing music, it’s embarrassing, people look down on you for being part of the creative industry, we had to persevere, it was so much harder for us to persevere, that’s what held us back, parents not getting it.

What three pivotal moments led you to believe music wasn’t going to be the number one source of income?

“One was when we got offered three singles that were gonna blow and everyone was talking that we could do this but not one person said I love this song and what do you want to do and how do you see it going, it was all about what other people thought. Imagine if you had your child and other people are telling you how to raise your child, you don’t just start telling them it’s your child, you just get your child by the hand and walk away. Subconsciously me and Scribz done that. The second thing was that someone was trying to create divisions in our group, saying “don’t roll with them, you two go”. Essentially what was being said was the right thing but the way it was worded, it was completely wrong. You’re still going to be together but you need to do your own individual projects. We’ve always been this collective but now we’re getting all this attention, this shouldn’t mean we shouldn’t bring our friends. The nail in the coffin was when our manager at the time without saying we don’t want to work with you anymore, he goes and say it’s over, I’ve got to go focus on other people and I remember sitting there thinking I’ve done everything that was asked of me, if you ever asked for me to be somewhere at a certain time, I was half an hour early. Anything you asked and I delivered and you promised so much and you didn’t deliver for me. I spent bare money on food and all these other things to drop me out, it broke my heart.”

https://youtu.be/2xO1dX-73ZI

What happened after?

“We tried to carry the buck but our confidence was knocked so much so I started doing hosting shows, run youth nights at my youth club and I would host them. Then one time, I did a video on Facebook about relationships, running jokes and it got shared so much, bare attention and lots of positive comments so I show the video to my brother and months later, he was like we should film something and from there, we built this whole thing called Poet’s Corner. I’d dropped out if university and I’d just left work, my work department split into two pieces, Tottenham Hotspur and Haringey Youth and Haringey Youth were making me redundant but I still had a job at Tottenham but the reason why I had a job at Tottenham was because it linked with youth work and then Tottenham, I can help my community but I thought If I worked for Tottenham, essentially I’m not doing anything for my community so I’m quitting everything, I’m quitting work and I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do and it was hard, while everyone was going to Miami, Ibiza, Napa, I’m in my yard, I can’t even buy Burger King. So I’m still working for Tottenham, paying rent to my mum and Kurt (Poet’s brother) and I are trying to do Poet’s Corner which gives people advice on what’s happening in the area. We realised we needed an intro so we built a whole show of paradoxes so we’re giving relationship advice but having Spice Girls in the background to give it a massive contrast.”

What did you learn about yourself?

“I learned that if I want something, I can do it. I don’t need validation, I don’t need anything from anyone apart from the family that I had always done it with, my brother’s been with me since day one and it made me realise that I don’t need to look outside my circle for things to help me grow, everything’s here that I want. My brother’s a sick editor and photographer, he’s all these things, why do I need to find one externally. Everything I want is within my family, they’ve always been there so you know what, if this is our chance, we’re all gonna raise this child and reap the benefits from it.”

Benefits from Poet’s Corner?

“I was hot again, I was a reason to be spoken of again, and I was sharable. One time I was typing up Poet’s Corner on Twitter and I finding out I was being talked about on 1Xtra. I’m back in the eyes of those who I wanted to be in when I got into music, I’m back in their conversations, they’re talking about me. I learned that what I was doing was right, I just needed the right exposure, I needed to be smarter, work on social trends and it taught me that if I wanted to bring others through, I had to be the one to do it, to show them the way. I realised from Poet’s Corner that I was a content creator but people saw it as entertainment. When I look at it, me and my brother created a concept, we put in so much work, we realised we created content so I thought how far can we go.

https://youtu.be/LpcHyL_dEt4

GRM Daily gig

“They wanted to make a series of Poet’s Corner and put it on GRM Daily so I was on it but if we’re going do it, I was like you can’t just give us the space, you have to give us resources, I want to be exposure to the right eyes and to the right people because I know I can do this, I want your full support, all your energies behind this situation. The first interview I got was G Frsh and for me, that was a massive change and from then on, it just spiralled, the first episode that went up got 20,000 views in one day, I remember waking up the next day seeing Jamal Edwards tweeting “that guy’s so funny”, I was like what the fuck and then my Twitter just went ham. From then on, things spiralled out of control and I became your go-to-guy for interviewing artists. I was asking all the questions that people wanted to ask but didn’t have the confidence to ask.”

