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My Journey So Far - ASKEM

I grew up as a single child being raised by my mother in South London during the 70's, A time where there were many cultural divides and problems, there was major issues with the Northern Irish conflict with mainland bombings on UK soil. There were several militant movements that were anti anything that was not white, movements such as the National Front, thugs who wore skinhead haircuts and hobnail boots and hated anyone of colour. London also saw police victimisation of black people with a stop and search policy called 'suss' which was pure racial profiling. This resulted in riots in parts of South London and major social problems.

I consider that I was a fortunate son, although I lived in poverty as my father was not around and my dear mother struggled and worked night and day to put food on the table, I say I was fortunate because given all the chaos surrounding me I was absorbed by so many different cultures in a melting pot of Afro-Caribbean, African, Indian and Pakistani friends around me. This melting pot allowed me to see beyond the chaos, beyond the things that could corrupt or influence a young vulnerable mind into becoming a bigot or adopt some deluded form of national pride for being white. At home we only had a black and white TV with just 3 channels, so the radio, vinyl and cassette when it became popular were my window to the world. I remember hearing my mother listing to Teddy Pendergrass, Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye on the radio, in fact it is through Marvin's music that I was given my name by my mother from the song 'Abraham, Martin and John'.

Gaye's 10th Studio Album "That's The Way Love Is"

So music became something that, although we had nothing, was our window to another world. A place where there was none of the sadness or problems we lived amongst. Bam!! the 80's arrived and along with the new decade, pop music came. I wasn't that keen on it, it didn't speak a great deal to me, but then my friends at school started talking about people like Doug E fresh and started beatboxing at school. We started hearing the likes of LL Cool J, I was hooked... I loved it, this was like inventing the wheel as far as I was concerned. My musical journey continued then BANG I heard for the first time Public Enemy and my mind was blown. The sound alone was something unheard before but the lyrics, the message was an education and a revelation. This is where I fell in love with hip hop and everything associated with it. I used to sit in class at school dreaming of becoming a graphic designer or an artist but because of the challenges around me and at home, I lost interest and knew I just needed to get a job to help my mother at home.

Public Enemy, 1987 in Hyde Park, London (Getty Images)

So we fast forward 25 something years and I am working as manager for several different companies, doing well but unhappy, carrying the mental weight of being a number in a broken system. So I start painting for the purpose to keep myself occupied and maybe sell the odd painting here and there. The work I was doing from 2009 to 2012 was mainly surrealism and very dark, but critically acclaimed and successful and I sold every piece.

2012 hits and I sink mentally, finding the new found success confusing, difficult to deal with and hard to continue painting work that was so dark and pouring my soul onto the canvas. I hit a point where I contemplate ending my life as I am at my lowest point in my life. A few months pass, my friends from back in school days encourage me to return to the craft, I am still not sure. Then my friend takes me to see Public Enemy in London to try and cheer me up. I again am electrified and reborn, At that point I realise that my saviour and love Hip-Hop was the path I had to take my work, I realised that it helped me grow as a youth and would now help me rise once again.

I realised that art is life, art is an expression of who and what we are and that Hip-Hop, the message the culture was what I was at my core and what I loved even in my lowest points of life. So then my journey began..... And today it continues and grows in my heart and amongst the people I have been so fortunate to meet and work alongside. Hip-Hop changed my life, saved my life and is my life. It is the legacy I will leave for my children and the future generations. It is my contribution to the beautiful experience and greatest work of art that is life itself.

The story never ends.

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