As someone who has been willing to stir up a lot of shit, British rapper Dizraeli has been setting teeth on edge since his politicized hip-hop masterstroke Engurland (City Shanties) back in 2009. That album gave listeners a taste of the rapper’s ramshackled hip-hop, which fused elements as disparate as folk, Africana, spoken word, turntablism, and boho jazz.
A known wild card onstage (the artist once set a number of cars on fire for public amusement), Dizraeli is also in a minor movement of rappers who make strong appeals for social awareness, bridging the wide gap between the hedonistic throw-downs of club bangers and the invectives of social protest. His previous effort (with his band the Small Gods), explored the world outside his UK homeland after a trip to the Middle East region. An attempt to traverse cultural boundaries and dismantle stereotypes about “othered” cultures, Moving in the Dark (2013) no less captured the imagination with its message of social compassion and homebrewed grooves that were cooked and baked like homeopathic remedies.
At the moment, Dizraeli has a ridiculous amount of projects spinning upon a finger. His latest, however, tackles yet another topic of concern: homophobia. An issue not often bravely explored by most rappers, Dizraeli brings the subject to light in a startling piece of music film called “The Depths”; it’s like French cinema gone to hell with Joseph Beuys at the wheel. As ever, Dizraeli is the backseat driver, shouting rhymes and directives over whatever plays on the radio. Here, he answers PopMatters’ 20 Questions—as though 20 could even begin to scratch the surface.
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
The Master and Margarita made me cry weird tears of joy, with its lovely weirdness.
2. The fictional character most like you?
The fictionalised version of Jim Morrison, as portrayed by Val Kilmer in the Oliver Stone film The Doors. But I hope, less of an arsehole. I mean, as a teenager I wanted to be him. I’m completely unlike him really, let’s be honest. I like spinning around on stage.
3. The greatest album, ever?
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Illmatic.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
5. Your ideal brain food?
Shakespeare. De La Soul. Spinach.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
I’m proud of writing, playing and recording Engurland (City Shanties), my first solo album; it was a massive task and I had no idea if I could get away with playing pretty much everything myself, and it worked out just fine. It’s proof of the power of blind self-belief.
7. You want to be remembered for …?
Loyalty and kindness.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Too much of a question, that.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
“Dart”, by Alice Oswald. Unspeakably insightful and beautiful long poem about a river.
10. Your hidden talents ...?
Leaping over high fences from standing.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Never waste a journey.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
My first pair of rabbit ears.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Someone who can pay for both of us.
15. Time travel: where, when, and why?
Haight Ashbury, when it got exciting, because I always wished I was there.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation, or Prozac?
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or ...?
Sex, more than any of the above.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
A cliff in Cornwall. It’s the most beautiful place in the world.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Step down, David, and go away.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
Some really amazing new music with my band, Dizraeli and the Small Gods. Think Björk meets J Dilla aboard the Jefferson Airplane. The video for our first single with the new sound, “The Depths”, is out now.
Dizraeli and the Small Gods have started a PledgeMusic campaign to tie in with the release of “The Depths”. Twenty percent of the post-goal profits will go to Stonewall, a charity that “campaign[s] for equal rights for lesbian, gay and bisexual people and against homophobia wherever it rears its ugly head.”