Rax interview with Ms Dynamite

In July, New Internationalist will publish the Rax Active Citizenship Toolkit. It's aimed primarily at teachers and students of Citizenship Studies in UK schools but in fact it can be used by anyone seeking to engage more actively in the world around them. 

This is how the curriculum describes the subject:
Citizenship equips students with the knowledge and skills needed for effective and democratic participation. It helps students to become informed, critical, active citizens who have the confidence and conviction to work collaboratively, take action and try to make a difference in their communities and the wider world.

We believe that Citizenship Studies is a unique subject; a subject which, when taught well, raises standards not only in exam results across all subjects but in the well-being of the student and in the sense of community in the whole school. 

book cover

And a unique subject requires a unique textbook. The Toolkit is a landmark in textbook innovation in graphic style, approach to content and attitudes to learning. It also contains exclusive interviews with a range of voices, from popstars and politicians to young active citizens. 

Over the coming weeks we will be posting the full text of the Rax interviews, starting this week with Ms Dynamite. Ms Dynamite is one of the most influential hip hop and rap singers in the UK today. She has won two Brit awards and three Mobo awards. The Rax team caught up with her in January 2010.

What kinds of issues do you think young people should address in the UK today?
I don't feel it's for me to 'tell' young people what they should be addressing. I actually feel that that's part of society's problem. The people in authority talk a lot but don't listen much!!! ms dynamite portrait

Listening is KEY in teaching, enforcing rules and laws and is absolutely paramount in trying to 'run' a productive, positive, progressive society. We are under the misconception that the more years you have, the more intelligence and rights you have, when in actual fact all that 'really/naturally' comes with age is more authority; and that's not even always true. It's down to the individual to grow and gain more knowledge and wisdom along the way. I've met many a 13 year old that could teach many a 30 year old A LOT about what 'they' should be addressing!!! (But that's another matter, lol!).

What would you say to your teenage self, now that you are older?
I think I would have tried to understand that my obsession and society's obsession with material values was/is a complete waste of time and energy. I was breaking my neck at 14 to clothe myself in Armani, Versace and D&G. I carelessly watched friends sell drugs just to 'own' stuff that would be totally worthless within less than a season. I would have tried to understand that 'we' were risking our freedom (one of our most valuable birthrights) for something completely worthless!!!

Our fixation with fixing what is on the OUTSIDE is a downward, never-ending spiral and the longer we focus on what's outside we are depriving ourselves of the true remedy everlasting, solid, true love inside!

I would have addressed the concept of LOVING MYSELF a lot sooner. Since I found SELF-LOVE I have been materialistically/financially wealthy and I have also been flat out broke (or as we say 'BRUK') but I have 'ALWAYS' remained one of the richest people alive as far as I'm concerned, the wealth I have is priceless! It won't go out of fashion or out of date, it won't wither with age, it can't be taken from me, it can't break or be damaged (unless I allow it to), it empowers me and makes me happier and stronger and it grows stronger with every moment! 'I' would have tried to start my search for this A LONG TIME AGO!

What would your advice be to young people using critical thinking and enquiry to research an issue?
Never take one perspective or one person's/group's/company's opinion or information. Even when things are backed up with facts and figures, it doesn't make them correct. Statistics can be manipulated and stories can be influenced. Most people have an agenda and many people give info but are actually misinformed themselves. I would advise seeking info from numerous sources and weighing up the responses then simply look within and 'trust you'.

What would your advice be to young people who want to use lyrics and their musical talents to bring about change?
I think that it takes a lot more than 'strong lyrics' to bring about change but I do believe that 'thoughts are things', through lyric we can provoke thought and in turn those thoughts will manifest in whichever way they are received! I love to provoke thought in my lyrics.

In relation to actual technique and lyric writing I would say

a) Read! Read! And read some more! Widen your vocab, swallow a dictionary and dissect a thesaurus! Widening our vocab and giving ourselves ample ways to explain and express ourselves is where we begin. Everything has been spoken, sung, rapped, rhymed about already, it's not really 'what' we talk about, it's how we talk about it!

b) Explore motivation and inspiration! What motivates or inspires you? Music inspires me, and so do beats, children, people, different cultures, eating, being active, being in the sun, being in the countryside, being in my car and being in love. So I try to surround myself with these things or indulge in these things as often as possible and then.

c) You just open up and let the magic happen! Don't force it, don't try to find writing! Just go to where, when, how. you feel most inspired, dis-attach, keep a pen close and let writing find you! Once you actually find the writer within you and set her/him free. Once you've connected properly just once it becomes easy and totally natural and can be accessed at nearly and time, anywhere. Do not view writing as good or bad, don not compare or relate it to anything else, it is what it is! It's perfect, however it comes! (But there are different levels of perfection, so feel free to tweak if need be! LOL!) 

d) Music amongst many other things inspired me to want to try and change not necessarily the world itself but definitely to change the amount of love in the world! Particularly the amount of 'self-love' in the world! I believe that 'any' of mans problems (excluding natural disaster) can all be put down to insecurity, ego, fear and lack of self-love. I grew up listening to Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, John Holt, Public Enemy, N.W.A, KRS one, The Beatles, Lu Lu, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Billy Holiday, Buju Banton, Bounty Killer, Sizzla, Capelton and such a range of different artist from different genres, cultures and walks of life. 

What advice would you give to young people who want to make a change in their world?
So many people want to make a change in the world but very few want to make a change to the self! The self is all we can ever 'really' change and in changing ourselves we are changing the world! If we change the way we look at things, then the things we look at will change. For me this is about positivity, acceptance and appreciation.

It was very hard for me to see the good in my childhood and in my teenage years 'good' was non-existent. I now realize that everything comes bearing gifts. Everything has a positive side or a lesson to be learned. My hardship gave me strength, the discrimination (others' blindness) gave me true sight, my sorrow gave me appreciation, the pain gave me wisdom, my struggle gave me satisfaction, the hating/jealousy/doubtful envy gave me determination, my knock backs gave me humility, the failures were my biggest lessons and therefore 'wins' and it all made me who I am today and gave me the courage, beauty and ability to love who I am today! That is what 'my journey/story/history/past/baggage' gave me the key -- self-love.

Learn more/get involved:www.msdynamite.co.uk

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