Ben Drew

I found very early on when I became a hip-hop artist that I loved telling stories. Actually, when I was trying to get a message across it was more powerful when I told a story, rather than if I used a metaphor or if I preached about an issue. And through doing that I realised that actually these stories were very visual in my head and I couldn’t wait to make the videos.

The problem with working with a record label is they maybe a song I want to make a video for that they will refuse to make a video for because they don’t see that song as a single. And I found that very frustrating. I realised what I was doing was making these short films for the blind. They were films and all you had to do was put some headphones on and close your eyes and listen to my voice and you’d be able to visualise the images that I’m putting into your brain. And so I started calling what I was doing ‘films for the blind’.

I love the way I make hip-hop and I refuse to make pop-rap. I don’t refuse to make mainstream music, which is why I did a soul record. There was no reason why soul music couldn’t get played on the radio and I still wanted to have a relationship with my record label. So, I really enjoyed doing the Strickland Banks album. But there’s no point in my trying to release underground hip-hop music on a major label. That part of my talent, or part of my art, had to live somewhere else and feature film was the perfect vehicle for it.

I was a soul singer first and I’d write love songs. I find with soul music it’s really hard to write about anything else. But I was 15 at the time when I was doing that and, to be honest, I’d never experienced love, so the words were kind of meaningless. With hip-hop music, it allowed me to talk about political and social things but also to tell stories.

Some cynical people may see that the only reason I’m doing something more mainstream is part of a strategy to become more successful but I just see it as a bonus. It just happened… that’s the way it is and there’s an opportunity there and we’re going to take advantage of it. I’d rather if I’m going to be working as hard as I’ve been working for the last two years – non-stop, solid, no personal life, no break – then I want what I’ve been working on to be as successful as possible. And I will take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way.