Exclusive Jody McIntyre interviews Lowkey

In an exclusive, candid new interview, Ceasefire contributor Jody McIntyre (writer for the Independent and author of the 'Life on Wheels' blog) asks Lowkey, one of the country's most respected MCs and political activists about his life, politics, art and more.

Ideas, Interviews, New in Ceasefire - Posted on Friday, May 27, 2011 4:26 - 30 Comments

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After a show in Gemal Abd al-Nasser Park, Nablus, Palestine

In an exclusive, candid new interview, Ceasefire contributor Jody McIntyre (writer for the Independent and author of the ‘Life on Wheels’ blog) asks Lowkey, one of the country’s most respected MCs and political activists about his life, politics, music and more.

LOWKEY: AN INTERVIEW
Conducted 17 Feb 2011

JODY MCINTYRE: What do you see as the biggest turning point or significant moment in your life?

LOWKEY: I think there have been a few definitive moments in my life that will stay with me. I got stabbed when I was 15 years old; the wound severed two tendons and narrowly missed my ulnar artery. That event taught me that if you put out negative energy, one way or another, it will always come back to you.

When I was 18, my brother killed himself. He was 5 years older than me and suffered from mental illness, but he was never diagnosed and to this day we still do not know what exactly he suffered from. He jumped off an electricity pylon in Canning Town. This loss under those circumstances taught me that some things can never make sense or be understood, they just are. The hardest thing is accepting our own powerlessness. Both of those incidents made me realise how fragile human life is and how important it is to really cherish your loved ones and your health, regardless of what else may be going on at the time.

JM: Tell me about your experiences travelling around the world – what has hurt or inspired you most?

LK: Well, I have been privileged enough to travel to many different countries, particularly doing what I do for a living, it is a real blessing. Recently I travelled to Australia, a nation founded upon the genocide of over 500+ separate nations, I heard some harrowing stories of what life has been like for the indigenous people of that land the last 223 years since Captain James Cook arrived there with a British flag. I learned that until the 1967 Referendum, the indigenous, native people of that land were considered “Fauna and Flora” ie Plants and Animals within Australian Law.

True justice can only come with acknowledgement of the historical context within which we live. The fact that his date of arrival on the land is still celebrated as “Australia Day” shows that justice for the indigenous people of that land is something we all must fight for, especially those of us who are British citizens. Travelling and touring throughout the United States alongside my friend Norman Finkelstein, showed me that despite the constant manipulation by the mainstream media in that country, there are millions of US citizens who do NOT believe US security is dependent upon on its supremacy and global dominance.

There are millions of US citizens who do not believe it is a good idea to have over 1,000 military bases worldwide from Japan to Colombia to Diego Garcia, these people are just so marginalised in the mainstream discourse that in the rest of the world it is easy to forget they even exist. Being detained twice in Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv was an interesting experience; particularly the second time, when I was held for 12 hours. It made me realise that a state which is built upon the foundations of injustice will never feel secure.

The ever-changing and diverse citizens of Israel will always be united by one thing and one thing only; fear. The IDF are a colonial force of scared teenage supremacists who would shoot at their own shadow. The worst thing about that, is that they are supplied with the most sophisticated weaponry on the face of this planet by the United States and Britain. Israel is a colonial supremacist state which is rapidly expanding, and the Zionist dream which Theodor Herzl had is still yet to be reached.

There are over half a million illegal Israeli settlers on the West Bank, which is STILL Palestinian land under international law. The state is expanding on a daily basis, this expansion is dependent upon the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population. While in the West Bank, I saw this entire process first hand and I think no person who witnesses this injustice in action could ever accept Zionism as anything but a deeply racist colonial ideology of conquest masquerading as self-determination.

Lowkey with Jody

I also spent time in Egypt in 2009 while it was under the rule of Hosni Mubarak. Whilst we were attempting to enter Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid, the bureaucracy was exhausting and the poverty was beyond anything I had witnessed before. We were staying in Giza and outside our hotel was an actual river of sewage so far, long and deep that you could not physically cross the road to the other side; there were children sailing down this river of sewage on wooden rafts.

There were children begging on the streets at 4am, sleeping face-down on the pavement in rags. There is a place in Egypt called ‘City Of The Dead’, where over half a million people literally live in, around and on top of tombs and graves. There was another place called ‘Garbage City’, where the people live surrounded by rubbish; the economy of the area is based almost entirely upon refuse.

