A Conversation With Poet
31 Jul 2019
Undoubtedly one of the biggest, most influential and recognisable content creators and internet personalities within the game. Poet has been in the scene for a hot minute. His work rate has never gone unknown. The journey has been a mad one. Growing up in Tottenham, helping and cultivating the youth at Tottenham Hotspur, to creating online content, to hosting shows such as YO! MTV Raps and Gasworks. The progression is crazy – not to mention designing football boots for Arsenal. Poet is at the forefront of the culture, whether this be through sport on Filthy Fellas, musically, creating vibes with Vibbar or breaking down cultural and social topics alongside Chuckie on the Halfcast Podcast.
I hung out with Poet and his friends earlier this week to ask him some questions. Dropping the visuals to Capri Sun earlier that day, the good vibes had already been set. Laid back settings with his boys, I arrived just in time to watch them battle it out on Fifa with Vibbar playing in the background.
E: You did a lot for the youth, especially concerning Football. I believe you worked for Tottenham Hotspur for a while?
P: Yeah so, when I was younger, I used to live in Tottenham and I used to work for Tottenham Hotspur. I started off working for Haringey Council doing work for the youth at the time but the department that I worked in kind of merged with Tottenham Foundation. By default I had to work for Tottenham Hotspur but I started off at Haringey and I was doing youth work in the area and we had one of the best youth clubs in the whole of the borough. That was cool man, then it went into Football and we got trials and stuff like that. Really enjoyable actually, it was lit!
E: Is that how you got into Football or have you always been into Football?
P: I’ve always been into Football! I got into Football because of Iain Wright…
E: Was it because of school and stuff as well or?
P: Do you know what, in school I wasn’t even into football you know! I was not into football at all, I was more into basketball. I think I wanted to be able to talk to my Dad, me and my dad had nothing to talk about, there was such a gap because he loved football. So I kinda just wanted to be able to talk to him about something. In that came an actual love for football. Iain Wright was the guy, he was like the rudeboy but playing football! He reminded me of someone that could just be on the block but he’s just a footballer and I thought this is lit! He had a gold tooth and used to take the piss out of people and I thought do you know what I really like this guy. In loving him you just appreciate the sport. It would be the equivalent of someone saying I don’t know much about Grime and they hear someone like AJ Tracey and fall in love with him and all of a sudden AJ Tracey pulls through Big Zuu and maybe you start listening to some of the veterans like Wiley and Skepta. So that was me with football!
E: You also designed football boots – that’s sick! How did that come about?
P: Yeah man – thankyou! Obviously I’ve worked in football for a little while. This guy hits me up from Pro:Direct and he goes to me ‘Poet, do you wanna make a football boot?’ but I’m thinking what for me to wear – yeah that’s lit I’m down! Then he goes ‘No no no, Puma have asked whether they can use you to make a football boot for a footballer to wear..’
E: Thats mad!
P: What made it better and made me feel like omg is the fact that it happens to be for Arsenal now and I was like ‘What!?’ and for Hector Bellerin. So it all happened so fast man, like so so fast! Then at the end I found out that I was part of the proposal, before they came to me when they actually pitched the idea – it was my face on the campaign! They used all the stuff that we had done with Vibbar and said that you can see that it is very connected with lifestyle so they asked me if I can create a football boot with the same type of mood and energy that I do with Vibbar.
After creating it… Ahh you should’ve come to the party.. wait so imagine this. I was mad nervous the venue was 350 people capacity, so I’ve told everyone! To the point where their like ‘But Po people you know people are gonna turn up’ and I’m thinking they might not because I’m asking people to do something with there Thursday night. Hear this, on that Thursday night Chip’s got a party, Novelist had a party there was bare people that had parties so now I’m just like no-ones gonna come. We can’t even announce who’s performing at our party, these times Suspect’s performing, Ambush is performing and there hot right now and I can’t even say ‘Yo these man are coming down’ because they’re surprise guests! So I’m like how am I gonna get everyone to get here.. I turned up at 10:20pm there was 150 people inside with 300 outside and none of my friends had turned up! I looked at the queue and you kind of feel bad because you know not everyone is gonna get in but the other part of me is like its lit fam!! Mans party is lit!!
