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Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Griff says; Loki - Never Mind the Pollok!

I've got a bit of Scottish hip hop for you again tonight in the shape of the new 12-track album Remind You by Loki and Bill Breaks. Fans of hip hop should recognise the name of Loki as probably Scotland's best known rapper who seems to have been around forever. In fact, he began rapping as a teenager in 2002 and his prolific output in the intervening years can make you forget that he's still only 27.

For those of you who might not be up to speed with Scottish hip hop, here's the standard Loki potted biography:
Loki is the stage name of Darren McGarvey who grew up in the badlands of Pollok, a peripheral district on the south-western edge of Glasgow associated with social deprivation, high levels of unemployment and poor housing. Loki grew up in a troubled family and, leaving home at age 16 following a family breakdown, he found himself living on the streets. Despite the eventual support of community services he still fell into the drug and alcohol culture pervasive in Glasgow's marginalised schemes before discovering that he could use music as his inspiration and guide in life.

His songs, performed in the broad Glasgow vernacular, deal unflinchingly with the realities of life in the city. As well as making music, Loki is a long-time social activist and has been involved in community groups since his teens. He is acutely aware of his role as a spokesperson for the voiceless and is determined to make us all remember that "every ned is a human being, with a heart and a soul and a story".

Loki's songwriting has matured over the years, I must admit that some of his early work left me cold, and Remind You shows him in a, mostly, thoughtful and reflective mood. In keeping with the Streetlamp's own obsessions, Loki's lyrical concerns are, understandably, political and socially conscious but I must add a warning here; don't expect a soft and fluffy liberal.  Loki has a sharp edge that can seem vicious or overly aggressive to those of you unused to Glasgow street 'banter'.
Here's track 2 from the album, These Things Happen, to give you a taster of what to expect:

The album can be downloaded on a 'name your price' basis from his bandcamp page. Loki can be found on Facebook and Bill Breaks can be found on Soundcloud.

Since making his name as a rapper, Loki has branched into many other areas of community art and activism, some of which I want to write about tonight.
Firstly, he is now running Volition, a unique community project for young people. The reason that it's unique is that it was set up and is run by Young People according to democratic principles. Volition engages 14 to 25 year old youth, many of whom are victims of a society that provides limited opportunities for them. Meaningful jobs are scarce, families are often in disarray and drugs and alcohol are everywhere. Volition aims to help them take control of their lives through mediums such as Music, Dance, Visual Art, Photography, Film, Recording and Live Events.

The project aims to challenge the negative stereotypes surrounding youth culture by encouraging members to conduct themselves in a thoughtful and positive manner with each other and the wider community. It also hopes to show that hip hop can give new meaning to their lives. As I have mentioned before on these pages, when rap was first introduced it was often dismissed as violent and homophobic by people who weren't willing to engage with it. Since then it has changed immeasurably and has become a universal language among young people. Indeed, it is often the only means of self-expression available to socially-marginalised, disenfranchised, urban youngsters, wherever they live in the world. Volition takes that language and helps the youngsters involved; overcome the deprivations that they have suffered, use creativity as a means to express anger, conquer their fears and look beyond their own present situation to a more fulfilled life.

Some of Volition's musical output can be found on the project's soundcloud page. They also have a Facebook presence 'here'.

As well as Volition, Loki has been involved this year with National Theatre of Scotland’s hip hop driven project 'Jump'. Fusing physical theatre, storytelling and the urban movement discipline of parkour, Jump has so far engaged over 1000 boys at Fife and Glasgow high schools in a series of workshops, training sessions and exercises, examining the fears and challenges faced in the transition from boyhood to manhood.

As the project progresses, Jump will collect the boys’ own stories and reflections on what it means ‘to be a man’, ‘to be strong’, gradually weaving a narrative into an evolving, large-scale, physical theatre event, styled around the urgent and fluid movement of parkour. Jump will culminate in a series of public performances in November 2012 – at Rothes Halls in Glenrothes, Fife, and Platform in Easterhouse, Glasgow. For details of dates, and to buy tickets see 'here'.

All good stuff, I'm sure you'll agree. And what's more, it seems that far from being the music of 'gangstas', hip hop really can save the world. Who'd have thought it!


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