Playing the Game with George The Poet

    'I think rappers and hood stars need to fix up. I'm not trying to exclude anyone; I'm not trying to say get out of the picture we're better than you; I'm saying we need to sit down together and figure out how to make things better.'


    Deafening cheers erupted from the assembled crowd as the closing lines of the rap/poem Team UK were rhymed out; 'Americans can't tax us never, and anyway our accent's better'. The animated black figure had done what he came to do on the elevated platform. He exited stage left to roars of applause.


    Although it's George's poetic skills that have gotten him noticed it wasn't how he initially expressed himself, 'I used to rap, rapping was just awkward, I loved it but I hated it, people don't really listen to you when you're a rapper, they think you're ego-centric'. When rapping didn't work out for him, George discovered poetry, albeit by accident. 'I just wanted a different perception, I wasn't even trying to be taken as a poet, but people started calling me "that poet guy".'

    Hailing from Neasden in Northwest London, 21-year-old George is a Cambridge student who believes that there's more to success than hard work, 'You need to learn to play the game, need to get a sense of cultural capital, learn how to talk, banter, this is the reality,' he explains. 'That's why I get annoyed when people don't know how to switch up their appearance or communication, i'm not saying that being black or hood is inferior, but if you want to buy your way into influence you need to play the game.'

    George is definitely playing the game on a professional level now – well you can't have missed the BBC commissioned advert featuring his poem for Hackney 2012. 'The BBC got their hands on My City by accident, but they called me up and commissioned me to do the Hackney poem', he explains.

    The poem that caught the attention of BBC execs is on the opposite end of the scale to the Team UK poem we saw performed at iLuvLive – it's pretty serious stuff. Yet George didn't really take My City seriously and admits that it caused way more of a stir than he'd anticipated, 'I didn't even bother to promote it at first' he continues, ' because those are my most superficial thoughts, I'm always thinking things like that'. He says 'I'm a sociologist at heart; I see a lot of social injustice. I work with kids and what I always tell them is that all communication is a means to an end, if you're a joker, language will serve you for the purpose of comedy.'

    It's not difficult to understand why George the Poet has amassed a following of over 5000 on twitter, nor why this YOLO  YouTube video has gained over 40,000 views. 'It's one of my most successful poems' he says. George speaks on popular culture and tackles social issues head on. 'I think I'm getting a reaction because I'm on the same wavelength as a lot of people, I don't do poetry for money, I do it because I care about people.' Even though he admits to having experienced the YOLO (You Only Live Once) moments that he attacks in the poem he explains why he's against the way YOLO has been interpreted, 'I've lost a few people in my life and when I think about it I realise I'm not going to get that time back.'

    George admits that his most challenging piece of work, Smile, came as a result of the death of his close friend Nabila, 'That one was hard to write, I didn't even feel like writing, I hadn't even cried about it when I wrote the poem, at the time I was just numb, to this day, I don't even listen to it.' He says.

    The loss of friends to senseless crimes while living in Neasden has helped him reaffirm his earlier decision to mentor.  From the age of 18, he says, 'I wanted to sit kids down and talk to them, because a lot of them are misguided.' Having grown up in the same area as these kids, why did he not turn out the same way? 'I still haven't figured out, I feel like the anomaly. I had a really strong mum' he says definitively.

    George's mum is from Uganda and he is one of six children so his mother probably had to be tough. Now that he's become a role model the Cambridge student explains that he's the tough one and that trying to set an example to three brothers and two sisters is no easy feat. 'For these kids it's cool to be bad, I want them to realise how awkward it is to be bad, you're embarrassing the rest of us and you can do better because we're a team.' he says.

    It's no surprise that George has recently inked a publishing deal. He has managed to go from Northwest London to one of the world's leading educational institutes. Cambridge is an achievement for anyone and while George doesn't deny this he reveals that, 'I do feel a bit alone there sometimes, I don't feel that's Cambridge's fault, we need to get more of our sons and daughters there.' He explains.

    One place he'll be forever comfortable is on YouTube and onstage. And when asked whether he wholeheartedly believes that our accent is better than the Americans (last line of Team UK poem), he says with a sly chuckle 'I love my accent man'.

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