Genesis Elijah interview: “My music is Brixton”

Five years on from the release of his debut album Deh Pon Road, South London hailing emcee Genesis Elijah spoke to SoulCulture shortly before the recent release of his sophomore album Before I Was Famous – a collaborative project with Krate Krusaders – to talk about the impact of growing up in Brixton, celebrating the musical talents of others, being inspired by Stevie Wonder and his favourite classic UK Hip Hop albums.

SoulCulture: Where does your stagename ‘Genesis Elijah’ come from and what influenced it?

Genesis Elijah: Genesis has biblical connotations – it comes from Hebrew and means ‘the beginning;. My [nick-] name used to be Nemesis back when I was eight or nine, then I decided to change it to Genesis because it was a bit more fitting. But at the time there were a few [people with the name] Genesis about, then I added the name Elijah, because was one of the most powerful prophets and [knowing] that was stuck with me as well. From there I just felt that the names went well together.

SC: Who are your musical influences?

GE: Hip Hop wise; people who get their own influences from outside of Hip Hop influence me. Artists like Andre 3000 [of OutKast], Kanye West, Ghostface Killah [of Wu-Tang], MF DOOM [now DOOM].

I like artists that look outside the box to make their music. I kind of like music that’s made from scratch man. The idea that Stevie Wonder sat down and wrote “Ribbon In The Sky” – with no samples – from scratch, blows my mind! I don’t even understand how he did it. Where did he get the idea to come up with that riff? For me, that’s the kind of music, I’d love to make one day.

I [also] like a lot of Roots on the other side of things, I like Dub – Lee Scratch, King Tubby, that kind of stuff – as well, where you’re just taking a sound and changing it.

SC: Would you say being from Brixton has had a profound influence on the type of music you make?

GE: I left Brixton when I was 12, but when I was growing up ‘being from Brixton’ was something you were proud of. You could go anywhere in the world, be it New York or Jamaica, if you’re asked, “Where you’re from” and you answer “Brixton,” they know. You aint gotta say London, just “Brixton”.

When a lot of artists come over here the first place they want to go it Brixton. You could almost say Brixton’s name and reputation exceeds what it actually is because Brixton ain’t what it used to be – a lot of things have changed.

With me coming from Brixton I’ve always repped Brixton even when I left. It will always be that way, no matter where I live; I will always rep Brixton because that something that you’ll always be so proud of.

My music has always been a representation of the life that I lived in Brixton, the life that I got from Brixton and what I got from Brixton. My music is Brixton and a lot of artists from Brixton would say the same thing.

SC: One thing about Americans is that they know how to celebrate themselves and others. Similar to Nas’ celebration of Rakim on the song “U.B.R. (Unauthorized Biography of Rakim)”, would you both write a song in celebration of an artist from the UK (or abroad) and who would you write it about?

GE: I’ve done it man, if you listen to “Dedication 05” (of The Industrial Revolution Mixtape), that was me bigging up [British Hip Hop veteran] Rodney P. To me Rodney P. is the Godfather of UK Hip Hop.

There have been so many artists that I have been inspired by – for example Skinnyman, Blak Twang.. – and I would do a track about any of them. I’ve never been afraid to big up other emcees. I’m not one of them emcees that don’t like bigging up others.

SC: What is it about many artists over here in the UK that have been, on many occasions, generally uncomfortable with saying which other UK artists they’re a fan of? Is it the UK artists as a whole or is it a generational thing?

GE: Artists on a whole are very sensitive and there are a lot of egos in the game and because of this it just makes them too scare to big up another artist. But to be honest, I can’t put my finger on it… all I know is that’s not me man. I’m not afraid to give another artist their respect.

SC: What albums have you listened to over the last few years that you would deem a classic?

GE: There have been classic albums, especially UK Hip Hop albums like, Taskforce’s Music From the Corner, Skinnyman’s Council State Of Mind, Klashnekoff’s The Sagas Of, and pretty much every album Jehst has done has been a classic.

To me, there are a bunch of albums that you have to have [in your collection] if you’re a fan of UK Hip Hop. You can’t say that you’re a fan of UK Hip Hop and not have Roots Manuva’s Brand New Second Hand and Run Come Save Me.

SC: With your latest album title being Before I Was Famous, do you believe that this body of work in particular will have people saying 2011 is will be your year?

GE: To be honest, it’s an ironic title. It was never meant to be serious, but the fact is as of where we stand right now, this is the most famous I’ve ever been.

SC: Finally, what’s the one thing you want to achieve next year?

GE: I want a video on MTV. I want a YouTube video that gets 100,000 views. I wanna get them Lowkey numbers.

Genesis Elijah’s current album with Krate Krusaders, Before I Was Famous, is out now via Outta Town Sounds; purchase via Amazon.

Genesis Elijah online: Official Website / @GenesisElijah / Facebook / YouTube

Photography by the talented Mr Neil Raja for SoulCulture.