Culture, Multiculture, Music, Our People

Jeremy Zulu: hip-hop with spirituality

This mixed race youth departs from the stereotype of Hip Hop to spread a message which clashes somewhat with the usual connotations of this urban music: a message of non violence and respect between cultures.

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Hip Hop 32 Jeremy Zulu
Jeremy Zulu

“Hip Hop Night” is how the ad describes the event in which this man, born in Zambia but raised in London and who sports a permanent smile, performs.

The auditorium is jam packed with a mixed bag of spectators, eager and ready to hear this genre of urban music which artists such as Eminem, Jay-Z, DMX an C-Murder have made so popular.

Jelz Music, dressed in loose pants with a baseball cap slightly angled to the right appears on a stage devoid of decoration, and makes an intro into his first song: “Fire Inside”.

The expectant public, immersed in the melody so typical of hip hop observe how the youth stresses his verse with uncharacteristically unaggressive gestures.

Hip Hop 30His movements flow in rhythm to the sound, but his words and sentences are not what the audience expects, as this noise is traditionally associated with a violent message, one of bloodcurdling tales of violence and those which incite violence.

However, everyone in the room is astounded to find that following on from this sound, synonymous with the violent and blood-curdling, flow messages of a humanist, peaceful and conciliatory tone. Messages with a clear Christian bent, which advocate brotherhood and harmony between human beings.

Tonight, they will not hear talk of violence, money or sex, but instead morals and ethics.

Hip Hop 31This is the slant which Jeremy Zulu, under his stage name Jelz Music, is attempting to use to make inroads in the music industry.

However, he didn’t start out like this, “I copied music from hip-hop musicians but then realised I didn’t share their views, so I started to write my own lyrics”, he explains.

This turnaround was brought about by a personal revelation he had in addition to his ties with Forest Hill Community Church. “I was going through an uncertain time in my life, and one day, I realised their was a lot more to Christianity than going to church, praying and following a bunch of rules. I saw that God was interested in me and wanted to use my gifts to bring hope and life to lives”.

Hip Hop 30 Jeremy ZuluAnd so, at 15, he wrote “I have got something to say”, a song inspired by his father with the aim of “overcoming my hurt pain and helping others who have experienced a similar situation.”

He composed the song when he was 15 years, time he remembers with some pain and as a turning point in his life. “When I hit 15 life all changed I weren’t the same boy, when I hit 15 the street life, it brought me no joy.”

Now, at 25, he is conscious that his music is not going to appeal to a large sector of the population. “I am now working very hard to ensure my music is of the highest standard so it can compete with what is already out there.”

To this end, he writes attractive and clever melodies with good accompanying lyrics. ‘For me the two go hand in hand because, sometimes, even the best artists write a really good melody only for it to be let down by lack lustre lyrics’, he says criticising the superficiality of some songs.

And add: “This is having a negative impact upon our young people who are being brainwashed and they don’t even know it”.

Hip Hop 33Far from what you might expect, his lyrics do not talk about Jesus Christ or passages from the Bible, but rather they deal with universal values like love, peace, solidarity and forgiveness. “Yes there are elements of that in my songs, rather I would say my music is influenced by theses things. I cannot force anyone to believe what I believe this becomes religion, rules and regulations are communicated as a way to get to God”.

In the same way, he remarks that religions “lay down rules and guidelines and, in some ways, Christianity has also been guilty of this,” and points out: “Christianity is all about following and loving Jesus and loving other. Jesus was all about relationship, I think the Church is more and more recognising this and are beginning to interact with their communities in much more creative ways such as sport or music.”

Hip Hop 34His ties with the Church started when he was a boy, and rather embarrassingly he recounts how “my mother would have to drag me to church”, and he gives thanks because “I finally found my own faith” and, with a vacant gaze he confirms, “if I hadn’t been a Christian, I don’t know what I would have been doing now, but for sure I wouldn’t have been a musician or I wouldn’t be doing any of the things I do now”.

Now, his whole world is music and he is currently studying a course in music production at Greenwich University. He combines this with his music career and his joy of seeing others share in the experience of his music.

The young, with their feet on the ground, highlights: “I will always ensure I use my gifts and talents to bless others, it brings me great joy. I know I most probably wont get rich and famous but I keep fighting on and sharing my music regardless”. And, this he will be doing on the 12th of April from 7 o’clock on in the New Cross Inn pub (323 New Cross Rd., New Cross).

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(Translated by Nigel Conibear)

 

 

 

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