I remember during one of the bureaucratic meetings we had there, I was sitting in the plush office of someone who was representing the Egyptian government and I looked out of the window to the streets outside of this luxurious, air-conditioned room with its paintings and bathrooms with golden taps, the streets directly outside of this government building were visibly falling apart. They were crumbling away… I knew at that moment, that this level of inequality could not last forever in Egypt, I knew that this dictator who lived like a king but thought like a slave would eventually fall. I was and am still so happy for the people of Egypt. I hope that recent events deliver them the dignified, independent leader they deserve.

Performing in Beirut was special, and spending time in the Bourj el Barajneh refugee camp was also eye-opening; it really brought home to me the wide and far reaching implications of the creation of Israel in 1948. There are millions of people still waiting to go home, whose plight is necessary for the state of Israel to exist, even within the artificial borders it has now. Travelling really is education, and in doing what I do, I get the opportunity to travel to places I would never have got to in another job.

But being a musician is not a real job; when I was younger I worked in Woolworths and then later worked for a debt collectors, and those jobs were work. Being able to travel the world doing what I love has been a very good education for me, and I am definitely looking forward to spending more time on the road when I finish my album.

JM: Do you think the revolution in Tunisia and Egypt will inspire revolutions elsewhere? How do you think they will affect the situation in Palestine?

LK: Well they have already inspired mass movements in Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Bahrain and Palestine itself to name but a few. Ultimately these events have shown us that nobody is all powerful and if people actually take to the streets and want something enough it will happen. If a truly democratic regime in Egypt is elected it will not opt for subservience to Israel and the United States, that is not and has never been the will of the Egyptian people, as has been made abundantly clear by the assassination of Sadat and the ousting of Mubarak.

In fact these revolts across the region are proving that US hegemony in the area and Israeli expansion is dependent and reliant upon subservient dictatorships which suppress their own populations to protect the United States, Britain and their neo-colonial interests.

The Egyptian people do not want a government which sells its natural gas to Israel at a third of its value. The Egyptian people do not want a government which allows the IMF and World Bank to rape its economy. The Egyptian people also do not want a government which assists Israel in its silent murder of the Palestinians in Gaza. If the United States and Britain want to talk seriously about “democracy in the Arab world” they need to be prepared for the natural consequences.

Real democracy would not equal pro-American or pro-Israeli governments. The US and Britain have a bad record with democracy in the Arab world and the 3rd world in general. How do they feel about Palestinian democracy when it delivers Hamas? Or Lebanese democracy when it empowers Hezbollah? Or Venezuelan democracy when it delivers Hugo Chavez? Or Bolivian democracy when it delivers Evo Morales? Or democracy in Ecuador when it delivers Rafael Correa, a leader who doesn’t want his country occupied by US military bases? or even democracy in Japan when it delivered Yukio Hatoyama, a Prime Minister elected largely on his promise to end the hugely unpopular US military presence in Okinawa?

How did the US and Britain feel about democracy in Iran when it delivered Mossadegh, a leader intent on nationalising the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, now known as British Petroleum? How did they feel about democracy in the Congo when it delivered Patrice Lumumba? Or democracy in Chile when it delivered Salvador Allende?

Real democracy in the “Arab world” would be bad news for the powers that be, because it would not deliver the subservient governments which they so heavily rely upon. Of course the liberation of Palestine is something every dignified, independent and representative Arab government would support and actively pursue. We are today a step closer to those type of governments in the region.

JM: Whilst you were working with the band Mongrel, were there plans to go to Venezuela?

LK: Yes, my band Mongrel were invited to Venezuela by the government and were due to perform on Alo Presidente, however the trip was cancelled at the last minute because of label politics it seems. Regardless, Venezuela is somewhere I intend to visit and Hugo Chavez, as a leader who is striving to build an independent alternative to the neo-liberal capitalism which has disenfranchised his people for decades, is someone I respect greatly.

I actually deferred from my course at University in order to take that trip and am now in debt with no degree to show for it. Of course, if I now decided to go back to University I would be in even more debt because of the recent changes to tuition fees. I have an interesting idea for the politicians that voted to increase the tuition fees so drastically; the vast majority, if not all of them, are part of the generations who went to University for free, so why don’t they pay £9,000 a year retrospectively for every year they spent in University? Nothing would better demonstrate their commitment to the “big society”, and I am sure they can now afford it.

