George the Poet: A poet to remember

George-The-Poet-Vevo Life advice from Richard Branson's 'impact poet' George Mpanga.

Uniqueness. Creativity. Problem solving.

Words that perhaps sound like values we may see in others, particularly those who are the most successful. But do we see these values in ourselves?

We should, and we must. George ‘The Poet’ made that very clear when he spoke at my college a few months ago. It’s only now I’ve come to realise their importance.

At college, we work for our ‘target’ grades and stress out over what will come next – whether it’s studying at university, getting a job or an apprenticeship. But such intense focus may be doing young people a disservice. For while an education is important, it is also important to realise life itself is an education. An ongoing education that starts from the moment of birth.

“Each one of us has a unique fingerprint, one in 7.2billion.” By anatomy alone, we are all unique – but by having our own minds and experiences, this uniqueness is amplified, qualified, personified; making us far more than our nature. “Once an architect walks in they will notice the cornicing on the roof, the quality of light let in by the windows. An artist walks in, they see the tones of the colours on the walls, how they converge and contrast.” The lesson being our uniqueness has its own contribution.

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The estate he grew up on had a stabbing in the weeks before he came to speak to us. (Source: Kilburn Times)

While George considered becoming a lawyer at sixth form, the support of teachers and his own searching concluded that such a profession would not fulfil him, either intellectually or creatively. Since the age of 13 near the estate where he grew up, he used to regularly record rap music with friends and after taking a gap year, he decided to take the plunge while also studying at Cambridge University. Whilst not many of us can attest to being so productive, we all have something we are uniquely good at.

For him, he finds this best practiced through creative means. George’s own power of spoken word is astonishing. Inspired by other impactful poets like Maya Angelou, George Watsky and those of the more musical kind like Tupac Shakur and Nas; George blends his own form of inventive lyricism with clear and defined messages honed to leave the listener with something more than they started with. Consciously choosing to go into more spoken word, than rap, he said it has made more people attuned to the quality of his message, ‘rather than the packaging,’ a major concern I myself have when listening to today’s offering.

While Future’s beats reinvent trap, it is impossible to say his words reinvent rap. George occupies a very singular space in provoking listeners to think deeper about how society works and our place within it, reconceiving some notions about what entertainment should be to young people – not just politicised but inherently political.

George is already on his way to a bigger platform than the one of a lawyer would have afforded him; not only do his videos attract hundreds of thousands of views but he was on the BBC’s Sound of 2015 Shortlist and also made the Brits Critics Choice Award Shortlist in the same year.

Lastly, he emphasised problem solving as a quality should always develop. Presented with a crisis at work, how will we get through it? What tools will we employ to find ourselves, and perhaps others, out the other end of a seemingly long and dark tunnel?

Mr Mpanga seems to be a man on a mission, for in a discussion afterwards George did not rule out becoming a politician, but not as one of the conventional lawyers we see filling the debate chamber today. ‘I want to build a platform that truly represents me.’

As a spoken word artist, he has realised the music sometimes needs to be taken away so that people understand the integrity and importance of his words, he creates what Richard Branson calls ‘impact poetry.’

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George the ‘impact poet’. (Source: David Ellis)

From recounting a visit to prison where he discussed with inmates the nature of rap and its creation of immense monetary value from poverty, and most importantly how this can be improved, it was clear to me George ‘The Poet’ wants to make a social impact with his work.

I was inspired to question the ways in which we may become almost blinded by things put in front of us. Think; is it really for what I think is best? It could be exams, it could be a life goal, it could even be as simple as the book you are told to read. Taking hold of life’s learning journey, his message of self-knowledge and social awareness is refreshing, one that especially lacking in most popular music.

Especially now at a time when it seems like exams are the be-all and end-all, hopefully looking forward with a view to our wishes will help us better see the present from a less stressful, more meaningful perspective. Hopefully those words will resonate further than the four walls within which I heard them.

About Che Applewhaite
Che Applewhaite is the Editor-in-Chief of Whippersnapper. He is a 18-year-old student who is passionate about understanding the issues today that he thinks will affect the future, primarily changes in international relations, feminism and global warming. His musical tastes are defined by a deep appreciation of jazz, minimalism, house and rap, though by no means are limited to those genres. He can often be found in a museum or bookshop on a weekend.