FROM BARLESTONE TO THE WORLD, MEET: COMPREHEND
Hendrik Olderwarris, also known as CompreHend, stopped by after work for a chat about his musical projects, the Leicester hiphop scene and how he started out as rapper
His journey into the world of hiphop and MCing started with his mates spitting bars with the occasional brandy: “I started music because I used to freestyle with my mates, have a brandy or something on the weekend, just have a bit of fun with it really. My mates were proper rappers doing videos online and all of that stuff, I didn’t think it would be the path I would end up going down.”
The 23 year-old found his passion for hiphop through the honesty and truth behind the lyrics: “My friends started showing me underground UK rappers like Lowkey, Akala, Logic, people like that.
“I just fell in love with what they were talking about, you know like substance, proper real shit that they were talking about. So that really got me started and then because hiphop is what they showed me, it’s just what I got into. I explored other ones but the truth resinated with me.”
Fubar Radio are always bringing in upcoming, talented artists into the cypher amongst some big names in the scene. Oldewarris told me about how he’s appeared on there three times: “I just watched one on Youtube one day, subscribed to them, and then I realised at the end or in the middle they had a link to where you can get on the show.
“I just remember sending an email thinking, please say yes please say yes, and then they were like, yeah come up. So I drove down to London, did it, and they said to come back so I drove back there a different month and did it and the went back again, so I've been on there three times.”
With the UK oozing out exciting artists and diverse content on a daily basis, Oldewarris stressed the importance of having more channels to support these musicians: “I think we need more channels, like big channels pushing UK rappers. I see everyone on JDZ, P110, Mixtape Madness or Link Up TV, I know they’re not hiphop artists but that’s the only place most people can go.
“As for hiphop I only really know about GlobalFaction and SBTV maybe, if they’ll allow certain people on. Otherwise I think the UK scene is popping for hiphop, I just think everyone’s far too underground than they should be, struggling to make a living and that, and there’s so many sick hiphop artists.”
With the power that lyrics can have on an active audience, Oldewarris mentioned the responsibility artists have in regard to what they are preaching: “From listening to like Akala and Lowkey and them sort of people, I’ve realised that everyone who raps has in someway a responsibility to whatever they're talking about.
“People will follow at some point, no matter how big they are, so not just because it was a responsibility but more because that’s what I wanted to push. I’ve just kind of chosen to go down the conscious path, but I’m just trying to give people alternative ways of thinking or ideas they might not have thought about.”
I'M JUST TRYING TO GIVE PEOPLE ALTERNATIVE WAYS OF THINKING OR IDEAS THEY MIGHT NOT HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT
Hiphop, compared to most genres, has a strong history in promoting activism and acting against the wrongdoings of society. He explained to me how this could be down to the historical past of the genre: “I think it’s the history, I think if you date it back to the 80s, with Kool G Rap people like that back, back, back in the day. A lot of old school people were doing it for the partying, but then it evolved, it became almost a subbranch of hiphop with people like NWA, some of DMX. A subbranch became sort of anarchism, or because it was oppressed black males and that was their life.
“They were talking about their lives, real life, the system, what it’s doing to the them and what they’re doing and that resonated with me more than the partying side.”
His love for truthful lyricism is what sticks him to hiphop: “I just love people talking the truth to a beat, with a catchy hook chorus and you can have that walking around with you all day in your head. I believe very much in the power of what you speak materialises in someway, what your inside voice says to yourself and what you say outside. I think if you’re thinking the right things then it will either influence you or other people, so for me it’s that side of things.”
Mental health and substance addiction is an apparent trend that appears in the hiphop community far too regularly, Oldewarris has set up donations to two charities helping those in need through the profits made from his recent compilation album: “I decided that £2 of every copy would go to two charities in Leicester. So there’s Leicestershire Action for Mental Health Project, LAMP, which deal with mental health. Then there’s another one, Dear Albert, which helps with addiction in Leicester, Rutland and surrounding areas, which helps people fight addiction and stuff like that.
“I've met both the charities, been to their offices, spoke to their people, and I donate monthly. I'm not an angel on that front myself, it’s something I personally deal and have dealt with, so that’s why I wanted to try give back towards helping people in a similar situation.”
One topic that is channeled through his music is the battle with self-belief, an ongoing struggle many artists deal with: “I feel like it doesn't matter how much someone says you’re good, or you’ve done this well, I’ll always be my own worst critic. Sometimes I think I'm harsher on myself than I need to be, so I am my own worst enemy in that sense.
“I’d say that’s the biggest thing to get over is believing in myself and knowing I can do it, and I am good, I'm not terrible but you hear that in my raps anyway. I do address it, it’s weird: I channel it into my music, the idea that I don't think I'm good enough at music, so it’s a good oxymoron, almost.”
There is a plethora of talented artists in and around the city of Leicester, Olderwarris went onto say: “There’s a lot of good artists, could be more. My only issue is with Leicester shows are that they play a lot of the same people, but because I'm included in that I can’t really moan. It’s popping man, and I feel like there’s too many sub-groups of people, I feel like Leicester needs to be more unified with their music.
“Lots of different genres are mates and have sort of come together, but I think the whole scene should come together more in Leicester. I’ve seen it in places like Nottingham and other cities, they’re very, very unified and I think it should be more so here. Otherwise it’s popping man, lots of amazing artists.”
For hiphop nights the 2funky Music Cafe is definitely an option worth looking out for, as Olderwarris told me: “Music Cafe are where they are 90% of the time, they've had everyone from hiphop down. They’ve had Wu Tang, KRS One, Kool G Rap. They’ve also had Jeru the Damaja, they've had Mobb Deep there, they've had everyone bro.
“The thing is not a lot of people know about it so it’s a bit crazy, but you’ve just got to know where to look I think, and that’s the problem though it shouldn't be that you need to know where to look. It should be every where, in your face, this is a hiphop night come here. But Vijay, the owner of the Music Cafe, and Vijay Umrao, who owns Eava FM, there’s too many people to mention, but there are a lot of people putting effort into making sure Leicester hiphop gets heard, and I rate these people for it.”
UK hiphop has been considered too underground, with many artists not getting the exposure they deserve. Olderwarris ended the interview on a note about UK hiphop entering the mainstream: “I think it should be mainstream, if hiphop was mainstream man that would be mad. Just being able to say all the same stuff, but radios don't want to promote that stuff, the people at the top don't want us to hear the kind of messages that are being spread through hiphop as you know.
“So it’ll never be mainstream but they’d rather promote sex, drugs and violence and all of that to keep us brainwashed. But yeah man, UK hiphop is the one bro.”
January 14th 2019