Sunday, August 20, 2006


Jonzi D is interviewed


The Trafalgar Square Festival this week will play host from Thursday - Sunday to ‘Luved Up!’ by Upswing.

Jonzi D, one of the directors involved in this much anticipated work, took some time out to talk to TrafalgarSquareBlog about things like: Upswing’s show this week, hip-hop’s past, present and future, and Robert Mugabe...

What do you have planned for the Trafalgar Square Festival?

Well, it’s changed drastically from the blurb that’s in the TSF brochure. We’re working now with six dancers/aerialists, exploring in 15 minutes some classic love scenarios like ‘will they, won’t they’, the scenario when you love someone so much that you end up fighting constantly, and also the flirtatious kind of love.

In short, it’s to do with ‘love’ and the kind of situations we end up in when we search for it.

How have the rehearsals been going and do you feel confident about this week?

Yes I do. It’s been a really great rehearsal process. Also very interesting as I have no experience whatsoever in aerial work and Vicki Amedume (fellow collaborator) has no experience whatsoever in hip-hop, so it was a wonderful collaboration.

We’ve got some great artists that we’re working with. Some who have experienced aerial work and some who have never done it at all, its kinda half and half. So we’re actually coming together as a company with varying skills and it’s been great just getting to know each other, a really fun process.

What are you specifically choreographing in this performance?

I’m choreographing some of the hip-hop sections... in fact, I wouldn’t even say ‘choreographing’... we’re fortunate enough to be working with some really great dancers who we are able to ‘search for movement’ with, it’s more of a directorial role as opposed to a choreographic role. So I would say I’m a director.

What are your influences?

Hip-hop culture - and in this particular piece, failed relationships.

Obviously hip-hop is a big part of your life, what is it about hip-hop that appeals to you so much?

The culture of hip-hop, b-boying aka break-dancing… I love the music, the beats, turn-tabling and rapping because I’m an mc myself.

I’m also excited about what the hip-hop disciplines can offer the world. I think at the moment we’re not seeing much of ‘real hip-hop’ through the media. We’re seeing a bastardised version of hip-hop: the bling, violence, ‘tits and arse’ s**t. What I’m interested in is bringing out the alternative side of hip-hop rather than the commercial side.

Hip-hop now is certainly more mainstream compared to where it was in the 1980s. For example, nowadays stars like 50 cent are being sponsored by Reebok, and Snoop Dogg is doing music videos with pop stars such as Justin Timberlake). Do you therefore regret the way hip-hop has evolved?

I would call this new era of hip-hop part of ‘pop’. And I’ve never liked ‘pop’, ‘pop’ as in what is being forced down the masses’ throats. Obviously I loved the hip-hop back in the day because it wasn’t ‘pop’, it was marginal and I think that a lot of what we see in popular culture now for me is an example of the ‘powers that be’ trying to establish a particular agenda. ‘Pop’ is really s**t, boring and formulaic.

What I like are artists ‘painting a picture’ of what they see rather than what the conglomerates would like us all to see.

What do you think of the accusation of misogyny in hip-hop? Is it justified?

I’m not into anything that looks at hip-hop in a vacuum. I’m interested in looking at hip-hop and its place within the world. Regarding the idea of ‘misogyny in hip-hop’, I’d rather look at misogyny in the world and how hip-hop can be a force that can help solve that problem. For example, the way women are treated in Hollywood, look at them and then look at someone like Queen Latifah: a strong, powerful female who is a product of the hip-hop generation. I think then it becomes a lot more complex to dish out such a sod-all statement like ‘oh, there is misogyny in hip-hop’. That’s too simple, look at what hip-hop culture is, I’d rather say ‘let’s look at the misogyny in the world’ rather than ‘let’s look at the misogyny in hip-hop’, because I don’t think misogyny has ever existed only in hip-hop.

So hip-hop has become an easy target for accusations of misogyny, just like it has become an easy target for blaming the gun culture on?

Exactly. And if we’re going to look at gun culture… let’s look at the amount of guns that are being sold by governments around the world, look at and you’ll see what I mean. When it comes to these sorts of issues, I’d examine these factors rather than hip-hop.

On your page, your heroes include Che Guevara, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela and… Robert Mugabe, why do you think he is a hero?

I like to focus on what Mugabe achieved in the early period of his premiership- he is one of the few African leaders to actually address the land-reform issue. For example, the British government were very slow to address this, so he decided to grab the bull by its horns and speed it up. That was like ‘wow!’ I’ve been to Africa and I’ve spoken to people who really like what Mugabe has done and I’m interested in giving these marginal voices a chance to be heard, rather than just letting society tell us how we should shape our opinions. The same society, for example, that is telling us that Israel bombing Lebanon is OK.

Is your hip-hop quite political then?

I would say it is, but I’m also trying to educate people as to what hip-hop really is at the grassroots level… also its culture, its real culture. Not how the media portrays it to be.

So what do you think about the future of British Hip-hop, is it looking good?

There’s definitely a future there… because we haven’t been hijacked yet! I’m really feeling artists like Blak Twang, Skinnyman, Ty and Professor Green.

Thanks very much for the interview Jonzi D and good luck this week.


We will have reports from Week 3 at the Trafalgar Square Festival starting tomorrow.

Interesting read. Agree with a lot that he says.
Yes it was a good read. Intriguing what he had to say about RM.
A colourful character! Revealed alot of misconceptions about Hip-Hop, doing a good job - keep it up!
Jonzi makes a lot of sense. Except when it comes to Mugabe: how on earth does Jonzi justify this designer-wearing dictator's inflicting so much suffering on his own people?
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