We caught up with Sudanese born emcee Blak-Ram to talk about his politically conscious music.
Blak-Ram, welcome to File Under Hip Hop. You were originally from Sudan but moved to the UK as a young child. Can you tell us your back story and where you live now?
My father was killed before I was born. By a small faction of the Sudanese army loyal to the Islamic Front party following an attempted coup that he was part of. To prevent the tyrannical Bashir government from taking over Sudan following their own unlawful military coup in 1989.
So we left Sudan a year after I was born to seek refuge and a better life. I have lived and studied in the UK most of my life. Although I spent a short period of time in my teens in the Gulf.
How and why did you choose the path of becoming a rapper?
I have always been a fan of hip hop since my early teens. I realised I may be able to tell my story through this musical medium as many rappers have faced adversity and difficult upbringings.
What artists influenced you?
Nas, Kool G Rap, Rakim, Ras Kass, AZ, Wu-Tang Clan, Big L, MF DOOM. Whether its the multis, rhyme patterns, topics, or punchlines everyone of these legends, in particular, had an impact on my rapping style.
So far as a recording artist, you have released some mixtapes but your debut was the EP called Make Sudan Great Again. With proceeds from the release going to charity. Tell us about the EP and the concept behind it.
I released some mixtapes back in the day unmixed and a little raw but it was a starting point. #Make Sudan Great Again was just an ironic spin on the trump white nationalist slogan. I tried to spin it into something positive with Sudan. Reclaiming a country that is full of history from tyrants. Literally using the proceeds from the EP to make the country better however small the contribution. By donating what I have earned to various Sudanese charities, some that provide medical supplies others that rebuild orphanages.
But the theme is one of revolution documenting the trials and tribulations of the Sudanese people in their fight against the military dictatorship.
In 2019 you were BBC Radio Bristol’s August Artist Of The Month. How did this come about?
I came back from Sudan immediately after the tragic June 3rd Massacre that happened in the same place I was protesting in the day before. I tried to get in touch with media outlets. The local radio offered me an opportunity to talk about the revolution, the massacre, my experiences, my life story, and how it connects to the revolution.
Recently you released a track titled Cruise Control which has a 70’s funk/soul vibe to it. Featuring El Da Sensei and Sadat X. First of all tell us how the collab came about?
I met them after they performed in Brixton’s Chip shop venue. We chopped it up, afterwards, I reached out to them. I sent them the instrumental they laid their verses and I laid mine.
Tell us about the track Cruise Control?
The inspiration for Cruise Control came when I was driving down the motorway. It hit me that I had the instrumental for several years but wasn’t sure what to do with it. Daniyel God rest his soul was very excited when he found out I had asked El and Sadat to jump on the track. He heard the song with them featured but sadly died unexpectedly a year before the release.
Will the track be part of an upcoming album, EP?
I don’t know. It has to fit the theme of a project, but it can be included in a possible compilation tape.
You wear a mask, is it to hide your true identity or just part of your moniker Blak-Ram?
A combination of both. Right now I like to keep my music, separate from my personal life. But in many ways I still want to talk about my personal pain in my music. It’s a complicated relationship.
What are your socials?
Blak-Ram thanks for taking the time to do this interview. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
I have a new single about the aftermath of the Sudanese revolution called Trauma Waters featuring Ramey Dawoud produced by Dfawzi out now.
Thank you for the interview! Peace!
Interview by Jai Boo