A 24-year-old rapper from Eastbourne who won a poetry competition at the Royal Albert Hall says his life experiences in foster care inspire his work.
Sol Ogunmefun-Brooker who performs under stage name Sol OB, was born in Hackney and now lives in Polegate, Sol was raised by white foster parents Victor and Patricia Brooker, something which shapes a lot of his content.
Sol said, “I’m influenced by the life I’ve lived and all that I’ve seen or heard. I’ve only really been writing about personal experiences for the last few years, as that’s a boundary that took a little while for me to cross.
“Once you feel comfortable to upon up and expose yourself, your writing can change shape as your content really becomes a reflection of you. It’s scary because there is an element of vulnerability in that, but a lot of strength comes with it too.”
Despite his childhood being somewhat challenging, Sol is thankful for what his nan and grandad (the names he calls his foster parents) have given him.
He said, “The situation itself had the potential to be horrible. I could have quite easily been separated from my biological brother and sister and that would have been life changing.
“Instead we were all taken in by the same family and the way they treated us made for a very normal dynamic.
“Our upbringing was very caring and there was a lot of stability and consistency.
“My foster parents were very protective when I was younger, and at the time you resent that, feel too sheltered. As you grow older though you appreciate more that it’s from a place of love and caring for your well being.
“As they watched me mature, they loosened up a lot. They timed it pretty well to be fair.
“A fostering experience can be very negative for a lot of kids and give them a bad start. I was fortunate that for me it was very positive.
“I feel now that it’s a responsibility to be an advocate of the brighter side of care and adoption.
“My upbringing massively shapes the man I am today. I was always encouraged to believe in myself and to have confidence in my goals. I owe a lot to that.”
Being from Eastbourne where there is not a rap scene, Sol thinks that his brother shaped his interest in the art form.
He added, “I got into rapping through my older brother’s hip hop collection. A lot of the classic stuff. Jay-Z, Eminem, Nas, 50 Cent and some D12. The list could go on for a long time.
“As I got a bit older I found grime music. The energy really seemed to speak to me in my early teens and I was obsessed.
“My earliest memories of attempting to rap where at my living room table on a Saturday afternoon.
“I remember sitting down watching Channel U, home of grime when I was growing up, and then switching it off and having a go myself.”
Sol who describes himself as a hybrid between a rapper and a poet has other projects which take up his time such as his band, Sounds of Harlowe.
He said, “Our music is quite different but we often describe it as a blend of alternative Hip Hop, funk and Soul. All the members come from quite varied musical backgrounds, so it’s quite a melting pot of influences.
“Outside of that I’m about to release my first solo EP called The Writing is Real.”
After being crowned Poetry Slam champion, Sol’s highlight is the exposure it has given his foster parents.
He said, “It’s natural to want to repay the people that raised you for all that they’ve done as you get older, but you don’t know how.
“To be honest, they deserve some kind of award for all their efforts, but they’ve never cared about that kind of thing. Just acted out of love.
“This accolade means as much to them as it does to me and I know they’re very proud to see me doing well.”
Sol is also in the final of another competition called Words First which is set up by BBC 1Xtra and Roundhouse London. It is funded by the Arts Council.
Sol added, “It’s been promoting spoken word on a national scale and I’m lucky enough to be selected as one of the final six in the country taking part.
“It all culminates with a final show that we’ll be performing at the Roundhouse and I can’t wait to see what it’ll all look like.”
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