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A Musical Education

An interview with rapper Professor Green: his musical evolution and the joys of married life

Pro Green says that while ‘Lullaby’, “touches on depression and anxieties and my relationship with it,” writing is a cathartic experience, and his single is primarily about “coming out the other side of it”

Professor Green, aka Stephen Manderson, has gone from amateur freestyle rapper (you can still check out his rap battles on YouTube) to a household name who is married to the heir of Quality Street confectionary, former Made in Chelsea star Millie Mackintosh.

The 30-year-old’s latest single, ‘Lullaby’, featuring Tori Kelly, “who has the voice of a bloomin’ angel” according to Manderson, steers the rapper in a new direction and details his battle with depression.

We spoke to Professor Green about his musical evolution and the joys of married life.

Professor Green, who was raised on Hackney’s Northwold Estate, started competing in freestyle battles just for fun. He was signed to label The Beats after winning the £50,000 rap tournament JumpOff MySpace, having been spotted by The Streets frontman Mike Skinner.

Age 18, the rapper lost his father, with whom he had a turbulent relationship, to suicide.

Professor Green, who earned his nickname due to the time he spent selling marijuana, has since been vocal about his struggle following the death of his father, and his current single ‘Lullaby reflects this. While many would be nervous to have their innermost feelings exposed through their music, he sees it differently.

“It’s all subjective isn’t it? It can be scary in that you’re putting a piece of yourself out there to be judged but that’s what music should be really. All the artists I’ve admired have always put themselves in their music.”

Pro Green says that while ‘Lullaby’, “touches on depression and anxieties and my relationship with it,” writing is a cathartic experience, and his single is primarily about “coming out the other side of it”.

In 2009 he was stabbed in the neck in a Shoreditch club and left fighting for his life. The wound narrowly missed a ceratoid artery, skimming his tattoo which spells out ‘Lucky’. Changing labels to Virgin Records, Green went on to support Coldplay on their European tour, and now holds a MOBO, an NME Award, along with critically acclaimed albums to his name. Shrugging that “I don’t wallow in self-pity,” Green calls his latest album Growing Up In Public, “a tongue in cheek look at some of the worst things that have happened to me.”

The “transitional” album reflects a change in the rapper’s sound. “It relates to the person I am now as well as the person who went through everything I have in the last 18 months,” he says.

The rapper has spent his time building up an impressive collection of collaborations; each pairing coming together in an organic way. “Take ‘Love to Dance’, the first song on the first album,” he says. “It was produced by Naughty Boy with Emeli Sandé on the chorus and we did that collectively. With ‘Lullaby’, we had the song already and asked Tori Kelly to sing the vocals. Then with ‘Name in Lights’ I’d already written the song and I asked Rizzle Kicks to jump on board - it always happens in different ways.”

It’s a long way from his earlier musical trysts. Despite “cutting his teeth” with weekly battles, before being crowned a freestyle champion, he isn’t tempted to climb back into the ring. “I’m kinda over the stress of that,” he laughs.

Green’s busy schedule may keep him far from home. He’ll be touring the country from October and has a first year wedding anniversary to celebrate this September. Calling married life “an extension of being in a relationship,” Green says that “it means you can’t necessarily just run away from each other if sh*t hits the fan - which it hasn’t yet!”

He and Mackintosh make a serious power couple; Millie is all over the fashion pages, with her own clothing line launching on September 10th. Now, the couple are considering a collaboration – “we’re about to start dropping pieces” - and Millie has hinted that the next few years will see a move to the country.

It seems a world away from Professor Green’s humble beginnings, but something he’s created all on his own. Calling TV talent contests “a giggle to watch sometimes,” he says that, “Irrelevant of what your story was beforehand, I think people always see it as a shortcut.”

Single 'Lullaby' feat Tori Kelly out on 15th September with album Growing Up In Public following on 22nd September via Virgin/EMI. He will be touring the UK this November/December. 


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