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Wednesday, 01 February 2012 12:25

Professor Green

School's In

‘Alive Till I’m Dead’ was his breaking debut; one year on, sophomore release of ‘At Your Inconvenience’ came as an intimate portrayal of the life of an artist who managed to crush the music scene overnight. But Professor Green’s success is now a decade in its making, following the inadvertent discovery of his ability to rap at the age of 18.

From the plethora of media coverage concentrating on the pop-culture-entertainment side of his niche, including the obvious comparisons to the likes of Eminem, it’s easy to focus on Green’s aesthetic rather than the challenge of setting free such a personal chronicle. “I found it a bit of a worry, because when people heard it, what they were effectively commenting on was my life,” comments Professor Green, real name Stephen Manderson, on his latest studio release, ‘At Your Inconvenience’.

Always writing from personal experience, even when the lyric may seem to be coming from another’s perspective, the course of creating this album became a progression of his internal understanding and the discovery of what was really inside him.

“For me, writing it was quite — and I know it’s a cliché — it was quite a therapeutic process. It helped me understand what was going on in my head better than anything else. Talking to people doesn’t really help me figure much out. There’s something quite challenging about it — but I don’t only take from negative situations, you know there are happy records, I do get happy like twice a month,” he laughs.

Green’s lyrics are filled with irony, honesty and humour, and this sharp sense translates to his telephone manner, as he describes what he really thought of his comparisons to the aforementioned Eminem and, shockingly, Vanilla Ice.

“A lot of people are not really a fan of the genre, so they only know the rappers that they hear of commercially – not to say that (Eminem) is a commercial rapper, he has more than paid his dues ... There are worse people to be compared to, the best I can (do) is to take it with a pinch of salt. It’s a bit of a wind-up sometimes … but I suppose the one similarity is that we both tell our stories,” he asserts.

A certain stigma has easily attached itself to white rappers within the industry, albeit this view is not held by Green, specifically due to his multicultural upbringing in Hackney, England. “We all live among each other; there’s no segregation here. In my (class) at school there were only two white kids: one was me and the other (one) was Turkish. I come from a very, very, very multicultural background; I’m lucky for that, because people here don’t tend to look at people by their colour.

“(England) is more class divided,” he continues, “and even with that there has to be a certain amount of council housing — the Square Mile — you all live on top of each other, you’re all among each other, which makes it such a special place.”

Even through his turbulent history, Manderson’s appreciation of where he’s from became clear, and this was indeed the path that led him onto a career which was, in effect, uncovered by accident with a teasing push from friends. This path ultimately took him into the rap-battle arena, a space in which he rapidly gained respect through his talent and quick wit, but additionally a niche which left him with a lot to prove.

“I did have a lot to prove because there is quite a heavy stigma attached to battle rappers in that they can’t often make music: they’re great at battling, but they can’t really make music that people want to listen to. I’m just glad to have broken that mode. It’s nice to be the exception to the rule.”

Already working on follow-up material to ‘At Your Inconvenience’, Green says it would be easy for him to go in-depth when describing the details of the impending, new album — a title for which has already been established — but these minutiae he would not give away, keeping them as “something to surprise people with”.

“It has pretty much been studio hibernation this past week. It’s rare that I get so much time in the studio, but I’ve just been taking every waking moment ... For me, on my days off I come to the studio, this part of it is all still fun for me and that’s the most important thing. I think as long as I still like that, I will be able to continue to put out music. I hope that never changes! Parts of it are work, but the studio I don’t look at as work — that could never be work. I enjoy writing music too much.”

Admittedly a meticulous writer, Green expresses that he doesn’t listen to his albums following their release. This can be explained as self-preservation due to the criticism he places on himself, and the internal questions of ‘why didn’t I do this instead?’.

“The thing with music, and I’m sure it’s the same with any kind of art form, nothing is ever finished. I don’t listen to my albums once they’re out, if I did it would drive me crazy, because you progress, you change, and you hear things differently. You can’t find perfect, you strive for it, but it comes to the point where you have to just let something go.”

Professor Green’s return to Australia falls to the annual Future Music Festival, a run of dates which additionally mark his inaugural Australian tour in his own right, something which he stressed was meant to come earlier than the forthcoming shows. “I was actually meant to come back in 2008, but it was a toss up between finishing the album or coming to Australia to tour. And as much as I would have liked to have what would affectively have been a holiday for me, it was the album.”

The ten years of Green’s work haven’t changed his views and love of what he does, admitting that a permanence of performing and writing is still his main goal. “To be able to continue to perform myself, by doing something that I love, to still have my music well received: that would be more than enough for me to be honest. That, and world domination,” he exclaims in jest.

Alongside New Order, Swedish House Mafia and Fatboy Slim, Professor Green plays Future Music Festival at Doomben Racecourse March 3.


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