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Lowkey

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Lowkey
Lowkey performing in Bristol, 2009
Lowkey performing in Bristol, 2009
Background information
Birth nameKareem Dennis
Born (1986-05-23) 23 May 1986 (age 36)
London, England
Genres
Years active2001–2012
2016–present
LabelsMesopotamia Music
SO Empire Recordings

Kareem Dennis (born 23 May 1986),[1] better known by his stage name Lowkey, is a British rapper and activist from London. He first became known through a series of mixtapes he released before he was 18,[2] before taking a hiatus from the music business. He would return in 2008,[3] with appearances on BBC Radio[4] and at various festivals and concerts including the BBC Electric Proms,[5] Glastonbury, T In The Park and Oxegen[6] in the buildup to his first solo album Dear Listener, as well as collaborating with other British musicians to form the supergroup Mongrel. He released his second solo album, Soundtrack to the Struggle, independently on in 2011.

After a five-year hiatus, Lowkey released a string of singles between 2016 and 2018 to precede the release of his third album, Soundtrack to the Struggle 2, released in 2019.

Early life

Lowkey was born in London to an Iraqi mother and an English father.[7] From the age of twelve he began to rap, initially imitating American rappers but soon began using his own accent.[1] He began attending open mic sessions which at the Deal Real record shop on Carnaby Street, Central London.[8] 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 and continued to use the name thereafter.[9]

Music career

2003–09: Mixtapes & Dear Listener

The first part of his mixtape series Key to the Game, was released independently in 2003.[6] Within a year and a half he had released a second and third volume.[2] 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.[6]

While Lowkey was busying himself with European tours in support of Immortal Technique, Canibus, and Dead Prez,[6] he began to make musical contacts and record his debut album. Though stalled by other artistic endeavours, Dear Listener was released in October 2008.[10][11] In December he released the compilation album Uncensored, with highlights from the entire Key to the Game series and Dear Listener, digitally through iTunes.[12]

2009–12: Soundtrack to the Struggle

After touring with Immortal Technique the two made a single, "Voices of the Voiceless" which was released in September 2009.[13]

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 Palestinian rap group DAM, Anglo-Palestinian soloist Shadia Mansour, Narcy 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.[14] The single received statements of support from Tony Benn and Benjamin Zephiniah.[15]

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. Soundtrack to the Struggle peaked at number 14 on the UK Download Chart. On 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.[16][17][18][19]

2012–16: Musical hiatus

On 17 April 2012, Lowkey put his musical career on hiatus, announcing the news on Facebook. He said that after months of contemplation, he had 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.[20]

2016–present: Return and Soundtrack to the Struggle trilogy

On 26 July 2016, various sources shared an image on social media relating to Lowkey's return to the music scene with new single "Ahmed". On 29 July 2016, Lowkey released a video for the single, the subject matter of which revolves around the refugee crisis and Europe's response. In addition, a seven-day tour across the UK in September 2016 was announced.[21] On 3 September, his next single "Children of Diaspora" was released. The track addresses issues of racism and xenophobia, and mentions victims of police brutality in the UK and USA.[22]

In August 2018, Lowkey announced via social media that he would be releasing his single "Ahmed", which features Mai Khalil, on platforms such as Spotify and iTunes on 2 September 2018, stating that this would be his first commercial release since 2011. He also confirmed that he was in the process of making a second album, titled Soundtrack to the Struggle 2.

Soundtrack to the Struggle 2 was released on 5 April 2019, with UK tour dates scheduled to start less than a week later.

Collaborations

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, eveal, 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 formed a supergroup, Mongrel, with Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders and ex-bassist Andy Nicholson, Babyshambles bassist Drew McConnell and a revolving set of other musicians.[25] The album, Better Than Heavy,[26] 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.[27] Lowkey visited Caracas during the first summit of CELAC, 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."[28]

Political activism

Lowkey is a vocal opponent of Zionism and is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. He characterises Zionism as colonialism and ethnic cleansing.[28][29]

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.[30] 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 the Gaza Strip; this led to a collaboration between the two on Soundtrack to the Struggle.[31] 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, an online petition was started and he was later released.[32]

In January 2011, Marcus Dysch writing for The Jewish Chronicle about the involvement of Lowkey in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign commented: "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."[33] Fox News host Glenn Beck mocked Lowkey on his radio show, poking fun at the lyrics of his song "Terrorist?", and recorded himself dancing to the song and showing gang signs in an effort to ridicule the content.[34]

