TALENTED MUSIC STAR ON HIS NEW SONG AND GOOD MENTAL HEALTH by ASJAD NAZIR Rising British hip hop star Hyphen is gaining attention from all corners of the world for his talent and the way he is combining commercial music with thought-provoking lyrics aiming to make a positive difference. Earlier this year, he released the superb song We’re OK, which raises awareness of mental health among young people. The uplifting anthem, based on personal experiences, is taken from his forthcoming EP and is a sign of more amazing things to come from an artist to look out for. Eastern Eye caught up with Hyphen to talk about his latest song, mental health and future plans. Tell us, what first connected you to music? My dad had great taste in music. I remember, we’d be sitting in long car journeys and he’d play something by Eric Clapton, or the Eagles, and keep rewinding the music to point out specific things that the musician had done. It really annoyed my mum, but helped me think about how to appreciate music on a deeper level. What led you towards hip hop? When I started writing I was in a bad place, mentally. I was doing a job I hated and was thoroughly depressed. I started writing poetry, but watching performance videos of people like Kendrick Lamar and Anderson .Paak left me captivated. They expressed emotions in such an engaging way. The more I listened to hip hop, the more I realised how good a medium it was for expressing protest. It has the ability as a genre to both be contemplative and also directionlessly passionate. Tell us about your latest single? We’re OK is a message to a version of myself a few years ago when I was depressed. I remember telling my parents in the backseat of their car that I was depressed, tears streaming down my face. I was so sure I would be consumed by that feeling forever that there was no point trying. Skip a few years and I’m actually pretty happy. I have down days, like anyone else does, but that version of myself, who thought I would always feel like that, was wrong. I wanted to make a song that sounded how I am feeling at the moment as a reminder to myself that it is possible, as well as anyone else who might be feeling that way. Who are you hoping connects with the song? Anyone who’s feeling depressed or down in any way. I want this song to be a pick-me-up on the way from work after a shitty day. Hopefully, it’s a reminder to someone that it’s possible to not feel worthless, depressed and at the bottom of the barrel. I used to feel that way and now I don’t. How important is it for you to convey a message through your songs? Very important. Music is like a conversation with someone you have not met before. You can have superficial conversations about the weather or actually engage in meaningful dialogues. The latter will be more interesting for everyone involved. Also, nobody likes politicians, and parts of the media don’t have much credibility either. So instead, I think it’s becoming normal for musicians and artists to raise awareness on key issues like mental health. What inspires you as an artist? Self-improvement. It’s quite satisfying looking back at something you did a year ago and thinking, ‘man, that’s trash’. Also connection; random people have come up to me and said they appreciated the fact that I expressed what I was going through when depressed. It feels like if I am authentic and express that in my music, it can legitimately be helpful for someone else. I also like creating an atmosphere at a show. When you see great live music, it gets you in a great mood. What can we expect next from you? Lots of music. My producer says, ‘as a musician you live in the future’. Given how long it takes to release new songs, you’re already working on new material by the time you’ve released any songs you’ve been working on. So people are listening to a ‘past version’ of yourself. I have months’ worth of material that I can’t wait to share. As with We’re OK, it’s ‘fusion’ hip hop with a lot of live elements to it. Tell us, have you made a musical master plan? I’d love to be featured on Colours Berlin – it’s an amazing YouTube channel. It emphasises the things I love about music; performance and fusion genres. I love every song and artist they feature and look there for inspiration. It would be a dream to be featured there. Tell us more… I used to try work backwards from these massive targets like selling out Wembley. But unfortunately, in reality, it doesn’t work like that. All you can do is consistently make good music, try to develop with every release and performance and take advantage of opportunities that come. Selling out Wembley is definitely a long-term aim, but yet, there’s a long way to go. Who would you love to collaborate with? Kid Cudi is a huge inspiration for me. He’s never afraid to dig deep and express what is going on inside. Anderson .Paak is an incredible performer and a musician. What music dominates your personal playlist? Recently, I’ve been loving Tom Misch, Anderson .Paak, Mick Jenkins, Kendrick Lamar, Noname, Little Simz, Cleo Sol, Slowthai, Skepta and Rich Brian. Why do you love music? (The quote) ‘One thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain’. Music creates moments and connections that people tend to need drugs for, except there’s no comedown.