Lecturer at British Virgin Islands or Caribbean Hip-Hopper? BVI’s Sowande is doing music video with Lauryn Hill
HL Stoutt Community College (HLSCC) Lecturer, Sowande, has just released his first rap single “I Wanna Fly.” WSD sat down with Sowande to talk about his new single, who is the best rapper in the BVI and what a college lecturer is doing rapping.
WSD: We know you as a poet. So why have you ventured into rap music?
Sowande: I have been listening to rap since I was 10 years old. My two cousins introduced me to rap. One was Kerry and the other was Kamau, who is now a professional music producer/engineer in the industry. I remember us rapping at the student council concert at the now Elmore Stoutt High School in 1996. I remember us freestyling and rapping with a karaoke machine.
WSD: Who were some of the artists that influenced you back then?
Sowande: I remember us watching NWA, KRS and A Tribe Called Quest on Rap City. We used to go to St. Thomas and buy all the latest cassette tapes. Artists/Groups like Nas, Outkast and Tupac made a special impact on me and were my first inspirations.
WSD: Is it an easy transition to move from freestyle poetry to composing lyrics for a rap song?
Sowande: Rap is just poetry with a beat. So I actually rapped before I was a poet. Rap is an acronym for Rhythm And Poetry. Poetry really helps in rap because you have to say something with substance rather than just depending on your flow, your voice and the beat.
WSD: What kind of themes and topics will your music focus on?
Sowande: My music deals with a wide range of issues. The first single that I am releasing, “I Wanna Fly,” deals with wanting to escape all the negativity around me. “Hold On” is an inspirational song to encourage people to have faith in the midst of their trials and tribulations. “Gold Mine” is showing people that we have a lot of talent here in the Virgin Islands that we are ignoring. “Messed Up A Good Thing” is a song that acknowledges all the errors men make in relationships and seeks the forgiveness of their partners.
WSD: Tell us a bit more about the first single “I Wanna Fly.”
Sowande: It is a song that addresses all the sorrows experience in life. Many people can identify with feelings of sadness, and it is natural to want to get away from all of the problems. My mother often to say, “if I had wings, I would fly,” so she inspired some of the lyrics. I speak about escaping poverty, rape, murder, child molestation, corruption and many other vices in our society. I also mention that we can’t just run away from our problems, but we have to find solutions or the problems will follow us. It is real inspirational; it has a nice melody and beat, and real catchy lyrics and flow. Lincoln Ward features on the song, and I think people will enjoy it.
WSD: What are your plans as artist – videos, further singles and albums?
Sowande: I always wanted to do an album. It’s not to make money but I have fun doing it. I want to help the community by spreading a positive message. I plan to start shooting a music video soon for “I Wanna Fly,” and I will be releasing several other singles and videos including “What We Gonna Do” featuring Lauryn Hill and “Hold On.”
WSD: What can you say to the youth in the Virgin Islands who want to venture into rap?
Sowande: Rap is not just about copying what we see on TV – the way they wear their hats, or how they wear their jeans. It’s not even just about rhyming. It’s about sending a message in a creative way. Rappers have to take a lot of responsibility because they have a lot of influence. We really have to make sure we send messages that will help us fix our problems as a community. So instead of just following BET, be leaders and help the community and not hurt it.
WSD: What do you think people will say about a college lecturer rapping?
Sowande: Most people will not think that college lecturer and rapper go together. They might think its strange. I don’t know why because there are other lecturers who play instruments, sing in choirs and engage in other creative hobbies, but rap usually gets a ‘bad rap’. People see it as being something for people of a certain age to participate in, and many people see it as negative. But I think good music is good music regardless of the age of the artists; I think that rap can be very positive; and I think the artform should get as much respect as playing a violin.
WSD: Just for fun, who do you think is the best rapper in the BVI?
Sowande: There is no best. We are all different and bring our own knowledge and personality to the table. I want to be the best Sowande I can be. Other rappers should want to be as good as they can be. I do have a lot of respect for rappers like Nuruddeen and Aaron though. I draw inspiration from all those who are doing their thing locally.
WSD: Where do you see VI music heading in the future?
Sowande: With Iyaz, Kamau, Alton, Lincoln Ward and Rock City, the world can see that we have a lot of talent in the Virgin Islands. I believe that is just the tip of the iceberg. We have so many other artists with great potential. We just need to continue to work hard and the sky is the limit.