Over the weekend, the Young Tate Collective let the youth take over the halls of the Tate Britain, swapping hushed gallery voices for loud-ass grime and moshing. The event focussed on identity, an important, if not, critical conversation that’s too infrequently discussed. The day included short iPhone-shot films that explored different definitions of identity, workshops on beat boxing and street art, badge making, and live music by Shea Burke, Terminite, ThisIsDA, Ms Banks, and Novelist.
The event not only broke boundaries with its venue, but with the ideals discussed. It celebrated the uniqueness of everyone there. At one point, during a conversation with Radio 1Xtra youth advisor Jeremiah Emmanuel and NUS vice president Shakira Martin, we all had to turn to the people around us and look them in the eye and tell them they are unique. Too often in a society of conformity, we lose sight of our uniqueness, or sometimes are even told it’s a negative thing when in actuality we should be celebrating our individuality everyday.
South London MC Novelist clearly celebrates his individuality and expresses that through his music, but also wants others to be able to relate to his raps no matter their background. Hearing Novelist spit fire in a room full of century old art was definitely a unique experience, and he even brought out Murkilla, making it a bit of a grime reunion in the Tate Britain. He also made sure to tell us all to ‘watch out for the art,’ and except for that comment, I probably would’ve completely forgotten I was in an art gallery. It was probably the most hyped (and also probably the sweatiest) I’ve ever been and will ever be in an art gallery. After the show, Novelist was chill enough to spare a few moments to sit down with us for a few questions discussing identity, his music, and the event. Check out the transcript and a short clip from his performance below.
This event’s about identity so what does identity mean to you?
It just means maintaining who you are at all times, like, not changing for anything.
Do your raps play into a part of your identity?
Yeah, cus some of them are quite anti-social, some of them are, um… They’re all jovial, really, and they’re young, and like I want to maintain my image at all times. I don’t want anyone to think ‘ah nov’s being a bit weird, or he’s not acting himself’ so I rap my lyrics in a way that really like ties into how I am on a day-to-day basis, do you feel me?
On that note, what message are you really trying to get across in your music? Are your raps more focussed on you and who you are as a person, or are you trying to, like, emit a certain message with it?
Well nah, it’s more for everyone my age. Like people who don’t come from where I come from, that're my age, can still sing my lyrics, and feel, like, involved. Cos, I just talk from the perspective of a teenager, obviously I have my own spin on it. I’m different to every other person, but I like to be quite general with how I MC.
Who are your greatest musical influences?
There are so many, it would be weird to say, like, one.
For sure, not easy to narrow it down. So last question, what does it mean to you to be playing at this event and venue?
Well, a fact about me that a lot of people actually don’t know is that I actually love art, so, like, I’ve come here before just to look around. So, like, to be in here doing what I do is kinda cool, cus I’m almost like an art exhibition. Do you know what I mean? So I appreciate it, I like it a lot.
Yeah, it’s not everyday you have moshing in the Tate.
Yeah, aha, in an art gallery, you know what I mean!
For more from Novelist, check out his Soundcloud and catch him performing at Bugged Out Weekender in January.