All imagery by Hyperfrank.
Let me tell you now, turning 26 is nothing like you’ve ever seen. Nothing like 18 or 21 or any other landmark you’ve stared down during your brief time here. Forget hitting 25 and the tilt towards the big 3.0. It’s the 26th year where the nature of this thing truly begins to crack through the mirage, where empty dreams and feathery fantasies sober into stone cold reality. Some strange sensation sets in at this age. Hard to explain, but you feel the tremble in your bones, the knot in your throat. For me it all became crystal one winter morning in a Turkish café on Tottenham High Road, not long before lunchtime, not long after the school rush – a twilight hour on a local high street that was home turf for Oscar Worldpeace, sat opposite, 26 and unravelling like me.
I think he felt it too, life at his neck. You can hear it in his songs. He had seen plenty, enough for a lifetime, battled the inner demons, struggled, sacrificed, savoured loves tender touch, pledged his life to his passion, called it quits on a soul-crushing job and a steady income, and then bled those episodes into his music. One of the honest ones, the author of a revealing rap career, eye-balling the uneasy corners of life, not afraid to write lines down in his rhyme book like “I was dead on my face. You can’t see me break,” and then perform them on stages to whoever would listen. He wore it all on his sleeve, like an oral tattoo, played it like there weren’t eyes always watching and ears always listening, carved it all out right in front of us. Let us know on song that “I ain’t got no change on me, came here with nothing,” and, “Mum pray for your son. I don’t know if it’s safe.” Another brave soul, another young man figuring it all out as he went along. And now he was 26.
The cafe was large enough for close conversation. Quiet with sprawling wooden tables and a poster above the bar that said Welcome in 15 different languages. I sat with my back to the wall, Oscar opposite, a wide mirror looming over his head with a crayoned message trailing across the glass reading I show you what you look like, not who you are. It felt as if we had the place to ourselves. A radio was tuned but barely audible. The backing acoustics came from middle-aged women sipping tea around square tables and the young couple in the far corner, tangled in domestics – and when they stopped and the chatter faded away and the café was silent, you heard car tires whining out on Tottenham High road and the bitter winter wind chasing down the new year. Just another British morning, on just another British high street, and for me it was all starting to register.
The age for deploying plan b’s has perhaps passed. We have played our hands. At 26 we stare back at the narrow path and know that the ship has set on its course and it is perhaps too late to turn back. We are out at sea, have voyaged too far now to retreat to the docks. Things have been committed. Even when the trail seems uncertain and we feel the flutters in our stomach, the uneasiness of our hand, we must drive on into the fog, hopeful that there is home at the end of our sail.
What’s something in the past week that has brought you joy?
I just got a new car. It’s not joy of just buying materialistic things. It’s not just the car that’s brought the joy, it’s the moment of just doing something that you thought wasn’t attainable, especially through this creative industry. You know how this industry is, some of our pay checks come late.
I left Tesco two years ago. I had a hundred pound or under in my account, and just to get to this stage, to be able to purchase something through something I would do anyway, it’s like ‘wow’, a realisation. I put something on my Instagram about imposter syndrome. That was the feeling, like ‘do I deserve it?’ ‘Do I deserve this?’ I know how it is to work you know, I don’t want to be one of those people that gets these things and doesn’t take it seriously, even if it’s just a car. But it’s something that I always thought could never happen through the creative industries.
On ‘Brave Face’ you said you were ‘dead on your face’ but you can’t break. Can you explain that?
Leaving my job with under a hundred pounds in my account but I still didn’t break. I found a way to persevere through music, trying to make music not just a source of income for me but a source of expression. Working at Tesco is always going to be a big part of my music because it was a big part of my life. It was good and bad. It funded my music and it also made me more passionate to leave. That’s all that was on my mind, I wanted to leave, get out of there.
What made you quit?
I had enough. I started turning up late, stopped going. I didn’t come in once and my manager text me and said, ‘You’re not even coming back are you?’ And I think that was the sign that I shouldn’t go back. Literally, if she said. ‘come back let’s have a meeting,’ maybe I would have gone back. But she said, ‘you’re not coming back are you?’ And I was like ‘nah I’m not.’ They didn’t go mad, they could have definitely took more action but they even gave me a good reference and stuff.
What were you feeling in those first few days after you left?
Anxiety. My Mum was saying ‘how are you going to fund your music now? That was funding your music.’ I’m very stubborn, I was like ‘I’m going to do it.’ That’s the things with parents, you have to show them that you’re not scared, especially with my Mum and my parents. I have to show that I’m not scared because then she will start to panic. I have to say ‘nah it’s cool. There’s a way.’ But in my head, I was like ‘I don’t know.’
Did you have faith that music was going to pay off?
I knew something would happen. I’m a firm believer that if you work hard at anything, you get something out of it. No matter what, you always will. I had loads of people in my area who was better than me, but they stopped earlier than me. They could have gone on, but I was stubborn enough. I was just stubborn enough to stay on.
How are you treating life?
I’m following God’s signs man, I’ve been more in touch with myself and I feel like that’s going to help me be a better person, a better brother, a better son, a better boyfriend. That’s what this year has done for me, and that’s what I’m doing for life. Just being a better person.
What’s the process been like trying to become a better person?
I think it’s growing up. I’m 26 now and I’ve been through quite a lot for a 26-year-old. You understand what you like and what you don’t like. Certain things that you enjoy when you are younger is something that you’re not necessarily enjoying now. It’s about unlearning things. We’re always learning but there’s things that we have to unlearn. That’s just as important.
What’s something in yourself you feel like you’re unlearning?
