Lowkey

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Lowkey
LowkeyBristol5.jpg
Lowkey performing in Bristol, 21 September 2009
Background information
Birth name Kareem Dennis
Born (1986-05-23) 23 May 1986 (age 28)
London, England
Origin England
Genres Political hip hop, grime, hip hop
Occupation(s) Political activist, musician
Years active 2003–2012 (hiatus)
Labels Mesopotamia Music
SO Empire Recordings
Associated acts

Kareem Dennis (born 23 May 1986[1]), better known by his stage name Lowkey, is an English rapper, musician and political activist of English and Iraqi descent[2] He first became known through a series of mixtapes he released before he was 18,[3] before taking a hiatus from the music business. He would return in 2008 with wider music coverage, featured on BBC Radio[4][5] and appearing at various festivals and concerts including the Electric Proms,[6] Glastonbury, T In The Park and Oxegen[7] in the buildup to his first solo album Dear Listener, as well as collaborating with other famous English musicians to form a supergroup. Though his mainstream support gradually declined due to his outspoken political views, his career continued to go from strength to strength as a solo independent artist, touring in countries all over the world including Lebanon, Australia, Greece, Venezuela, the United States, the West Bank in Palestine, Italy and many more. He released his second solo album Soundtrack to the Struggle (2011) independently on 16 October 2011.

Early life[edit]

Kareem Dennis was born in London to an Iraqi mother[8] and an English father. From the age of twelve he began to rap, initially imitating American rappers but soon using his own accent.[1] He began attending the open mic sessions which took place at the Deal Real record shop on Carnaby Street, Central London.[9] The first time he went he introduced himself as Lowkey and was told there was already a regular there by that name; the two had a rap battle to decide who would continue to use the alias, Kareem emerged victorious.[10] Kareem was stabbed at the age of fifteen; the wound severed two tendons and narrowly missed his ulnar artery.[11]

Music career[edit]

2003–2009: Mixtapes & Dear Listener[edit]

The first part of his mixtape series Key to the Game, was released independently in 2003.[7] Within a year and a half he had released a second and third volume, all of which gained critical acclaim from UK hip hop circles.[3] Though the first volume largely used music from other artists, the second was mostly original work in conjunction with numerous artists and producers while the third, which had no skits or short songs like a traditional mixtape would, was mostly his own work.[7]

While Lowkey the man was busying himself with European tours in support of Immortal Technique, Canibus, and Dead Prez,[7] he began to make musical contacts and set about recording his official debut album. Though stalled by other artistic endeavours, Dear Listener was eventually released in January 2009.[12][13] He bookended the year with another release, Uncensored, with highlights from the entire Key To The Game series and Dear Listener. This was released digitally in December through iTunes.[14]

2009–2012: Soundtrack to the Struggle[edit]

After touring with Immortal Technique the two made a single, "Voices of the Voiceless" which was released in September 2009[15] after a one minute preview was officially released on YouTube.[16]

The second single, "Long Live Palestine" (also known as "Tears to Laughter") was digitally released on 9 March 2009. In December 2009, Lowkey revealed he would release a second part to "Long Live Palestine" featuring international artists including Palestinian rap group DAM, Anglo-Palestinian soloist Shadia Mansour, The Narcicyst from Iraq, Iranian artists Hich Kas and Reveal, Syrian-Lebanese performer Eslam Jawaad and African-American Muslim Hasan Salaam. "Long Live Palestine" was packaged in an EP with Part 1 and the instrumental.[17]

Soundtrack to the Struggle was released on 16 October 2011. The album entered the UK Albums Chart on 23 October at number 57 – becoming Lowkey's first entry on the national charts. In the UK Download Chart, Soundtrack to the Struggle peaked higher than its UK Albums Chart position – at number 14. And in the UK R&B Chart, the album received its highest OCC position, number 6. In the UK Indie Chart, the album peaked at number 9.[18][19][20][21]

2012–present: Musical hiatus[edit]

