We talk to the young Somerset House-nominated south London rapper and director about the challenges as an independent artist
Nominated for the “Spirit of Toughness” Award by London’s prestigious creative institution Somerset House, Rakiem “Rax” Dzenyo is a 21-year-old musician and videographer from south London who is being heralded as the next big voice of UK hip hop. Celebrating public nominations, the "Spirit of Toughness" Award has been launched by G Shock and Dazed to recognise emerging talent making a mark despite facing significant obstacles. Embodying the DIY spirit of the Capital’s underground and coming up through the South London ranks, Rax has dug deep to push his creativity with workhorse ideals and limited resources. As seen in his ambitious The Black Crook Project, where he wrote, directed, edited and released an original music video every two weeks, for six months. A feat that garnered him over 200,000 views on YouTube and invitations to play Ronnie Scotts and The Jazz Cafe.
Rax embodies the kind of strength, toughness and fighting spirit we all strive for as a young and active Londoner. He tells us his story and talks about the challenges he’s overcome.
Dazed Digital: Can you introduce your story?
Rax: My inspirations always came from people who had something valuable to say rather than just saying things because they sounded cool. One of my main beliefs are only pursue something if you love it. I learnt very quickly that my love for music is to a different degree. I released a promo when I was 17 entitled The Auditions, we received over 2,000 downloads and gave out an additional 2,000 copies. It created a small buzz and received some attention. But what we really gained from this was an actual understanding of the music industry and plenty of lessons to put into practice.
DD: How did you approach The Black Crook Project? One video, every two weeks for six months?
Rax: I wish I could say it was easy but it was practically the most intense six months of my life. We had to record a track, story board a video, shoot the video, edit it, and promote it, all within two weeks, 13 times! Bear in mind normal life was not on pause! I shoot my own videos alongside a team of two others and edit them the videos myself, so there were many of times we clashed but it only brought us closer together. Perseverance and communication was key. Check this, I remember when we were doing LMAO we had not slept a minute for 72 plus hours.
DD: Can you tell us about the challenges of growing up in south London and becoming an independent artist?
Rax: It’s easy to get misguided in south London, a lot of people do and a lot of talent goes to waste. Growing up in the area, it would have been so easy for me to stray, but keeping your eyes on your goals is a job within itself, let alone attaining those goals. For me, I just tried hard to keep good company and made sure I was always a first grade me not a second grade someone else. Even to date, south London gets worse and not much is done about it. The people are going to make a living anyway they see fit, and if that means crossing paths then so be it.
DD: What are the classic south London preconceptions?
Rax: Ha! Preconceptions of south... Gang crime, violence and lack of opportunity. I don't think there's a good one! It’s always funny when you tell someone you're from south London; their whole aura changes and you get the typical poor jokes. I guess it’s mild ignorance but who cares, I love south London because of the culture. We aren't trying to be anything we're not.
DD: So ultimately, do you think that the UK youth is misguided?
Rax: Nah. Some see a bigger picture, some don't. Everyone learns in their own time, I just think more support could be put into the future of the country. You don't blame the students, you blame the teachers.
Rax’s debut self released mixtape The Pickpocket is available for free download now from his site.
Spirit of Toughness Award: If you know someone who has impressed you with their perseverance and determination then let us know – we will shortlist the best and the voting public will pick the recipient of the £5,000 award