Why did the relationship end?

“I pride myself on things being interesting all the time, you have to reinvent, you can’t be doing the same shit over and over again. By the time it came to series two, YouTube got shut down and at the time, we were already thinking of moving on, we just didn’t have the same vision. We respected what they did for us but we wanted to go elsewhere. We got to the point where we reached the ceiling at GRM Daily so we had to elevate so we went over to SBTV, we did some stuff with them and Channel AKA TV. My dream was to go back to those Channel U (Channel AKA’s predecessor) days of I saw my video and Kanye West’s Jesus Walks afterwards.”

Where are you now?

“I feel liberated, I feel free, like wow! After all of the stuff that’s happened to me, I’m still here. Now I have no job. Now I’m on BBC 1Xtra in the morning, Tottenham Court Road or Great Portland Street and I’m walking back to Wood Green every Monday because I’ve got no money in my pocket.”

Platforms that you were looking up to and now an everyday part of your life

“Everyday part of my life and you know what’s so mad, JME said it to me the other day, you idolise this stuff, like when you’re younger and you’re in yard, you’re not exposed to it and you’re thinking oh my God, this is so great. When you get there, you’re the man, you’re actually the man. I was just being me and I’m in the same position of someone who went to university. I’m there, things are going great, I’m hearing I’m gonna get a weekend show, you’re so sick and I’m thinking I can go home to my mum and say I’ve got a show on the BBC and make her so proud, it meant a lot to me. I can go to ends and say “yo you got music, I’ve got a show, I can play it”.”

How did Vibbar come into play?

“When I did the thing with Vibbar, a group formed from my mates, we just got a brand deal, I got amount of money off the back of 2 videos that we done ourselves. It was timing, I had to do other stuff in order to come back to my passion and create my own platform and my own world where we can all exist. I’m sick and tired of industries telling me what I can and can’t do. You can’t, you don’t own me, I’m doing a genre I helped to create so let me tell you how to do it. Some of these man are 55 years old & don’t even have Snapchat and they’re coming here telling me what to do. Guess what? I’m gonna do what I want to do and you follow my lead. That’s how I operate now.”

You recently won a GRM Rated Award tell us a bit about that?

“It was good, it was personality of the year alongside one of my best friends [David] Vujanic. Again it was just another way to say, rah some of you man don’t even know what I do so I’m gonna go HAM. We lost out to Big Narstie the year before so I thought this year I’m just gonna go Harambe on this shit and let man know, you can’t defeat me. No one can defeat me, the only way I’ll ever lose is if I stop all this. I said I was gonna win three awards and I did. I won ‘Most Influential Black Person In The Media’, a ‘Webby’ Award and GRM Rated Award this year. This was sick because Kano was in front of me, Skepta was, Tinie Tempah was sitting there vex, I’m on stage in my bath robe and guess what, you kicked me out of your party but I still like you Tinie, we can still be friends if you want, I don’t give a shit about it. Just because I tweeted “Thank you for bringing my son” you kicked me out of your party. I’m 31 years old, come on man. By winning this award, I was letting people know I am not a slave to this system. I don’t even listen to my mum so what chance do you have? If I listened to my mum I would be a doctor right now. So all these people saying “Poet you need to do this, you need to do that”, no fuck it I’m not on it. I’m not industry, I’m in the streets, it’s for the people.”

Do you pitch Copa 90 ideas for Fifa & Chill or do they give you ideas?

Nah, it’s all us, it’s like who can tell you how to speak to your own generation better than you? No-one”.

