Last week I caught up with Joshua Luke Smith a gifted poet, rapper, songwriter and family man, over some yummy Starbucks.
Seems like an obvious question but how did you get into Hip Hop?
JLS: My big sister Hannah bought home a cassette tape “Stan” by Eminem (I chuckle – the irony) prior to that at age 9, year 4 (English school system) I started writing poems. So when I heard Stan it was like wow, this guy is doing what I’m doing. Stan is an amazing narrative, which just blew my mind, and the love affair began. My introduction was poetry and then the name came later, oh wow this is Hip-Hop.
U.K. Hip hop vs American Hip Hop?
JLS: I wasn’t big into grime *shock face- anyone who knows me, knows I’m a grime fanatic- streets basically raised me, alongside by hard working mum & dad*
It was more American Hip Hop, so stuff like Nas’ illmatic, The Fugees, The Roots. In terms of the UK, I listened to Skinny man who had a project called ‘Council estate of mind’ *hehe Nas’ – NY state of mind, forever a classic*.
The Streets introduced me to Kano, who introduced me to Ghetts (who was Ghetto back then)
For me if it was saying something, immediately cooking me with lyricism and the exterior of the flow then it wasn’t grabbing me.
Tell me a bit more of your background, the man behind the beard ?
JLS: I grew up with missionary parents in northern Pakistan for 8 years, then moved to Bradford, my accent is hard to place because I also went to an American school. I was the guy with many masks, a chameleon trying to fit in where I could, those teen years that I refer to as the jungle and at 18, it was like Jesus got me and everything changed.
So when you became a Christian, did you think oh okay now I can be a Christian artist?
JLS: That created a dualism I wasn’t aware of. I’m married and so that’s come out in my music, so is my relationship with Jesus, it’s just going to happen. My music is very reminiscent, I talk about things that I remember, things that I’ve gone through and dream about as well, it’s not even intentional. I hope its just a true expression of who I am.
Shai Linne (gospel rapper) has a lyric: “every rap is sermon, what’s your sermon about? ”, what do you think about that?
JLS: Hmmm, yeah I love that. I’m on a label known as ‘Orphan No More’ and our tag line is ‘everybody has a massage’. *Check out the video of labelmate Rachel Jane* So it’s a similar kind of thinking .So for me it’s: Come as you are, not what you should be…don’t cover up your scars, that’s your story, that’s your glory, that’s your beauty! I’m 25 and at this point I think this is my message.
So how did the EP ‘Your beauty’ come about?
JLS: It’s like a year’s worth of stuff. I wrote it in my final year of my degree. It was really just reminiscing on my journey up to that point. We have a lot of wounds, everyone has been through a lot of stuff; just thinking about everything I’ve been through and what I’ve done, these will remain wounds until I take ownership of them. Once I take ownership of them, they become scars and when they become scars, you can touch them and they don’t hurt any more. So that was it. This EP was going to be about me taking ownership, and these are wounds that don’t hurt if you touch them, or makes me take feel offence or rejected, its really happened and now I can tell you about it, that’s my story.
Seems like an obvious question but who is the ‘Your’ you’re referring to in the title?
JLS: This is going to sound abstract. I would say I’m referring to the truest self. The true person. It’s everything but a superficial presentation of who you are. It cuts through every layer or performance, the imposter, the shadow, the entertainer. It’s a real journey to get to there, to not seek applause, to just be. That’s a great question.
What have you been doing since it’s the release?
JLS: Haha! So it was released the same week I graduated. We had an amazing launch. My wife is Canadian so we took 5 weeks off went to Canada, and then travelled down to went to Portland, America and chilled with Humble Beast and Josh Garrels. It was like a mini pilgrimage – let’s go and celebrate with the people that inspire us. Now I’m back and running a label ‘Orphan No More’. Were playing a bunch of shows from now till Christmas.
Last but not least, what’s more important to you as a rapper the first or the last 16 bars?
Oooo, introduction, I would say the first 8.
Info about Joshua can be found on www.onmmusic.com
And the usuals: Twitter @JoshuaLukeSmith Instagram @joshualukesmith