Lowkey has been a prominent member of the Stop the War Coalition and has spoken against the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Furthermore, he has been a sharp critic of United States and British foreign policy, claiming that the two countries 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.[28] In 2012, Lowkey turned down an opportunity to appear on Tim Westwood TV in protest, after Westwood chose to broadcast his show from the British military base Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.[35]

In May 2017, Lowkey endorsed Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the 2017 UK general election. He said: "We have a choice between policies which foster empathy and policies which foster greed, resentment, estrangement and alienation."[36][37][unreliable source] In November 2019, along with other public figures, Lowkey signed a letter supporting Corbyn describing him as "a beacon of hope in the struggle against emergent far-right nationalism, xenophobia and racism in much of the democratic world" and endorsed him in the 2019 UK general election.[38][39] In the same month, along with 34 other musicians, he signed a letter endorsing Corbyn in the 2019 UK general election with a call to end austerity.[40][41] In December 2019, along with 42 other cultural figures, he signed a letter endorsing the Labour Party under Corbyn's leadership in the 2019 general election. The letter stated that "Labour's election manifesto under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership offers a transformative plan that prioritises the needs of people and the planet over private profit and the vested interests of a few."[42][43]

Lowkey was critical of the response to the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 stating that "the tragic event was a result of the injustice and criminality at the heart of Britain’s current political system" .[44]

Other work

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.[45] Lowkey also helped publicise the NSPCC's Don't Hide It campaign, and contributed a free song to it, in which his lyrics are delivered from the perspective of a female victim of sexual abuse.[6] He also formed a non-profit organisation, People's Army with fellow rapper Logic, with whom 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] He has written articles for The Guardian[46] and left-wing website Ceasefire Magazine[35]

Discography

Studio albums

List of studio albums, with selected chart positions
Title Album details Peak chart positions
UK
[47]
UK
IND

[18]
UK
R&B

[17]
Dear Listener
Soundtrack to the Struggle
  • Released: 16 October 2011
  • Label: Mesopotamia Music
  • Formats: CD, digital download
57 9 6
Soundtrack to the Struggle 2
  • Released: 5 April 2019
  • Label: Mesopotamia Music
  • Formats: Digital download
26 2

Collaboration albums

Mixtapes

  • 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)

Extended plays

  • Unplugged, Vol. 1 (2018)

Compilation albums

  • The Past, The Present and The Future: The Road to Mongrel (2008)
  • Uncensored (2009)
  • The Best of Lowkey (US Version) (2010)

Singles

Title Year Album
"Politics" 2004 Non-album single
"London" 2005 Key to the Game, Vol. 3
"Tears to Laughter" 2009 Non-album single
"Voices of the Voiceless"
(with Immortal Technique)
Soundtrack to the Struggle
"We Don't Want Them" Non-album single
"Alphabet Assassin" Dear Listener
"Something Wonderful" 2010 Soundtrack to the Struggle
"Revolution Music"
(featuring Faith SFX & Reverend and the Makers)
Non-album single
"Terrorist?" Soundtrack to the Struggle
"Obama Nation"
"Ahmed"
(featuring Mai Khalil)
2016 Soundtrack to the Struggle 2
"Children of Diaspora"
(featuring Mai Khalil)
"Ghosts of Grenfell"
(featuring Mai Khalil)
2017
"The Death of Neoliberalism"
"Lords of War"
(featuring Kaia)
"McDonald Trump" 2018
"Sunday Morning"
(featuring Mai Khalil)
"Ghosts of Grenfell 2"
(featuring Kaia)
"The Return of Lowkey" 2019
"Goat Flow"
"Iraq2Chile"
(featuring Mai Khalil)
2020 Non-album single