You’re now someone who can come to a business or brand and create an engaging piece of content for people? Give us 3 tips on genuine content creation?

“1 – Put yourself in the eyes of the consumer, what does the consumer like to eat, what do they like to do, what do they do, you need to know everything about them, from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep.

2 – You need a good team and a good amount of people around you, don’t force it, keep creating and if people have the same interests as you, they’ll eventually align themselves with you. A perfect example is Skepta, with BBK and the mandem around. He stayed true to who he was and believed in himself and his team’s ability.

3 – If a project is offering you a lot of money but essentially it doesn’t represent you in the best possible way. That’s when you need to figure out what means more to you, the art or the money, I’ve turned down loads of things that would have made me money but that’s not me. My legacy is going to last a lot longer than £’s are.”

Your journey is different from someone starting out in 2016, you can now content create on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat etc. & while YouTube has been your main platform, how are you adapting to content creating on apps or are you still focused solely on YouTube?

“I’m still very much focused on YouTube, that’s my forte, I built something from that. I’ve aligned myself with individuals who have created on other platforms. Like StevoTheMadMan, he’s my good friend, I love him, and I encourage him to find different ways of expressing what he does in a YouTube format as well.

Snapchat I’m not really concerned with it, I use Instagram as a way of formulating pictures and wordplay together, be cohesive so you must read the caption and look at the picture to understand clues and so forth. I pretty much focus myself on YouTube and I allow that to sort of determine how I filter out the rest of social media.”

What do you think about the performing arts, acting and presenting. What do you think of the achievements of people from our culture, the estates, the people who were accepted, what do you feel about the opportunities available to us?

“We are the best. I know it sounds arrogant but we are the best, our generation is grime, and the reason why I say it’s more of a generational thing over a cultural thing is because grime isn’t defined by 140BPM. There’s no dress sense, there’s no slang, there’s no attitude to life, there’s nothing, it’s just a song. Our generation repping grime in any possible way means you can have an actor that’s from the world of grime, you can have a comedian that’s from the world of grime, you can have a musician, you can have a model that’s from the world of grime. The same way hip-hop has an influence in the USA, no-one is going to say Kevin Hart isn’t hip-hop, he’s on the stage spitting next to Lil Wayne because he represents and embodies hip-hop in another way. The same way Spike Lee, who directs music videos and reps hip-hop in his own way. We have this in the UK but people just need to open their eyes a bit more. They still narrow it down to Skepta, grime artist; Dizzee [Rascal], grime; Wiley, grime; but Arnold Jorge, not grime; Arnold Oceng not grime. Them man are grime because Arnold Oceng is really from south London, he’s really been within that world, he understands and he embodies that world. When you speak to him, he fits very comfortably into that world so how can you say he’s not be a part of that world. It doesn’t make sense. So once people start realising that we are the best, bruv you’ll see what happens.”

Poets Corner

What can we expect from you right now, is it going to be strictly football, a couple sporadic music videos or is it going to be a targeted campaign with your music?

“My dream and ambition is to have the UK Football culture how basketball and music is in the USA. I want that with football and music in this country. I’ve been working on it for 4 years now, and I appreciate it is a long journey but I can’t lie, I think I’m doing a decent job. So it’s not going to be alien to see Skepta and Daniel Sturridge at a football match, Sky Sports cameras pan around and they’re sitting together watching a game. That’s just what it’s gonna be, we are gonna break the mould. People will turn around and appreciate it.

For me to do music and football isn’t a big thing. There’s going to be events where footballers and the grime world will come down. It’s the same way you see Chris Brown playing basketball, see Nelly talking on baseball shows, it’s not a problem. That’s what I want to do in this country to show people you can stimulate creation and creativity. If man wants to start Trapped Magazine, no-one can stop him, if man wants to create a music channel, no-one can stop him. There are no rules, we create the rules, this is our world, and we own this.”

To follow Poets Corner and keep up with his latest projects check him out on Twitter at @PoetsCornerUK

Credit to Dwayne Bickersteth – @Its_Rants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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