In his new (and very first) book, Unpopular Culture, MOBO-winning gospel rapper Guvna B opens up about his struggles with loneliness, being unpopular and overly conscious about what others think of him. But, the crux of the story is celebrating being you—revelling in it, and owning it. In Guv's own words: "It really is time for unpopular culture to take the stage."
Unpopular Culture is due to hit stands on June 15, and, as a little taster, Guvna B sent Complex an exclusive extract from the book, which you can read right after the jump.
Black Del Boy
My mother always told me that if I knew who I was, I’d be just fine. A pithy soundbite like that may sound amazing, but I didn’t understand what ‘knowing myself’ actually meant. Or, for that matter, how I could achieve it.
Finding out who we truly are is a quest many of us embark on; some struggle, some don’t. For me, it’s always been a concept I’ve found hard to get to grips with. Many of my friends have gone travelling around the world to ‘find themselves’. Perhaps there is a secret undercover location in remote Thailand that stores the real versions of ourselves, just waiting to be discovered by Western gap-year travellers.
I didn’t go down that route. Instead, unintentionally, I chose trial and error. And much closer to home.
In my first attempt to find out who I truly was, I pursued cold, hard cash. From the tender age of 12, I learned the art of profiteering. I’d buy a multipack of sweets for £1 and then sell each individual packet in school at a marked-up price. For every £1 invested in sugar I’d make £2 profit in coins. I took home around £10 a week, which wasn’t too bad for someone not yet in their teens. However, fast-forward a couple of years and that weekly tenner just wasn’t cutting it for me any more. I wanted more; I needed a more profitable hustle.
Out of all my friends I was probably the most obsessed with music, always the first to listen to newly released albums and singles. I had a portable CD player that fit just perfectly inside the side pocket of my blazer. It wasn’t the best design – it used to skip songs every time I ran or made a sudden movement – but it meant that I always had the latest music playing on my way to and from class. I soon realised that there was a demand for new music in school, and hit upon a fresh financial scheme.
At home I would curate a mix of all the latest songs, burning them on to cheap blank CDs. I’d choose the best R&B, hip-hop and UK garage tracks, and fit as many on to a disc as possible. I’d then sell the CDs at break-time for £5. On a good day I’d make upwards of £40 and boost my reputation as the finest music connoisseur in year nine. The whole operation was obviously illegal, as I didn’t have permission from any of the music artists to use their songs, but hopefully I’ll never get in trouble for it as I didn’t know any better at the time. Anyway, the money went towards feeding my desires for the latest trainers or name brand clothes.
Whatever weird and wonderful ways there were to make money, I was all in. I called it business acumen, but most called me the ‘black Del Boy’. Although I’d found some skill in being a young trader, I soon realised that it didn’t really solve any of my deep-rooted problems or give me the satisfaction I had so greatly anticipated.
I turned my attention to other interests, such as girls, clothes and cars, but I found similar feelings of dissatisfaction. My teenage romances would break down as we discovered we were imperfect people looking for perfection. My love for cars and clothes left me feeling frantic, struggling to keep up with ever-changing trends. I was discovering that placing my identity in imperfect people or impermanent things meant that in losing those, I’d lose myself.