Wednesday 7 October 2009

Guardian: Victizzle and the church of grime

Twenty-year-old Victor Akata, otherwise known as Victizzle, is currently basking in the glow of a Mobo award for best gospel act. He's also a committed Christian – no small thing, given that keeping that commitment can be hard for young people, especially when their peers are out on the town, experiencing sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll (or grime 'n' funky?). But there are some young people who manage to strike a balance between faith and the pressures of youth, and Victizzle is one.

"Me and my little brothers and sisters were forced to go to church every Sunday and it was a normal thing for me, but I got to a point in my life where in front of my mother I was an angel, but in front of my friends I was the complete opposite [Laughs]. When I reached the age of 16 I decided that I wanted to get to know God for myself," he explains. "It was really hard at first and sometimes it still is, especially when you're trying to making an impact in your community and amongst your peers. My advice to young people in Christ is that you should always be real with people and especially yourself, so that if you do eventually flop or fall there will be people there to help you up without being judgmental towards you."

The MC/producer/songwriter is no newcomer, having first got into the musical world at the tender age of 12. "I began making beats when I was 12 years old and started writing at 14. I then joined a gospel group called G-Force when I was 15 and I produced their first album which went on to win a Mobo award in 2007. I've also produced countless hit songs for many artists in the gospel scene including my very own album, 'In My World'."

One thing I have always wondered about is whether grime and hip-hop could work in church. At first I didn't think it would because grime music isn't exactly something I would imagine an elderly Pentecostal lady doing her praise dance to. But saying that, the young generation of churchgoers do need some form of alternative to secular music, right? "That kind of music has already taken its place in the modern day church and it's received awards for it. It's just about keeping it going and making it more commercial for it to hit more TV and more radio which creates more shows for us worldwide. It's doing pretty well so far," Victizzle says. "The church loved my first solo single Jam Yourself; it went strong for about 3 years straight and is now classed as a classic track. A small minority of people criticised it heavily, but that didn't shake me." No matter how many people dislike Christian grime and hip-hop music, Victizzle managed to overcome that when he won a Mobo award last week for best gospel act, beating the likes of gospel heavyweights Kiki Sheard and Mary Mary. "I think the Mobos were amazing, sitting there in the presence of so many artists that I have grown up watching on TV was really a humbling experience and I'm happy to have won."

Can we see this young gospel MC sitting high in the mainstream charts along side fellow MCs Dizzee Rascal et al? I don't know, but he is off to a great start so far. "I see the church engaging more and more in the secular community," says Victizzle. "I can also see more non-Christians turning to us for advice and help in life. I also see myself producing tracks that will get Christian music into the charts, getting number one hits, going platinum etc, I can't wait." Now that's what I call faithful thinking.

This also appeared over at The Guardian: HERE