January 25, 2016 | D&LWhen it comes to spoken word, we love a good poet whose rhymes are as meaningful as the subject they’re speaking about. That is exactly the talent that Raphael Blake portrays in his work.
Since revealing his work to the world, Raphael has been recognised as one of the freshest spoken word talents from across the country in BBC 1Xtra’s #WordsFirst campaign and also had his track ‘Sweet Illusion’ premiered by none other than DJ Target.
He’s certainly making a name for himself and we caught up with the poet and visual artist to find out who is next on his list of collaborations, his wish for J Dilla and the top artists on his playlist this month!
L’ART: When did you become interested in performing spoken word poetry?
RB: It was the Summer of 2007 in Deptford, London at the Albany Theatre that I found the opportunity, which from the age of 11 had always been expressed for the page. I then found a workshop and a showcase that enabled me to bring it to the stage.
L’ART: What was your inspiration behind spoken word track ‘Sweet Illusion’?
RB: The project the track is from entitled #TheUndergrad is broken down into three themes; 1st Year: Ambition, 2nd Year: Reality and Final Year: Sacrifice. Sweet Illusion was created to fit into the theme of Sacrifice; inspired by the times where I’ve had to give up something in order to enter the space I needed to be in, to attain what ever was next for me, despite how challenging the compromise might have been.
L’ART: When it comes to other projects, who or where do you look to for ideas?
RB: The fabric of life offers so many textures and colours, some dark, some painful, some pleasurable, so most of my ideas to date come from the things I absorb from all around me. I find the things that touch you the most often have a way of touching others if you’re honest in your expression. So that’s where I often start.
L’ART: How does it feel to have your talent recognised in such a wide range of countries? – including featuring on BBC Radio 1Xtra’s #WordsFirst campaign.
RB: It’s a bit crazy to be honest. I feel like I’ve not really started to release the full range of ideas I have. To simply be a poet based in the corner of Nottingham, record the whole project in my bedroom, to then have support in Atlanta, South Africa, Ghana, Germany and more isn’t at all what I expected in the slightest. Certainly not on my debut project! Then to have BBC Radio 1Xtra support and perform at Lovebox in the first 12 months just made it a good year! So I have to give thanks and count my blessings always.
L’ART: Where do you wish for your spoken word projects to take you?
RB: The ultimate dream is just to travel the country – and some day, the world – doing what I love most. It was a series of words expressed in the corner of Deptford that change the course of my life forever, so if this takes me to other corners and communities and touches just one other like it touched me back into 2007, then the dream is realised.
L’ART: When it comes to being able to connect with lyrics, which music artists do you look up to and why?
RB: I have to go back to the sounds I grew up on, legends that marry music and words in poetic ways that will forever dance in every biro I hold; Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Musiq Soulchild, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Gil Scott-Heron, Linton Kwesi Johnson – the list goes on.
L’ART: If you could collaborate with any artist on a spoken word piece, who would it be?
RB: If it could be any, I feel like some J Dilla on production (R.I.P) and some Bill Withers on vocals, then bring in a touch of spoken word would be crazy! Too much soul right there!
L’ART: What are your top three artists in your playlist at the moment?
RB: I’m spinning quite a bit of the experimental, instrumental sounds in my playlist at the moment. So, a guy from Florida called Montell2099, that young dope producer from Scotland Sam Gellaitry and actually got some Stormzy up in there as well, I can’t lie!
L’ART: When not working, what do you enjoy doing?
RB: I picked up a camera exactly a year ago now. I filmed and edited one of my own videos, entitled The Prize, in the first half of 2016. I’ve filmed and finished another one for a track called Falling on The Final Years mixtape, which will soon be released. I play around with simple graphic design and photography too. Apart from that, fooling around with my family and eating lots of cake usually does the job!
L’ART: What are your ultimate goals for 2016?
RB: To keep going! It’s that real.
Photo Credit: Brick London