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November 10, 2022

With words you always take a stand: music, rap. But let us be artists

The voice of Roy Raheem, interviewed by Sara Manisera, FADA Collective.

Blackn[è]ss fest is the first festival in Italy which presents a re-elaborated version of the African lineage universe. Events and roundtables are organized both to think about the concept of being black, following a path of decolonization of the language, and to discuss topics such as mental health issues linked to racial profiling, discrimination, racism, and also music, cinema, media and representation of black people . 

Voice Over Foundation chose to accompany the festival in this path and it decided to tell stories about it through the protagonists' voices during the whole year. 

Interview with Roy Raheem, rapper and artist.

Q: What's your name, can you tell us who you are and what you do? 

A: I'm Roy Raheem, full name Sadiq Marco Oladipupo, I'm an artist, born in Veneto but living in Milan for about five years. I moved to Milan for music and modeling work. Sadly Milan is the only place where you can work with these things. I've been making music for a while and somehow making music can't help but be political because with words you always take a position. 

Q: When did you first encounter music? Is there someone or something that led you to meet music? 

A: It all started by chance, from a game of basketball in high school. Playing with different classes, I noticed a boy dressed in hip-hop attire. I was listening to rap at the time but it had never occurred to me to do so. He came up to me and said "in my opinion you should rap". In the school we attended we were the only two people rapping. We recognized each other from afar and from that moment we started recording songs together in a little studio he had at home. He then stopped but I moved on but we still work together with other roles.  

Q: Who are the artists and female artists that inspired you? 

A: First and foremost, the cornerstones Jay-Z, 2Pac, Biggy, Nas, all rappers who had the gangsta attitude but still had that "conscious" part and especially soul. There was always a message or at least a certain vibe they wanted to get across and then Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Micheal Jackson. 

Q: You combine various genres, beats, sounds. Why? 

A: I come from classic rap, the 2000s rap then going to London and touring in England a little bit the sound changed. It was always rap-hip hop but with other influences. Then, I have to admit that I always listened to a lot of rock, heavy metal... let's say rap was the medium. I don't even know if it's correct to talk about genres: if there is a tempo and you can rap for me it's fine. A lot of the things I write I do without a base. The base comes later. 

Q: How does the creative process take place? 

A: I have different phases. The one where I'm out and about, I'm walking around, I'm on the subway and I'm thinking about a concept, a thought, words. When I'm at home, however, in my room, I rehearse the basics and slowly the song takes shape. 

Q: Why did you leave? You are one of many who chose to leave but at some point you came back. Why? 

A: I left Italy as soon as I finished school because I didn't have a job, I couldn't find anything, and then I wanted to get a resume and some experience outside. Just before I left I had released my first album with the guys in my area in Veneto and it had done quite well. So I experienced this thing of having to run away to London for the material work, leaving out a little bit the music and the album, also because at that time there were less means, less listening. It was a painful situation. And I came back, let's say, for the music. When I was in London, everybody was telling me "write in English," but I wanted to do it in Italian, and fortunately I made that decision.

Q: We met at the Blackn[è]ss fest. In your talk with Lina Simons you said many things. Lina for example said "let us just be artists" but at the same time art and music also serve as a form of vehicle for a political message. What do you think about that? Is that the case? Do you feel the need for it?

A: I agree with Lina, let us be artists. I often noticed that people asking me for the feat, they wanted us to do the racism piece, and it bothered me a little bit after a while because it was like they were relegating you to a box. You are that and you have to talk about that. It's something that bothers me and that's why in my early work I avoided talking about racism, even saying the word racism. I'm from Veneto, so it's a strange situation. There is definitely a leghist legacy but I don't think they really believe it. I think they have become automated. In general, especially in music, I didn't want you to be relegated to just that. At the same time, I think the message is important to give. In the song "Come LVI", I make fun of their stereotypes, their bullshit, and for me that is an intelligent way to protest. I'm not complaining, I'm having fun. I'm making my music, my songs, and I'm intelligently conveying a message, through provocation. 

Q: Roy from 10 years ago. And Roy from today. How much have you changed? 

A: As an artist I am happy because the Roy of 10 years ago would never have done and written the things I am working on today. Let's just say that I've also gotten to know my voice more, so I've also gotten to know myself more. On a personal level, I have lost some of the instinct and recklessness that I had before-I was really a hothead! 

Q: We always talk about rights. Being an independent artist. What does that mean? And who do you collaborate with? 

A: Being independent means that a little bit you have to know how to do everything or at least get a general idea of what the supply chain is. The Internet is a double-edged sword. On the one hand you have more visibility, on the other hand there are people creating content every day. I'm very instinctive and I follow my mood, generally swapping tracks and ideas with a friend of mine, working on them several times and then taking everything to another friend of mine for the finalization stage. I like different moods and genres, so I work with different people who give me all different stimuli. So for me a piece is the result of the work of many people. With the group Equipe 54, our method is to get together in a room and do everything together. From writing to melody to concept. I also like to write a lot. It always depends on the project and what you want to express. 

Q: Dreams and projects in the drawer (if they can be said). 

A: I would like to be able to continue working with people and artists who are part of my network. There is an album in the works that will be released soon, and let's say what will come out can be called new blues. 

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