Small things. My parents and family always said that ‘if someone hits you, hit them two times harder or ten times harder.’ But I’m not gonna do that, I’m gonna understand if someone hurts you, you don’t have to hurt them back. They might have been through something that’s totally different. I don’t have to get payback on anyone. You have to deal with your demons and hopefully you can come through that just as much as I’ve come through certain things as well.
Just understanding people and then understanding yourself?
This life is an experience innit. It’s a human experience. I don’t want to sound like a Debbie Downer, but we’re all eventually going to go someday. That’s just the truth, so let’s just try and be as cool to each other as much as possible.
I read in an interview that you were trying to find peace of mind. How’s that journey going?
I think that’s the end goal. I’m staring to study older people – my girlfriend’s parents, my parents or uncles and grandmas. It’s like they’re so calm. I talk to my Mum and she tells me about her Mum’s parenting. My Grans’ so sweet but she had to go through so much to get to that stage of being peaceful and calm. I want to get to that point where nothing else matters but love and family. We’re in the internet era now, always looking at people having stuff that we don’t. But older people, when you watch them, they don’t care. They can have nothing but family and love and they’re happy. I want to get to that point.
I read that when you were young you wanted to be a boxer, what about combat drew you in?
I was raised in a single parent household and I used to be very…I was scared of the dark. When I was younger I was a little scaredy cat, and I always wanted to protect my Mum, that’s all I wanted to do. When I got to a certain age I said, ‘Mum I want to do boxing.’ In my mind I always thought ‘say if someone burgles us, I want to be the man.’ I was the man of the house, that’s what I felt like. I wanted to be able to defend myself and get rid of that scared mentality that I had. I was literally scared of everything when I was younger. And that’s what it simply was, just for protection of my Mum, just in case something would happen.
With your music though, it sounds like you made a conscious decision to be honest with what you’re going through, what made you decide to be so open?
It wasn’t a decision. This is all I know man. This is all I know. There’s nothing else I want to put out to the world apart from honesty. If I don’t, I’ll eventually get found out, and that’s…that’s all I know, it’s simple as that. Honesty. My Mum always told me to be honest. She said ‘don’t lie to me, always show your truth.’
So have you always been like that, even away from music?
Yeah even away from music. Honesty man. I don’t like being lied to, so why would I lie to anyone?
Have there been times where you’ve been like ‘maybe I shouldn’t say this on a song?’
No. My Mum’s said that to me loads of times. I was like ‘no, it’s fine because there’s someone else going through the same thing that we’re going through.’ That’s what we need to do as people, to stop thinking that we’re alone. That’s what I want my music to tell you, that you’re not alone. That’s why I’m happy that the mental health issues are coming up in conversation and the #MeToo movements are in conversation because it makes people know they are not alone. As long as you’re not alone you know that you can get through it in the end. That’s what you want, that person to give you the boost, you can do it together, you’re not the only one going through the same pain.
What has being in a relationship taught you?
Just the fullness of love and commitment. It’s just not even my relationship but seeing her family is like…she’s got a big family, and I’ve got a big family but it’s not…we’re not as tight as her family. That love and that peace of mind when you see so many little siblings. It’s beautiful to see them all running around, making mess. I’m just used to me my Mum, me my Mum and my brother. But to see that feeling of love and commitment, I love it man. It gives you a sense of something you want to work towards and work for.
Is that something you look to in the future?
Family wise? Yeah. I’m into that man, 100%.
I saw you perform a few months back. On stage you were talking about depression. We’ve spoken about honesty already, but what made you share that?
You hear it in my music. If you sit back to every song that I make, you hear it, someone screaming, for help. It’s always been a part of my music and I’m happy that the conversation is happening now. I think I was really down at that show. My manger pulled me aside and we had a conversation.
What steps did you take after?
I talk to my Mum and my girl all the time. Women always have that natural, it’s like a natural cure with their conversation, they’re just naturally motherly. Being able to carry children must help with that, there’s something with that, it has to be, because the way I feel after conversations with my Mum or my girlfriend…
Have you ever thought about quitting?
It gets to a point where it does cross your mind, but I think it’s all I know at this point. There’s stuff that I want to do outside music and I feel like I want music to be a vessel for that. Once I get to that point, I think that’s when I’ll be able to quit. It won’t be like ‘I quit’ like I’m angry, it’ll be just moving into a different space to help somebody else. Like ‘I played my part here, I still love it. But I want to move.’
One thing I find interesting about musicians and the music industry is that it’s easy to find yourself in a place where you don’t have much structure to your life. How do you cope with that?
Not having structure is good and bad. You always feel like you’re not working hard enough because your day is 24/7. But if you have a job, you know what time you’re in and you know what time you’re out, so you have the other times for rest. Whereas in music or any creative industry, you could have worked ten hours but it’s not enough for you. Because you might be in your house making it, you don’t feel like you’re working hard enough. That’s what’s scary, that’s what’s very very scary. That’s always on my mind.
Exactly. But what’s something that’s given you optimism in the past week?
Everything. Love has given me optimism. Family gives me optimism. My girl’s family gives me optimism. My new music is giving me optimism. There’s a lot of factors that’s playing into that optimistic place in my mind and my heart.
How did you find optimism after that period at the show?
It was having those conversations with my loved one’s man. It brings you…you understand that no one else matters. And that’s so important. Nothing else matters. Your family and what they think matters and that’s what I had to bring myself back to. I always made music for myself and so that my Mum could listen. Anything else was a bonus. Putting my happiness into someone else was bad of me, I should never have done that. Somebody is always going to let you down, no matter what. Anyone can let you down, family can let you down, as long as you realise that you’re cool. So I’m cool.