I met Watusi (artistically known as Watusi87) at a Sunday evening jam at Acklam Village in Ladbroke Grove. The centre is a home to victims of the Grenfell fire, and a pillar to a deeply hurt and disillusioned community. Watusi told me about his latest album “Moments of Truth”, released in early 2019. Interested to hear some hip-hop from my neighbourhood I went on to explore the music and lyrics, and rather unexpectedly embarked on a spiritual, intellectual and a very human journey.
The album covers a variety of themes, pressing to the community and relevant to our society today. Unravelling as a revelation, and rather revolutionary in its selection of topics, “Moments of Truth” meanders through various very personal issues. ‘Clean Your Mind’ simultaneously raises awareness of the importance of living healthy and taking care of our body-mind, and reprimands those who are abusing themselves through unhealthy habits such as excessive alcohol and drug consumption. The song is also an exposé of the way our leaders are not focused on encouraging a healthy life-style unless it pertains to a capitalist goal. Nowadays governments are more concerned with keeping the population sick in order to continue feeding the coffers of pharmaceuticals. The piece echos with many contemporary debates on the power of drug companies to sway government policies, to prevent the legalisation of certain alternative medicines or to seek control over their distribution in order to monopolise prices and access. It is also a call to people to clean up their habits and strive for a healthy body-mind.
‘All That Jazz’ peeks into the commercialisation of music-making today. Watusi feels that all that happened in his life led to him writing and performing hip-hop for the craftsmanship and love of it. It was not a momentary event but happened through a process of discovery and ever-evolving creativity. He chose hip-hop as a personal and artistic expression at the same time as hip-hop chose him as the media through which the music needs to materialise itself. Many artists today are making hip-hop with a focus on material gains rather than out of love for the music nor the message it carries. Commercialising the perspective of hip-hop loses the power of the music and the voices of the people represented. The message travels through space and is made physically perceivable through the jazz piano and horn notes in the background of Watusi’s rapping.
In his dedication to the spirit of hip-hop and his identification as the music, Watusi ensures his listeners share in his personal musical pilgrimage with the song ‘Fly with Me’. It is easy for people to put on a CD or have the music on digital devices and join the rapper’s musical and personal flight. “People are flying with me and it is beautiful. I am the music”, says Watusi while verbally drawing the trajectory of the flight. The rapper from Ladbroke Grove is taking his listeners on a voyage through his own incarnation as the music to which they are listening. Through his hip-hop, he is documenting what it is like to be born in this time in London, of African and Caribbean descent. Overall, Watusi feels that through hip-hop today, we are writing a chronicle of our time. His journey as an artist is organic and reflective of the age we are in.
As a revelation and a journey, Watusi’s music has no end goal and no specific agenda behind it. He hopes to bring some happiness, self-reliance and support to his listeners. Having started on the journey of hip-hop he will continue to travel with it, sharing his flight with all humanity. Whether the world of hip-hop is ready for the messages brought to the surface by “Moments of Truth” is still uncertain. Yet, the lyrics are out there in the open, rapped and chanted over dynamic hip-hop beats. Without overcomplicating the structural roots of the style and adding his own subtle instrumental and rhythmic flavours, Watusi is recording and transmitting the truths of now. His personal experiences are shared by many in London, in the world, despite of individual circumstance and backgrounds. There has been quite a bit in the press recently about the ‘Stormzy effect’ which has driven the largest entrance of British students from Afro-Caribbean heritage to Cambridge University. There is a possible future where the Watusi87 effect assists the formation of a rebellious, dedicated to truth, physically and emotionally healthy generation, united in the building of a new world.
Album available at http://hyperurl.co/yxo9vy