JM: What do you see as a more important part of your life; making music or political activism?

LK: My Dad was an SWP activist and a co-founder of Rock Against Racism before I was born, his father was a coal miner who also served in the British Army. In fact, both of my great grandfathers on my Dad’s side served in the British Army during World War 1 and my Mum was an Arab born in Baghdad, so my life is in itself political. Politics was never far from home for me, but it is important to realise that we all have our own lessons to learn and positions to take.

I will never be the stereotype many perceive me to be. I cannot look at any situation as “us versus them” because I am both but neither, I was just born as a human bridge. Neither here nor there. When you are put into that position, you have to assess everything from a human perspective first and foremost because, before race or ethnicity, you are simply human. My existence is in itself political and my music is the soundtrack to it. So really, I would say they both go hand-in-hand.

JM: Where do you see yourself ten years from now? Will the political situation have changed?

LK: Ten years is a long time, so who knows if I will even be alive, but I hope to see a liberated Palestine, a secure unified Iraq and a world free of imperialism and neo-colonial rule. I think we are witnessing the decline of the North American Empire and the definite rise of China, so the next 10 years will be interesting. People are demanding their dignity and independence and the world is a much smaller place today than it was 10 years ago. I think these are progressive times and I am just happy I am alive to witness it.

Jody McIntyre, a writer and activist, is a regular contributor to Ceasefire.

For similar interviews and articles, please check our New in Ceasefire section or join our Facebook group.
For updates on new articles and interviews, follow us on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/Ceasefire_Mag

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30 Comments

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activist
Feb 21, 2011 12:41

This gave a great insight to his life, which was nice 🙂 Don’t stop what your doing, love your work both jody’s and lowkeys x

Ariana
Feb 21, 2011 12:56

Thank you for sharing this Jody and Lowkey. You are both setting a great example 🙂 Keep it up!!!
I am deeply touched by what I have read.

Peoples Movement
Feb 21, 2011 13:31

Lowkey for President! 🙂

He is a great inspiration to many and “Peoples Movement” fully supports him.

Before we are any nationality we are human and we have an inbuilt desire to protect ourself so we do this with any tools that are available, from stones to the Internet!

Social Media is an extremely useful tool in the battle for Justice around the world. If you feel you are up for discussion, attending events and the sharing of knowledge then check out our new group “Peoples Movement” bringing people together from all over the Globe and helping facilitate their movement from words to action…

You are more than welcome to join:
http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_185679071453034&ap=1

Peace N love,
Peoples Movement.

Jo
Feb 21, 2011 14:16

Brilliant article, great to know a but about lowkeys history and life, and not just his music and politics.

demuro
Feb 21, 2011 15:29

lowkey.
your past is emotional. i had no idea the madness you’ve been through.
both of you keep doing what your doing.
10 years from now. whoooo knows!!??

AFG
Feb 21, 2011 17:48

Lol, I like your suggestion about politicians paying tuition fees!!
Hopefully everything that you said in the final question comes true!!!

Truly inspirational guys, and keep up the good work. 🙂

dunya
Feb 21, 2011 19:25

Lowkey you are an amazing person. I have listened to your speeches and your songs and everytime when I listened to it I had goosebumps.
I am not a very emotional person but when I listened to the song about your brother I cried a lot and I am amazed on how strong you are to keep this all up.
Inshallah one day I will meet you in person, it would be a honor 🙂
Love and big respect for Kareem Dennis.

simon webbe
Feb 21, 2011 20:10

great article-two inspiring young activists-totally right on justice, racism, venezuela, israel and middle east- carry on the great work- and i look forward to seeing Jody in new Cross tomorrow tuesday 22nd feb, http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=151377234916473

Anna
Feb 21, 2011 23:45

It`s great to have this insight in Lowkey`s life. I`ve been waiting for more info about him, thanks Jody! I had the pleasure to attend a debate `bout Palestine and a concert afterwards, 12 Feb in Prague, and it was truly emotional for me! Lowkey`s a real life inspiration, makes people think `bout what`s happening and what deserves the attention of all of us as human beings.

