As much at home on the streets of London as he is performing his poetry to a crowd, James Massiah keeps things real
Mixing elements of music and his own experiences, south Londoner James Massiah uses his poetic verses to illustrate the shifts in London’s rapidly changing “ends”. In his portrayal of gentrification, or a story about being accosted on the bus home by a guy with a knife who asks what part of town he reps, his poems paint a vivid – and realistic – picture of London youth. So when he says: “In a part of town where working class is both a talisman and curse,” you can name the areas without any further prompts.
Massiah takes inspiration from grime, house and even the King James version of the bible. He marries the unlikely union throughout his work; praising nightlife effortlessly turns to questioning the “unknown, unknown, unknown” afterlife, as in a recent collaboration with The xx for their recent Night and Day festival. Having teamed up with street-inspired designer Liam Hodges in a project connecting emerging designers with grime and rap artists, including Novelist and Little Simz, it’s clear that this poet and DJ is just as firmly embedded in the fabric of London’s streets and nightlife as he is in its ever-expanding creative scene.