E: Was it a really difficult process?
P: Brooo, so when they asked me initially straight away because they said it was because of Vibbar, I said to them I have to call Yinka. Yinka does everything with me when it comes to Vibbar, so she has to be the person that gets involved because then you’ll be giving me credit for something that’s not actually solely me. So I called Yinka and we had to fly over to Germany to the head office to actually develop it. Not from scratch because they gave us the actual template of the trainer but we had to create a story, well we didn’t have to but we felt the need to if we’re gonna create a trainer and it’s gonna represent something, we want it to represent a story that we can relate to. So what we did was, well this is one of them. This is the one that Bellerin wore and it’s got high res so if you take a picture it looks like a block of council flats..
E: Oh swear that’s sick!
P: Yeah! And the other one is grey and it had ‘No Ball Games Allowed’ on it. We came from the concrete playing football, almost like we came from a concrete pitch. So it was just our interpretation of how we’ve grown up playing football. Some people have a park near their house and some people are privileged enough to have money and we didn’t have any of that. We had a garage and we felt like it was really important to tell that story through the boot. So then Bellerin wore it, then another player for West Ham wore it and scored the first game in the boots against Man United. I was tooo gassed fam!
E: How did you first get into music? Who and what inspired you?
P: So I first got into music around 2006-2007 and it was the Grime era so you couldn’t avoid it! Every council estate you went to people would have there phones out and it was literally spittin’. The adolescence of it which I actually miss, people would just be on the block spittin’! So what I did was, my cousin used to spit so I used to take him to every area in Tottenham and make him clash everyone! Just so that we could spread his name and in doing that I started spittin’. So now we’re going to every area in Tottenham, we were like lets not try and conquer London. If we got lit in our hood then everyone in our hood is gonna push us! So lets just make everyone in our hood know that we spit. We were literally in every area in Tottenham spittin’, spittin’, spittin’ but because we weren’t threatening we were more happy-go-lucky, people started to proper dig it!
Our inspiration was Kano and Ghetts, Wretch was from our area he inspired us. But more so Kano and Ghetts because they were the first people that I had heard spit on Grime and really have mad lyrical ability. Obviously still fans of Wiley.. there was tonnes of MC’s but Ghetts and Kano were just on another level fam! Like an absolute other level altogether! Kano is just.. I don’t even know how to describe it he’s too good! And how he’s been so consistent now up to this day.. like ahhh makes me wanna cry fam haha! We just thought to ourselves if that’s the person thats inspiring us to get into music we cannot disrespect music in any capacity. So we really worked on being good at spittin’, we went to Pirate Radio, we had all the clashes and we done all the sets. Then we got the song and it was number one on Channel U for 4 weeks, from that we were getting shows every weekend spittin’ so we were like little Channel U artists and it was cool! J2K was really good, like stupidly good! Such an underrated guy, would watch him spit in his living room. I was kind of jealous and envious at the fact that we would sit down for hours writing and when we spit you could see that it was a character we were trying to put on. But this guy’s in the living room with the dirty vest and I’m like bun you man hahah!! Him and Kano I was like I hate you lot man you are so good it’s just not fair haha! But like I said we were just trying to make sure that we were making the best music possible and tried to be the best that we could be. The people that inspired us were THAT good and our dream was for them to just notice us. That was it.
E: What do you think we’re the biggest challenges you faced as an artist? And how do you think it’s changed for artists that are coming up now?