On 17 April 2012, Lowkey officially put his musical career on hiatus, announcing the news on Facebook. He said that after months of contemplation, he has decided to "step away from music and concentrate on my studies". With this, he announced that he would deactivate his Facebook page, which had over 180,000 followers.[22]

Collaborations[edit]

Lowkey joined a hip-hop group called Poisonous Poets with which was formed by rapper Reveal and released one self-titled mixtape in 2005.[23] Poisonous Poets (sometimes known as Double P) the group also consisted of Doc Brown whom Lowkey met at Real Deal records, Reveal, Stylah, Tony D and Therapist.[23]

Lowkey's manager passed on the first two parts of Key to the Game to Jon McClure, frontman of Reverend and The Makers who is also an outspoken political activist.[24] Wanting to mix popular music with politics, and mix indie rock with hip-hop, the two set about making a supergroup, Mongrel, composed of other noted musicians. Also in the band is Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders and ex-bassist Andy Nicholson alongside bassist of Babyshambles Drew McConnell and a revolving set of other musicians. They have had trouble coordinating their busy careers to perform live dates[25] and their debut album has already been pushed back from October[26] to 2009 along with a February tour.[27] The album, Better Than Heavy, was released for free with The Independent on 7 March. The band were asked to perform live in Venezuela on the invitation of President Hugo Chavez.[28] Lowkey visited Caracas during the first summit of CELAC and described Venezuela as "far closer to democracy than what we have in England",[29] championing Chavez as "a leader who is striving to build an independent alternative to the neo-liberal capitalism which has disenfranchised his people for decades."[30]

Political activism[edit]

Lowkey is a vocal opponent of Zionism and has been become well known for his pro-Palestinian activities as a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, comparing Zionism to colonialism and ethnic cleansing.[30][31][32] He is known to have coined the phrase "Nothing is more anti-semitic than Zionism" in reference not only to the seldom acknowledged fact that Arabs are themselves Semites but also to what he called the "identical points of view" within Zionism and anti-semitism.[33]

In February 2009, he travelled to Palestinian refugee camps around the West Bank area to perform fundraising shows to help rebuild the Gaza Strip but was detained by the Israel Police for nine hours at Ben Gurion International Airport and interrogated, while having his passport confiscated.[34] Later in 2009, he travelled with M-1 of Dead Prez to carry out a humanitarian aid mission and bring medical aid to the Palestinian people in Gaza; this led to a collaboration between the two on Soundtrack to the Struggle.[35] He was detained for a second time in July 2010, en route to a number of concerts and musical workshops in refugee camps in the West Bank. After detaining him for twelve hours and an online petition was started, he was released.[36]

Lowkey has been a prominent member of the Stop The War Coalition and has spoken on many platforms regarding the occupation of Iraq.[37] Furthermore, he has been a sharp critic of United States and British foreign policy, claiming that the two powers are only interested in supporting leaders who are under their influence or are willing to assist them. He also claims American media overlooks those within the country who do not believe in American military supremacy.[30] Lowkey criticised US President Barack Obama as the "handsome face of an ugly empire" for enlarging George Bush's "aggressive foreign policy".[38]

Critics and feuds[edit]

In January 2011, Marcus Dysh writing for the Jewish Chronicle about the involvement of Lowkey in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign claimed "One expert studying anti-Israel activity described the increasing influence of performers such as Lowkey as a "potential nightmare," and compared the impact of his backing for the campaign to the effect of artists such as Annie Lennox and Elvis Costello attacking the Jewish state."[39] Glenn Beck the former FoxNews TV host, mocked Lowkey on his radio show, poking fun at the lyrics of his song 'Terrorist?' Beck also recorded himself dancing to the song and showing gang signs in an effort to ridicule the content.[40]

In June 2010, Lowkey and Chipmunk, who was signed to Sony at the time, argued on Twitter.[41] This led to Lowkey releasing a track entitled 'The Warning' on YouTube.[42] Chipmunk responded with the line "I'm fucking bossy, fuck being lowkey" in his track entitled 'Flying High' released in November 2010.[43] The two tied in tenth place on MTV Base's poll of Best Of The Best: UK MCs 2010 with Tinie Tempah in the top position. Despite garnering over half of all public votes with over 3000, the panel ranked him lower when taking a wider context into consideration.[44]

