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We spoke to HAM the Illustrator at the Tupac Changes Exhibition - Croydon - produced by Highlight Nation.  As ever, this conversation was full of insights that came about spontaneously through conversation.  

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HAM the Illustrator is an emerging London based British-Namibian multimedia hiphop artist and storyteller focused primarily on the marriage between his conscious lyricism and graphic illustration.  Along with over 20 overall international and local performances, HAM the Illustrator lays claim to supporting well known international artists such as Rudimental, Coolio, Grandmaster Flash, D Double E & Footsie (Newham Generals), Big Narstie, P Money, Logan Sama, Flava D, General Levy, Izzie Gibbs, Congo Natty, Killa P, HVDES, Avok, AceDa Bass, Cameron Hart, Niskerone and many others.  ​Influenced largely by his upbringing in Namibia, Ethiopia, South Africa and the United Kingdom, HAM's mission remains to promote education, empowerment and compassion in today's society through his art. 

"First you make them more aware, then you make them believe they have the power to make a change, then you make them think about what they should do with that power."- HAM”

To learn more about HAM the Illustrator visit:



PART 1: This CULTURE CAPTURE performance was captured in HUSS ART HOUSE - HQ for LIFE VOCABULARY in South London.  Head to to get the latest on his music.  

(Part 2 - Fontzerelli performance).  

Editor Serena Hussain aka HUSS conversation with Shay J Today and Management before the event:


True. How can there be?  These are the words taken from Rapper and lyrical Philosopher (from Atlanta) Shay J Today.  In conversation with him and part of his management team Web who is based in Europe (Founder of platform "Raise the Kulture”) we discussed the state of Hip Hop for well over an hour.  Here are some of the insights: 

First - Web cut straight to what she as a Hip Hop Culture Activist deems most important for us to consider right now: 

“We don’t usually give interviews … but we f**k with you and what you’re doing.  Unfortunately, the new culture is no culture.  And those who complain about the state of hip hop - my message to them is - SHARE your Rappers”. 

The discussion about discovering new music, being heard and supported went deep - spanning from thriving as an artist to a more market perspective on the art itself. But it mostly focused on Shay J Today’s philosophy - being YOU on the path of least resistance - which is pivotal to the art itself:

“For me… vision is always a must and I go off of a feeling.  From New York and the opportunities over there to spreading the music far and wide (Japan and other territories).  Go where people receive you”. 

I asked them about this path of least resistance - and if dreaming bigger could engender such a smooth trajectory.  What about the struggle?  And the struggle being real?! A sharp insight came from them:

"Once you do better, the circle gets smaller and tighter”. 

So … removing ourselves from energy that doesn’t help propel us can be the cause of said resistance? Is isolation a necessary part in the creation of art?  Shay J Today went on to explain: 

"Art is subjective and regardless of where you sit - whether it’s mainstream music or not - you should be your own Artist and exactly how you want to be”. 

On self promotion - during these times of new media and digital content - I asked how artists, especially unsigned and independent, should seek to stand out? A very quick and succinct answer came from Web: 

“Be paper … not coins.  We’re not here to make noise - but to be recognised.  Real recognises real - be silent but (smilingly) deadly”. 

On the absence of a record label and ‘corporate' management team, we talked about straddling the line between discovery and middle management.  We’re in a space now where we can find more and more diverse music.  But it is still up to us to share what we know is 'good music'.  On her platform “Raise the Kulture”, Web shares artists whose music she finds an answer in.  Which is the true meaning and mission of Hip Hop is it not?  

Hip Hop is an evocative genre of music, one that LIFE VOCABULARY regards as a lens through which we can better understand human nature... and understand our lives.   

When it comes to making music, and the frequency of this, Shay J Today prefers to take his time and praised his Producer (also his mentor) who showed him how to absorb music in a deeper way - listening vs. studying.   

“Albums take time - the greats produced great projects”.   

Rather than churning them out?  There are trends and layers in hip hop including the “real hip hop” purists who are celebrated for recognising true musical art.  Are such categories necessary to highlight ‘the real’? Or could such categories stand in the way of the music reaching as many ears as possible?  Do elitist approaches within Hip Hop potentially create more exclusivity when in fact music and hip hop needs to be all embracing?  

Perhaps aligning ourselves to any layer in this Hip Hop cake could create further separation but we also have to assist others in deciphering where WE sit in this cake.  It’s not so black and white. 

This conversation entered all kinds of grey areas - the kind that LIFE VOCABULARY likes to capture. It’s in that grey area where we can truly find one another.  Learn more about Shay J Today in our live CULTURE CAPTURE interview with him and South London Rapper Fontzerelli. 

Shay J Today’s upcoming album VAL{you} is created around a theme of personal growth and intelligence.  To get a deeper insight into his writing and listen to his new music, head over to

Serena Hussain aka HUSS The Editor - Producing Culture Content to Incite Insight.