It’s worth acknowledging that rappers like Stormzy and Dave have put UK rap on the map. What was once a neglected underground scene is now thriving, becoming fully recognised worldwide.
However, many still question the authenticity behind UK rap, seeing it merely as a platform to boast rather than discussing social issues occurring in their local communities.
This is an accusation that could never be directed at up-and-coming rapper Proph, however. Proph, whose real name is Bhishma Asare, is using his music to speak out on knife crime to help save lives.
“I want whoever is affected to relate to my music.” He wants to make people think about something that they may not normally think about; he says: “Example: let’s say a rich kid from Essex hears the song Blue Tears or Flower from The South [a song where the rapper opens up about his life growing up in south London] and they listen to it and they hear that this is happening. They may not be able to relate to it but it may trigger a thought, they might use whatever platform they have to try and help stop it.”
Just yesterday, the Office for National Statistics announced that knife crime has increased by 21 per cent over in the last 12 months.
“It’s all around us, all the time,” says Proph. “Growing up, we had people that would bring guns into school; people that have knives in school. Even in college, we’re talking 16/17-year-olds – there was a week where three people were stabbed right outside. Knife crime was a big thing. Now it’s getting worse though.”
Proph was first exposed to knife crime at the age of 13: “I was in the park playing basketball with a group of my friends and there was another group of people on the other side. Two guys came into the park and knocked the cage, put a knife to him, and robbed all his stuff.”
The rapper’s music embodies conscious rap, a subgenre of hip hop that was developed in the 1980s as a form of activism.
In Proph’s music, he engages in a form of social consciousness. His song, Blue Tears, is an example of this. The rapper touches on the severity of the knife crime drawing on his own personal loss of a friend who was stabbed.
The 26-year-old rapper moved to Thornton Heath from Clapham when he was 12: “Anywhere in south London, you’re going to experience [knife crime], or you’re going to see it. But moving to Thornton Heath, seeing things in Thornton Heath, opened my eyes faster than they needed to be opened.
“My childhood was still good, but I saw things that I shouldn’t have seen or, that the average child may not have seen.”
Apprehensive to expand on what he had seen, the rapper said he did not want to go into details.
However, Proph is determined that his music should make a positive difference: “Music is powerful; everybody listens to music,” he says. “So, it’s all about falling on the right ears and using platforms to get to the youth themselves. By falling on the right ears, it might save one life. One life being saved is better than no lives being saved.”
The rapper thinks that there are other ways to connect to young people too: “It’s about bridging the gap between the police and the youth, and giving the youth another outlet to channel their aggression or their violence towards. It doesn’t need to be a sport; it could be something creative. Just something where they can focus on that and aim to a goal and try to get to that goal.”
When asked about his thoughts on the current rap scene and whether it lives up to its preconceived notions, the rapper commented that he wasn’t impressed.
“If I’m honest with you, I think there’s not really a message in what anyone is talking about, except for a couple of artists. I feel like they should use that platform that they’re on to push out some sort of message, because if you’re not pushing out a message then what are you really talking about?
“Dave and Wretch 32 are the two people that I’d say are rapping some sort of message and the rest of them, they don’t really rap, they sing rap. So, I don’t know. The scene is really interesting but again, it’s always good, the fact that there is big opening for UK rap.
“I just think you should believe in what you talk about. I think you should just always stay true to yourself and, as I say, you have to have awareness of what’s going on around you.”