References

  1. ^ a b c "Lowkey". Stand Up UK. Archived from the original on 6 January 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2009.
  2. ^ a b "Key to the Game Vol 3 Review". UK Hip Hop. Archived from the original on 19 December 2005. Retrieved 3 November 2008.
  3. ^ "31 Oct 08, Brand New Kanye West, Q-Tip & Lowkey". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 15 January 2009.
  4. ^ "Lowkey is live in the studio to talk about his BBC Electric Proms performance". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 15 January 2009.
  5. ^ "Electric Proms Artists". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 15 January 2009.
  6. ^ a b c d e Hallick, Stuart (4 January 2009). "Lowkey Interview". Hip-Hop Kings. Archived from the original on 23 January 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2009.
  7. ^ Lowkey. Greenbelt Festival. Retrieved 2022-04-16.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". www.ukhh.com. Archived from the original on 16 August 2011. Retrieved 13 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "Hiphopug.com". Archived from the original on 22 September 2010.
  10. ^ Small, Elle J (5 February 2009). "An album full of poetry". BBC. Retrieved 29 September 2009.
  11. ^ Oliver, Matt (7 January 2009). "Lowkey 'Dear Listener'". Fact Magazine. Retrieved 18 January 2009.
  12. ^ "Uncensored by Lowkey". Apple Inc. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
  13. ^ Haider, Arwa (13 August 2009). "One to watch: Lowkey". Metro. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  14. ^ "Long Live Palestine Parts 1 & 2: Lowkey". Amazon UK. Retrieved 13 January 2010.
  15. ^ Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Our Patrons Archived 4 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine palestinecampaign.org
  16. ^ "Archive Chart". Official Charts Company. 23 October 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  17. ^ a b "Archive Chart". Official Charts Company. 23 October 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  18. ^ a b "Archive Chart". Official Charts Company. 23 October 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  19. ^ "Archive Chart". Official Charts Company. 23 October 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  20. ^ Mehreen (18 April 2012). "Lowkey Career Pause". UK Hip Hop. Archived from the original on 22 April 2012. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  21. ^ SBTV (29 July 2016). "Lowkey returns with new track 'Ahmed' and announces a UK Tour - SBTV". Archived from the original on 2 August 2016. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  22. ^ SBTV (5 September 2016). "Lowkey returns with video for Mai Khalil-assisted 'Children of Diaspora' - SBTV". Archived from the original on 4 November 2016.
  23. ^ a b Mehreen (22 April 2005). "Poisonous Poets Interview". UK Hip Hop. Archived from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2009.
  24. ^ a b McNally, James (December 2008). "Low Life". Hip Hop Connection (229): 48–51.
  25. ^ Jones, Damien (16 September 2008). "Arctic Monkeys 'supergroup' form". BBC. Retrieved 3 November 2008.
  26. ^ Michaels, Sean (5 September 2008). "Indie supergroup Mongrel reveal debut album". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 November 2008.
  27. ^ "Indie supergroup Mongrel to release debut album free with The Independent". The Independent. 27 February 2009. Retrieved 13 June 2009.
  28. ^ a b c Exclusive Jody Mcintyre interviews Lowkey Archived 5 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine Ceasefiremagazine.co.uk, 27 May 2011
  29. ^ Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Patrons Archived 2 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine palestinesolidaritycampaign.org, 2 November 2011
  30. ^ "Mongrel rapper Lowkey detained in Israel airport". NME. 3 March 2009. Archived from the original on 4 March 2009. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  31. ^ "PodOmatic - Best Free Podcasts". PodOmatic. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
  32. ^ Israel releases British rapper detained at airport Archived 17 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine Ma'an News Agency, 21 July 2010
  33. ^ Palestine Solidarity Campaign hits the youth trail Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine thejc.com, 27 January 2011
  34. ^ Why is Glenn Beck dancing, throwing gang signs and listening to anti American rap Archived 13 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine theblaze.com, 10 February 2011
  35. ^ a b Lowkey: Why I had to say no to Westwood TV Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine ceasefiremagazine.co.uk, Wednesday 25 January 2012
  36. ^ Sykes, Ed (19 May 2017). "Legendary UK rapper Lowkey explains why he backs Jeremy Corbyn 'wholeheartedly' [VIDEO]". The Canary. Archived from the original on 12 December 2017. Retrieved 6 April 2022.
  37. ^ Topple, Steve (8 June 2017). "Rapper Lowkey tells The Canary Corbyn has turned disenchanted people into 'shapers of the future' [VIDEO]". The Canary. Retrieved 11 June 2017.[permanent dead link]
  38. ^ Neale, Matthew (16 November 2019). "Exclusive: New letter supporting Jeremy Corbyn signed by Roger Waters, Robert Del Naja and more". NME. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  39. ^ Thorpe, Vanessa (24 November 2019). "Celebrities turn out to support Labour's vision for the arts". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  40. ^ "Musicians backing Jeremy Corbyn's Labour". The Guardian. 25 November 2019. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  41. ^ Gayle, Damien (25 November 2019). "Stormzy backs Labour in election with call to end austerity". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  42. ^ "Vote for hope and a decent future". The Guardian. 3 December 2019. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  43. ^ Proctor, Kate (3 December 2019). "Coogan and Klein lead cultural figures backing Corbyn and Labour". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  44. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 August 2017. Retrieved 30 June 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  45. ^ "Max & Beth". Bath & North East Somerset Council. 11 July 2008. Retrieved 3 November 2008.[dead link]
  46. ^ The Met police are stigmatizing Hip-Hop Archived 9 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine Guardian.com, 10 January 2012
  47. ^ "Lowkey Chart History". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 23 October 2011.

External links