P: The biggest challenge you face is getting known. I mean at the time we were just getting everyone in Tottenham to like us and then when that happened the ambitions grew further. It’s very difficult for me to be consistent with music and make good music because it’s pressure man, you’re making songs that are number one – yeah its not number one in the charts but its number one for our little scene and its a big thing. Then the pressure is going to get another one, you’ve got everyday life I was at University, I’m doing youth work, living with my mum and I don’t have an accessible studio. The challenge for me came in making another good song. It’s mad the energy we made with the first song, we weren’t trying to make a good song we were just having a laugh and now you’re actually having to try and make a song. I think I’ve only got it right however many years later because I wasn’t prepared to contribute because I didn’t think I could do it any justice. So took a little pause for a while after that man. It was hard work.
E: You are a part of the collective Vibbar! Tell more about that, how did that come about? You just dropped Capri Sun today – which is sick! Listened to it earlier!
P: Serious?! Gang gang haha! Do you know what, I can’t lie its because of the mother of my kids. I was in a mad relationship before and the one thing I always have to credit the mother of my kids for is that I think I found genuine love within her. It’s that really kiddy love where you really love it and you don’t know how to express yourself so you are just doing loads of different things! Vibbar is Swedish for vibes – the vibe that the mother of my kids brought. I was always excited to see her and I was always happy and I was like how do I express this artistically. It was through me getting a big group of people and saying, hey man we should make a creative group and use music as a go to to pull people in but we could do whatever we want. Thats why we can make a boot, that’s why we can produce and make content and we can make music because essentially we are just a creative arts company. We have done campaigns for Nike, for Puma and shot videos for Wretch – we have done loads of different types of things purely because all our enjoyment and ambition comes from creating!
E: That’s cool though that you have friends like that!
P: Yeah its so lit!! I think we all have friends like that though. Sometimes we don’t look at our friends strengths we focus on someone else’s strengths. I was like Yinka your really good when it comes to the ability of designing why don’t we try and think of something together. Pep is a really sick producer and rapper and all the spitters like Jordy and Skribz! Weezy is really good with business so we got him involved and said can you help us tidy up the business side of things. Joel Baker is a really good singer we got him involved, Kammy some mad photographer and Caleb he just shot the new video (Capri Sun). We bought Caleb in and it was his first opportunity to do a video with us, it was so incredible I was so happy and proud of him. We are creating opportunities for people and at the end of the day I think it’s really cool man.
E: What are your thoughts on the U.K scene currently?
P: I love it man, it’s beautiful. Just to see that when we first started, you never thought about getting in the charts and all that, you didn’t think about mad success. You were still getting asked by your mum to get a real job and now they get to see my house and everything in it, is what i’ve bought from making a living. I don’t work any other job it’s just myself. Im really proud of that, even if I don’t get a house that’s bigger than this and this is where I end up remaining. Just to know that I was able to achieve this just through being myself that makes me so so happy man! It’s lit!
E: There’s been a lot going on with Drill Music, what are your thoughts on that?
P: Wow. I think it’s really upsetting that people never look at the root of the problem and just look at the surface value. Do you know what I mean?
E: Yeah, 100%.
P: I think it happens in life and I’m tired of it. For example your girlfriend might say something really rude to you and you never think to yourself ‘how did we get here?’ and you just think ‘we’re here how do we deal with this?’ essentially you are never gonna deal with the situation if you deal with what’s just happened. You have to look at the process. With Drill music, it will always exist so now we have to ask ourselves what have we done to neglect such a young group of people where they feel they have to express themselves in that manner. Because I didn’t feel like that, not to say everyone does but it’s a popular type of music. It’s almost like watching the discovery channel and hearing ‘Omg is that what happens in Moldova?!’ You become intrigued with it and that’s what Drill music is to a lot ignorant perceivers. This is their entry point to find out what’s happening in the hood. It’s your entry point find out what’s happening in London. If anything they are working like the news mate we should be thankful without them we wouldn’t know anything about what’s going on.
