We caught up with him to talk about his views on song writing and how Christian influences, such as his, are impacting the music industry today.
What’s your background?
I grew up with my younger brother, my Mum and Dad in East London and was raised in a Christian family. When I was 15, I came to a bit of a crossroads where my Mum was no longer putting huge pressure on me to go to Church. I thought, ‘I don’t have to go, so if I’m gonna continue, then I need to know why I’m going and to build a relationship with Jesus’. I decided to do that. Some people have something miraculous happen or a big turning point, but with me it wasn’t really like that. I was like ‘you should probably wise up now and try Jesus properly and build a relationship with him.’ Over time I grew closer and closer with Him and learnt about what He says in the bible and the character of Jesus, which really inspired me to press on.
“I loved his attitude towards success; that it isn’t measured by how big of a hit a song is but the way we are operating in and honouring God with our gifting, doing the best we can with what He has given to us.”
– Gemma, 3rd Year
In the meantime I always had a love for music. I started writing negative stuff, as most of hip hop or grime artists do. And then I was challenged by my youth leader at church to write more positive stuff and to see how it goes… and it started to go really well so I’ve just continued on that path for the last 8/9 years.
What role does faith play in your life?
It’s a foundational role; everything I do springs out of my belief system – my faith in Jesus. It shapes the way that I view the world, it shapes the way that I view music, it shapes the way that I view people. Without my faith, I would be a completely different person in terms of my values and my morals. My faith makes me view the world through the lens of Jesus; I look at the way He lived his life; the things that broke his heart; the things that he was passionate about… When I became a christian the Holy Spirit allowed me to resonate with a lot of that and so I guess it shapes the way I view the world. I try and view it through the lens of Jesus.
“I really saw how collaborative and vulnerable his process of songwriting is. Things don’t have to be finished to get input – they can be really rough! Also we can’t hold things so tight that we don’t want input. I found that really helpful.”
– Joe, 3rd Year
Are there any key scriptures that come to mind when thinking about your career?
The one that I refer to the most is Colossians 3:23 “Anything you do, work at it wholeheartedly as if working for the Lord and not for human masters.” I feel like it’s easy in music to start off doing things for the right reasons, but then it becomes about what the person to the left or to the right is doing. What kind of success you have from how many YouTube views you get, to how many streams you get, to if your booking agent’s getting you any bookings, to if you’re getting paid a decent fee, if people know your name… and all that kind of stuff! But those are all quantified by humans.
If you have the view of what it says in Col 3:23, that we’re all doing this for the Lord, then even if you’ve only got 10 YouTube views, or if you’ve got 10 fans or 10 people looking out for you, then you’re still gonna be satisfied because you know you’re doing it for God. If your benchmark of success is what humans think, then I don’t know if we ever will be happy or truly joyful in what we’re doing.
What have you been doing in the Songwriting and Production session today?
I’ve been sharing my process of writing songs; initially how I came to be in music and how the Christian faith has inspired that. I’m obviously a rapper, I make grime music and hip hop, so stylistically different to what a lot of people I was talking to would probably make or listen to, but I believe that there are some fundamentals of writing a song, in terms of having a strong theme, strong direction in terms of collaboration, knowing your audience etc. These all crossover and spillover into whatever genre of music you’re making.
There’s no ‘right way’ to write a song, so I just wanted to share what I’ve learnt so far and show the amount of time that goes into it.
What do you hope the students will take from it?
I hope it gives them the confidence to really be who they are and to explore creativity. The main thing I’m really passionate about telling people at the moment is, the world has a ‘Guvna B’, a ‘Matt Redman’, a ‘Tim Hughes’, whoever… but what it doesn’t have is you. So, be yourself. Push the creative boundaries. If you’ve got an idea that’s a bit whacky or a bit ‘out there’, try your best to hone it and see if it can actually work. Everyone’s different, but I love when I hear something fresh, I love when I hear something new. It might not be mainstream, the masses might not flock to it, but it’s really cool seeing someone authentically live out their creativity.
How are you seeing God use music in the wider music industry at the moment?
From a surface level, faith is a big conversation at the moment. It could be for various reasons; social / political issues are affecting more and more people, so if you are sharing hope from whatever background, people are more open to hearing that because we wanna feel good. We wanna feel like we’re gonna see better days. We don’t wanna feel like it’s the end, we don’t wanna feel down. It’s more of a conversation in the mainstream arena. In the rap world you’ve got Stormzy, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, who are sharing more of faith topics in their music. It opens the door for more Christians to do the same. I’m sure there are examples in other genres too, there’s loads of examples. I feel like it opens a lot of doors.
“It was really inspiring to have Guvna B share his thoughts on faith in the music industry – I feel more equipped, to be wise in it and to understand the voice that I can have.”
– Hannah, 3rd Year
I have a lot of friends who learnt how to play instruments in church, and I guarantee that most big, mainstream artists have all got BVs that grew up in church. They’ve all got drummers and instrumentalists that grew up in church. So I feel like even behind the scenes, a lot of Christians are making waves in conversations in studio sessions or rehearsals with really big artists, which is an amazing thing. I feel like we focus on the seen a lot, but there’s a lot of the unseen that God’s doing some big work in. Some of the most powerful people in the bible didn’t have a name, but played an important role. Even if you’re not called to be on the front line, there’s still a lot of amazing things you can do behind the scenes.
Check out Guvna B’s song ‘Nothing But The Blood’ in the video below.