This list angered grime MC Ghetts, who felt that he was far more deserving of acknowledgment within the list. He, in turn, published a critical track, Who's On The Panel?.[45] which suggested that Lowkey had influenced the voting. Lowkey, as an independent artist, took offence to this suggestion and promptly released a response to both the list and song by Ghetts. The track by Lowkey was entitled Top 1 Selected – alluding to Ghetts' own song Top 3 Selected – and ridiculed Ghetts for being commissioned to make a song in support of the United Kingdom Census 2011, which was administered by US defence company Lockheed Martin. It also accused MTV of tying him and Chipmunk to artificially create further tension.[46] In response, Ghetts and Devlin posted a video ridiculing Lowkey's preoccupation with Palestine despite coming from Britain.[47] On 21 October, Ghetts joined Lowkey on stage as a secret special guest for the Soundtrack to the Struggle launch party.[48]

Other work[edit]

In July 2008, the Theatre Royal, Bath put on a production of 'Max and Beth', a contemporary adaptation of Macbeth by William Shakespeare written entirely in rhyme.[49] Lowkey also helped publicise the NSPCC's Don't Hide It campaign, also contributing a free song to it, in which his lyrics are delivered from the perspective of a female victim of sexual abuse.[7] He also formed a non-profit organisation, People's Army with fellow rapper Logic, who he has also made an unreleased album with (New World Order[1]), and met up with then-Liberal Democrats leader Menzies Campbell as a representative of his local community.[24]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart positions
UK
[50]
UK
IND

[20]
UK
R&B

[19]
Dear Listener
Soundtrack to the Struggle
  • Released: 16 October 2011
  • Label: Mesopotamia Music
  • Formats: CD, Digital download
57 9 6

Collaboration albums[edit]

Mixtapes[edit]

  • Key to the Game, Vol. 1 (2003)
  • Key to the Game, Vol. 2: Still Underground (2004)
  • Key to the Game, Vol. 3 (2005)
  • The Dubs Mixtape (2007) (with Stylah, hosted by DJ Limelight)
  • Uncensored (2009)

Compilations[edit]

  • The Past, The Present And The Future: The Road To Mongrel (2008)
  • The Best Of Lowkey (US Version) (2010)

Singles[edit]

