Dizraeli is a name that, at least on the American side of the pond, may have many scratching their heads. The British spoken-word artist/hip-hopper has been working a steady, mindful pace, setting his own course whilst picking up a growing number of admirers along the way. In 2009, Dizraeli unleashed his debut album, Engurland (City Shanties). The album finds the rapper delivering his sputter-quick rhymes deftly, whilst musing over love, both found and lost, in a time of social unrest. Spinning lyrical conundrums over hip-hop-jalopy beat-science, Dizraeli embodies the spirit of contradiction; he finds a fresh and unique counterpoint between the chest-thumping swagger of hip-hop braggadocio and the densely knotty theories found in your political science textbook. It’s a musical vision worlds away from the obscene displays of bling radiating from the glossies we’ve become accustomed to. Tongue planted firmly in cheek, the artist infuses his words with razor-sharp acumen, traversing the line between aggression and hope, never once skimping on the grooves. Here, he talks about his introduction into UK’s beat-poetry scene, recording his debut, and the literary inspirations that feed his musical diet.
* * *
Tell me about your introduction into the beat poetry/spoken word scene that has emerged in the UK over the years. Can you give some of the details of your first forays into interacting with audiences in front of an open mic?
My introduction to spoken word was at university, at the African Caribbean and Asian Society’s poetry evenings. People came to perform words of all sorts, and I brought my rap lyrics to the mix. I’ve always thought of my work as songs, whether with musical accompaniment or nor—it’s still a surprise to me when I’m called a Poet. I write for music, in the same verse/chorus/verse form that songwriters have used forever. But nonetheless, what I do seems to work at poetry events. From university days I started going to the slams which had started up in Brighton—where I lived then—and found myself winning them. Slams were a completely new thing for me and for most English people, and they were an exciting place to meet writers and performers of all kinds; both a harsh competitive environment and the most fertile ground imaginable for creativity. My first slams were a slap in the face for me—I brought my very earnest utopian lyrics to this fairly tough, cynical arena and people didn’t get into them at all. I learned that people relate to what you have to say if you say it with humor and a sideways twist, not if you beat them over the head with a daisy chain.