Leading the pack is Stonebridge’s K Koke. The London MC born Kevin Georgiou has been causing a storm in the underground, with his flurry of mixtapes, freestyles and videos accumulating in excess of 20 million views on Youtube. His “Fire In The Booth” freestyle for Charlie Sloth’s BBC 1Xtra show has alone had over 7.5 million views, while his debut solo mixtape, “Pure Koke: Volume 1” sold over 10,000 copies completely independently.
A product of the notoriously tough Stonebridge estate, K Koke evokes the trials and tribulations of street life throughout his provocative lyricisms. Despite some brushes with the law, he set his sights on a different path after having his daughter, now aged six. Messing about with music over the years with mates on the estate, Koke began to seriously direct all of his energies after featuring on Suspectent’s 2007 mixtape, “Suspect Volume 1: Under Surveillance”. From there, his lyrical artistry was unquestioned, with word slowly spreading from NW10 to rap fans around the country and the world.
“I don’t really know why people related to me,” Koke admits. “I just know that they were digging me after that mixtape. Maybe cos it’s real, they can feel what I’m saying. My story relates to a lot of people’s stories, my experience relates to a lot of people’s experiences.”
“All my experiences, I’ve learnt off the road; I just do me; I do what I’m supposed to do when I’m supposed to do it.” The redemptive, string laden “Letter Home” sees Koke write to his mum from jail, asking her to look after his daughter. “I mention my daughter in a lot of tracks because she’s the reason why I’m still here, why I’m focused. I’d probably be dead or in jail if she weren’t here and that’s real talk. She’s the real reason why I had to fix up.”
“Note To God” is similarly thoughtful; addressing the man upstairs the Jadakiss, Eminem, 2PAC and Biggie fan breaks down the everyday challenges he continues to deal with. “I tell him how I’m living, how I’m thinking, the situation I’m in, the predicaments I face now. Nothing ain’t really changed, we’re still in the building process. I’m still out here, I still live in Stonebridge.”
For Koke, music is more than fun, or a way to escape the streets. As cliché as it may sound, rap is his therapy. “As a man, I don’t really talk to people a lot; I find it hard to express my feelings, so music was the best way to get my thoughts out on paper, otherwise I’d have everything bottled up in my head and I’d explode.”
One of the most exciting emerging artists in the UK, his enigmatic, emotion-soaked delivery is in turns conceptual, literal and esoteric. Adept at delivering a number of flows, with a mastery of metaphor and a preference for the conceptual, K. Koke is one of the most important voices of this generation.
Where once this troubled teenager who has in many way “literally fought” to get to where he is now, was one of the problems on the estate, his goal now is to help those same kids who he feels are all too often ignored by society. “I’ve done some projects in Brixton, I went and helped kids write some lyric and make some music. I want to do something in Stonebridge, I want to set up a music course and a studio to keep kids off the road. Because they’ve got nowhere to go, no youth clubs. And then people want to wonder why the youth is running around doing madness.”
In 2013, voices like that of K. Koke are as relevant and vital as the Jay-Z’s, Drake’s or Lil Wayne’s of this world. No longer in the shadow of the US, British Hip-Hop is as, if not more, important as their American counterparts. “I just do what I do. I’m English; I’m from the UK, I’m not trying to box myself in,” says Koke. “I’m just someone out of the hood trying to make something out of nothing.”