They feel the danger and most importantly they are making us aware of the neglect that certain social groups are getting in England. I think if the Government really cared about it they would try and create something so there isn’t Drill music in the next generation. What are you doing to improve the quality of these peoples lives? All their doing is going through something, expressing it artistically the same way I did because I was in love with the mother of my children – that’s how I express myself artistically. These lot are unfortunately in a world in which where its confrontational, full of violence, knives, guns and have problems at home, they might not know their Dad and getting kicked out of school. They have now chosen to express it through a track that’s maybe 3 minutes long. Yes there’s repercussions for it but do you know what if they end up making some money and changing there lives they are not going to be spitting about those things! They are not going to live that life! Sneakbo doesn’t do that anymore, Sneakbo is not living that life to my extent. That’s what we should be focusing on, the actual end goal rather than what’s happening now. If you aren’t prepared to sort out what happened previously you might as well help them get to their goal.
E: Who have you been listening to recently? Do you have a Top 5 of U.K. Artists?
P: I don’t have a top 5 because it changes all the time!
E: Hahaha, same with me!
P: Hahaha! Just when you think this is my guy then there’s someone else! I’ll have to go through my phone and see who I listen to all the time. I have to be honest I think D-Block Europe are absolutely incredible! My boy Mitch just put me onto them earlier and I tried to be like ‘Oh right let me see’ because I appreciate I’m a little bit older than these guys but sonically these boys are incredible…
E: I think they are one of the best in the U.K.
P: I have to agree! I’ve just come back from the States this morning I was in New York and it’s all I was playing! All I was dong was talking about D-Block Europe and how good they are. I think Vibbar, we are one of the best in the U.K.. There’s a boy inside Vibbar called Jordy who I am so excited about. I think he has the ability to be one of the most influential of this generation. He is very very good, he speaks about some of the matters that aren’t as expressed by everyone else. I really like artists like that. Airborn Gav is another guy that I think is absolutely incredible. Then I’m just an old school guy, so I love Blade Brown, I listen to Kano and I can’t wait for his new project. Octavian is my guy, he’s so incredibly talented! And obviously… haha everyone knows I love Skepta! That’s who I can say I’m listening to on my phone but that can change in 4 weeks time. A2 just dropped a new project I would recommend everyone goes and listens to that! These are artists that I really like from different ends of the spectrum. I can listen to Kitchen Kings the same way I can listen to Skepta do something old school, I don’t know there’s so much music I can listen to anything!
E: If you could bring back any particular era of music which would you bring back and why?
P: You slyly don’t want to bring anything back because you appreciate it being there but for the sake of the question it would probably be Funky House. Funky House was LIT!! Everyone was so happy! You had grown men saying head, shoulders, knees and toes! I think that is lit haha! You’re educating your kids and your having a laugh! I like things that make you enjoy yourself man. Everyone didn’t mind being an idiot, they didn’t care. No-one had an ego and a sense of pride. The energy of the music, even with Garage the energy just makes you wanna rave, talk to a girl and maybe get a drink. Very sociable and nice. So those are my favourite eras man!
E: Being an influential and recognisable content creator / personality. What advice would you give to younger people who want a career within this industry?
P: Have a good understanding of who you are and care more about you are. How can your music connect with anyone if you don’t know who you are? What are you gonna be saying in your music? Your music is a representation of what you think people want to hear. More time people just want to hear what you want to say that makes you so special. I don’t think people do that a lot and because of that I can’t see progression in a lot of people.
More people just need to focus on wanting to be themselves and best versions of themselves rather than trying to make interpretations of what you think will make you big. I see a lot of that in YouTube, if someone starts a trend. But what would you rather be, the sheep of the shepherd. I always try and be a pioneer. I like starting trends. I like starting a wave. If you start a wave you will guarantee yourself finance in that particular field as long as that field is good. Pioneers from time, you will know that D Double E still gets booked, Skepta is still getting money, Wiley is still getting money people are still getting money from the early stages. That’s no different from anything else, so I’d recommend that people try and be pioneers. Know who you are as a person, if you don’t know who you are as a person I will never know who you are musically.
E: What more can we expect from you?
P: All I will say is that I’m thinking about how can I do something really impactful, in what capacity I’m not yet sure. But hugely impactful.