adam
Feb 22, 2011 16:03

Really enjoyed the piece – keep up the good work guys

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Feb 23, 2011 11:32

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R K from the states
Mar 2, 2011 3:57

i met ya @ the sounds of liberation in brooklyn. ya were kind enough to snap a pic with me and then i told u thanks. i want to be clear that i wasnt jst being polite but i was thanking you, lowkey, for everything youve done, doing, and stand for..you’ve made me explore the realms of which I would never have otherwise. there is an existence in america that is not blind or shuttered from the truth and refuse to be. we are here, we are listening…

L.A.
Mar 4, 2011 4:29

I am impressed with how educated you are. I say we need more music artists like yourself to “spit out the truth”. People need to be educated. We must keep standing up for humanity and what is right morally. i have a lot of respect for what you’re doing. I hope you continue to be the leader that i am sure you were born to be and an inspiration to all. (including me).

-Hope you come and visit the city of Chicago soon.
Best wishes.

simurg
Mar 4, 2011 10:07

wanna thank both gentlemen for everything they are doing. When u’re living surrounded hypocrisy, lies and mistreatment it is great there are ppl who could be such a good role model for youth, especially. I hope ur message will reach even more ppl. Ur actions made me more politically aware of the things happening around the world. usually ppl do not care of the issue, unless it happens with them. Thanks for keeping ur music both about politics and life issues. Thanks for Jody for the interview, we’ve been waiting for smth like this 🙂

john herald
Mar 4, 2011 10:18

Amazing guy.. with so much knowledge , i hope people can actually educate themselves be aware of whats happening , and to make the correct judgments ,when hearing about whats happening around the world ,

Rizwaan Sabir
Mar 8, 2011 16:02

A great article! Lowkey is an inspiration! Keep up the good work!

bagdadi sunnie and proud
Mar 14, 2011 23:13

lowkeys raps are wicked !!!!!!!!!!!1

we’re actually lucky to have a rapper like him who don’t rap crap and rap with a good meaning !!!!!!!!!!!!!1

keep up the good work

Kwiz
Apr 3, 2011 16:17

Keep it up, lowkey/jody, love what you guys do.

sez
Apr 3, 2011 17:51

lowkey is a revolutionary !

Monika
Apr 4, 2011 15:13

I found out about Lowkey only month ago,but this young man impress me deeply specially, because he do all what he do, with heart and for all of us. I love the way he see humanity and respect human been for human been.U can feel it, it comes naturaly out from his heart.I will follow Lowkey, because he is one of the people, who don’t think just about him self. And i respect that so much. Insallah, he will find a way to see even a leaders that nothing in this world is more important as human life. Respect Lowkey. X

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junaid hussain
Oct 17, 2011 23:45

lowkey is awsome great rapper keep it up

KOP
Jul 21, 2012 8:58

I TOTALLY LUV LOWKEY, I REALIZE THIS BLOG IS ABOUT A YEAR OLD, HEREZ HOPING HE READZ THIS, IF U DO LOWKEY, CHECK ME OUT ON PALTALK:ISSUES WITH RACE <– CHATROOM, SEE U SOON SXIII … YOUR BIGGEST FAN.ATIC 😀

Mohammed
Oct 8, 2012 22:15

Ahhh i know kareem personally and he has a big heart for humanity

Danny Hood
May 2, 2013 20:47

Lowkey inspired my music.

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Oct 26, 2013 19:20

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Jae
Feb 27, 2014 3:06

Is Lowkey still alive?? Does nobody find it strange other than me that this man would retire in a post on fb

Mkhalifa
May 2, 2014 4:07

All the way from africa,I started listenin to lowkeys songs nd I can’t believe hw he’s inspired me politically and spiritually for the love of humanity,and specifically about what’s goin on around the arab world,he has really widen my intellect.sorry for your brother.

Nisa Khan
Sep 1, 2014 23:23

I am abit late to reply but you know
I love Lowkey he is such an inspiration
most of his songs brought tears into my eyes
infact im a very emotional person….
I love whatthe both of you are doing..
maybeone day Inshallah I will meet you, Lowkey,
but until that day comes I want to wish you well for everything that comes in your future
Inshallah everything and everyone will be free
allhamdulillah
Inshallah……
Thank you for everything Lowkey
your such an inspiration to me..
🙂 🙂 🙂 xxx

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