Guvna B is a Christian rapper who has been on the Christian music scene for just under 10 years. He has an infectious style blending honesty, integrity with hope and faith and importantly a very British twist. We took the opportunity to sit down and chat with him recently about his background, his latest album and more.
Guvna, what's your background?
So I grew up in East London, my parents came over from East Ghana and had me over here. We grew up on a council estate, it was quite a rough estate but with my parents being Christians they kind of instilled a lot of faith in me, so thats probably where I learnt more about who I was in Jesus and stuff, but it was still hard to not get distracted by some of the things that I would see on the estate and some of the people that I'd hung around. I kind of spent my teenage years trying to find myself until I was 16 and decided, 'you know what, I really understand what Jesus did for me and I want to become a Christian.' and I've always liked music, so music was always going to be the way I expressed my faith.
Did you have anybody doing what you're doing now that in the music scene that was influential to you, or was it just a churchy sort of thing?
I never knew that it existed, I always thought that I would be the first person to rap about my faith, but when I started getting into it I realised that there were loads of different people doing good stuff. My first album that inspired me was one called "Fountain of Life" by a rapper called Japhia Life, he was really sick, another album called "Moment of Truth" by Da Truth and another album called "Rebel" by Lecrae, yeah that really inspired me and helped me along the way.
So how long ago was that, when you were about 16?
So that's about 10 years ago now!
When did you start getting into the rap scene and start doing that?
Probably when I was about 17 I got in the studio with my youth leader, and he gave me the mission of trying to record an album and seeing what happens. I recorded it, it was called "The Narrow Road", I did a launch at my church just expecting the youth group to turn up, about 100 people, and 700 people turned up! That's when I realised for the first time that I was on to something.
That creativity was in you already. Is that where "Allo Mate" came from as well?
"Allo Mate" is funny actually, it was on my first album, I just said it in the lyric and everyone just kept saying it to me and it kind of stuck. I think with a lot of these things they are already inside us but we need to meet the right people to encourage us and help us reach our full potential. Obviously my youth leader was that person for me and a few other kind of special people around me, and I'm trying to be that person for younger people as well because everyones got talents and gifts in whatever areas and it's just about the right people encouraging them so that they can reach their potential.
For you, has it been quite a smooth path from releasing that first EP to where you are now?
There's never really a smooth path I don't think anything worth having comes easy, there are always going to be challenges and trials, obviously being a Christian you have your faith to work out and your own walk with God, not just like the stuff that people see. There's a lot of ups and downs, but I don't think that God would give me, or anyone else something that they can't handle and you've just got to keep going and stay focused and stay disciplined and wait for God to open those doors really. So yeah it's just about having faith in those hard times, because when you overcome stuff there is some cool stuff is on the other end of that.
Late last year you released "Secret World", what's the story behind that album?
The main thing is honesty and transparency, the narrative of the album and the concept is that in the past I have been put on a pedestal because I'm a rapper with faith but actually I go through struggles like anyone else and I'm going to talk about them. I'm going to talk about when I lost a friend to suicide, or growing up in a council estate, about not having much money or feeling insecure, because loads of people who listen to my music can relate to that stuff and it makes those people feel like, 'actually, I'm not alone' there are other people going through that stuff and if we talk about it we can all have faith in God together to bring us through.
There is a lot of Christian artists doing similar things, talking about depression and mental health as well which brings it into the forum. What do you think that you bring into that, is it just the honesty or is there hope?
Yeah, hope, honesty because the world is quite a negative place at the moment in parts but if we haven't got hope then it's depressing. The hope is ultimately Jesus, so I'm just trying to show Jesus to everyone that listens and also because I'm British and I love being British, so I love putting British experiences in my music so it's also something different that I bring.
It's interesting that you touch on that because I was having a conversation on facebook today about rappers wearing hoods. Someone said they are getting ready to do drive-bys or something like that. I said why do Christian UK rappers try so hard to look like the U.S.? What is it about your rap that makes it different apart from the fact you are British?
I am British, but because America has such a huge influence on music, people think that's the formula that you have to imitate, but I think God has made everyone unique so I think we can just be ourselves. That's all I have ever tried to be really. And to your friend on that status, I just wear a hood because my ears are freezing, that's why they invented them isn't it?
You had a single out recently with Hillsong Youth, how's that going?
Yeah really good, hit number 1 on the iTunes Christian chart, so there's strength in collaboration and working together. That song's all about how fears on one side and faith is on the other so the closer you get to your faith the further away you get from fear, so a lot of people have really cool futures, but insecurity, fear, the past can hold us back, but we don't have to focus on it, we can focus on faith to really help us push through.
What about the state of the Christian music scene,? A lot of people are saying that it's really hard out there at the minute and people aren't investing. How are you finding it at the moment?
I think it could always be better, I think God's grace covers all that kind of stuff and if He wants me to carry on doing it there will be a way for me to do that. I do think people could support a little bit more but I do think sometimes we've just got to get on with it and rely on God to do His thing. I quite enjoy what I do, God has been good enough for me to be able to continue doing it full time which is pretty cool and I'm enjoying it. I would like to see more diversity and more support at all these events and stuff, so hopefully it will happen soon.
What is it that you particularly like about the Creation Fest festival?
Creation Fest is unique, it's one of the only ones that I do that is free to all public, it's an amazing outreach opportunity and it's great for people from outside who might want to come and check out music like that to walk in. I love it, it's a great vibe, the weather is normally lovely...it's a long drive but I love it.