  • Politics (2004)
  • London (2005)
  • Tears To Laughter (2009)
  • Voices Of The Voiceless (2009) (with Immortal Technique)
  • Long Live Palestine Parts 1 & 2 (2009)
  • We Don't Want Them (2009)
  • Alphabet Assassin (2009)
  • Something Wonderful (2010)
  • Revolution Music (2010)
  • Obama Nation (2010)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Lowkey". Stand Up UK. Retrieved 2009-01-18. 
  2. ^ "Lowkey interview by Nikesh". UK Hip Hop. 05-12-29. Retrieved 2008-11-03.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ a b "Key to the Game Vol 3 Review". UK Hip Hop. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  4. ^ "31 Oct 08, Brand New Kanye West, Q-Tip & Lowkey". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2009-01-15. 
  5. ^ "Lowkey is live in the studio to talk about his BBC Electric Proms performance". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2009-01-15. 
  6. ^ "Electric Proms Artists". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2009-01-15. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Hallick, Stuart (4 January 2009). "Lowkey Interview". Hip-Hop Kings. Retrieved 2009-01-18. [dead link]
  8. ^ Cocker, Lizzie (29 May 2009). "Anti-war rapper Lowkey". The Morning Star. Retrieved 2009-08-22. [dead link]
  9. ^ http://www.ukhh.com/oldreviews/twelve-inch/1661.html/
  10. ^ http://www.hiphopug.com/lowkey.html/
  11. ^ http://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/interview-lowkey/
  12. ^ Small, Elle J (5 February 2009). "An album full of poetry.". BBC. Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  13. ^ Oliver, Matt (7 January 2009). "Lowkey 'Dear Listener'". Fact Magazine. Retrieved 2009-01-18. 
  14. ^ "Uncensored by Lowkey". Apple Inc. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  15. ^ Haider, Arwa (13 August 2009). "One to watch: Lowkey". Metro. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  16. ^ "Lowkey & Immortal Technique – Voices of the Voiceless Trailer". SO Empire. YouTube. 10 September 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-13. 
  17. ^ "Long Live Palestine Parts 1 & 2: Lowkey". Amazon. Retrieved 2010-01-13. 
  18. ^ "Archive Chart". The Official Charts Company. 23 October 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2011. 
  19. ^ a b "Archive Chart". The Official Charts Company. 23 October 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2011. 
  20. ^ a b "Archive Chart". The Official Charts Company. 23 October 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2011. 
  21. ^ "Archive Chart". The Official Charts Company. 23 October 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2011. 
  22. ^ "Lowkey Career Pause". UK Hip Hop. 18 April 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-19.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  23. ^ a b "Poisonous Poets Interview". UK Hip Hop. 05-04-22. Retrieved 2009-01-18.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help); Check date values in: |date= (help)
  24. ^ a b McNally, James (December 2008). "Low Life". Hip Hop Connection (229): 48–51. 
  25. ^ Michaels, Sean (5 September 2008). "Indie supergroup Mongrel reveal debut album". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  26. ^ Jones, Damien (16 September 2008). "Arctic Monkeys 'supergroup' form". BBC. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  27. ^ Rogers, Georgie (3 November 2008). "Mongrel announces tour". BBC. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  28. ^ "Indie supergroup Mongrel to release debut album free with The Independent". The Independent. 27 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  29. ^ Lowkey en Venezuela teleSUR Youtube.com, 5 Dec 2011
  30. ^ a b c Exclusive Jody Mcintyre interviews Lowkey Ceasefiremagazine.co.uk, 27 May 2011
  31. ^ Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Patrons palestinesolidaritycampaign.org, 2 November 2011
  32. ^ Lowkey 2011 Remembering Israels Massacre on Gaza Youtube.com, 24 Jan 2011
  33. ^ Lowkey – Stop The War Student Conference 2009 Youtube.com, 20 Sept 2009
  34. ^ "Mongrel rapper Lowkey detained in Israel airport". NME. 3 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  35. ^ The Friday Night Live Show (Conspiracy Worldwide Radio) 19 March 2010
  36. ^ Israel releases British rapper detained at airport Ma'an News Agency, 21 July 2010
  37. ^ Lowkey Stop The War Student Conference Youtube.com, 20 Sept 2009
  38. ^ Lowkey 'Bush imperialism continues under Obama Youtube.com, 19 May 2011
  39. ^ Palestine Solidarity Campaign hits the youth trail thejc.com, 27 Jan 2011
  40. ^ Why is Glenn Beck dancing, throwing gang signs and listening to anti American rap theblaze.com, 10 Feb 2011
  41. ^ Lowkey VS Chipmunk – The Sage Continues The LALA Report Wednesday, 16 June 2010
  42. ^ Lowkey – The Warning Youtube.com, 9 June 2010
  43. ^ Chipmunk – Flying High Youtube.com, 30 November 2010
  44. ^ BEST OF THE BEST: UK MCs 2010 www.mtv.co.uk, 02/21/2011
  45. ^ Ghetts – Who's On The Panel MTV diss Youtube.com, 21 February 2011
  46. ^ Lowkey Blasts MTV for Ranking him Number 10 Youtube.com, 3 March 2011
  47. ^ Ghetts with Devlin on Lowkey's response top 1 selected Youtube.com, 1 Mar 2011
  48. ^ Lowkey Launch Party Recap Soulculture.co.uk, 2 November 2011
  49. ^ "Max & Beth". Bath & North East Somerset Council. 11 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-03. [dead link]
  50. ^ "Lowkey Chart History". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 23 October 2011. 

External links[edit]