Cambridge alumnus and rising spoken-word star, George the Poet has been named as number five on the BBC’s Sound of 2015 shortlist. The list, compiled annually by DJs, industry critics and broadcasters features artists expected to make an impact on the British music scene during the coming year.
The first of the top-five artists to be announced last week, the 23-year-old King’s graduate’s success represents a breakthrough moment for spoken-word and performance poetry. Real-name George Mpanga, the Politics, Psychology and Sociology graduate has self-admittedly tried to “give up” rap, a genre that he feels “squanders” opportunities to promote social change in its focus on violence.
The son of Ugandan immigrants, raised on the Stonebridge Park estate in north west London, George relates his experience of growing up in the inner city. He emphasises his desire to use his music and poetry for social good. His lyrics deal with powerful themes of violence, social exclusion and teenage pregnancy.
George believes that his experiences have ingrained in him a strong sense of injustice and idealism, an awareness that was honed by his study of Sociology during his time at Cambridge. Reflecting on his time spent supervising George during his time at King’s, Dr Jeff Miley remembers him as a standout student:
“I have since followed his rise to fame, and have been extremely impressed with his ability to infuse his poetry with subtle, sophisticated and very much needed social and political analysis.”
In a recent interview with the BBC, George explains how: “I remember trying to fight everything, trying to save everyone from every calamity. At some point I realised that I’m not going to be able to save everyone, but that when I do have the platform I will do everything to enact structural change”.
Dr Sharath Shrinivasan, George’s Director of Studies in his final year at King’s, recalls a student who was “political in the fullest sense”, and ready “to change the world with words”.
Fan and fellow north west Londoner, Diamond Abdulrahim, a second-year undergraduate at Sidney Sussex commented:
“George the Poet is reviving the art of spoken word with its urban, hip-hop roots. His lyricism is unparalleled; he’s a storyteller and a true artist. Cambridge should be very proud.”
First and foremost, Mpanga hopes that his success will encourage and inspire others to follow suit in pursuing social change through whatever medium: “I want people to be aware of their power”, he claims.
He is currently preparing to release his debut album, The Chicken and the Egg on Island Records, while also preparing to publish his first collection of poetry. The winner of the BBC’s Sound of 2015 list was announced on Friday as Years and Years.