Sir the Baptist talks following his gig in Cambridge
This rising star of rap and R&B, who seeks to change commonly held perceptions of the genre, supported Nelly at the Corn Exchange on Monday, December 4.
William James Stokes, better known as ‘Sir the Baptist’, a name which orignates from his Christian upbringing – his father is a prominent Baptist preacher and activist – hails from Chicago and is one of 22 children.
He released his debut album, Saint or Sinner, earlier this year and sat down with the Cambridge Independent after his well-received set.
“Hip-hop and African American culture isn’t really appreciated in America as much as it should be,” he suggested, addressing the popularity of the music in the UK.
“I think we’ve digressed and the intellect that’s behind music... like there are chord changes in Nelly’s music that a guitar player could play, or a pianist could play. Right now we don’t have that in America – just a lot of bass and drums, that’s it.
“So we’re running away from musicianship, and coming here made me realise that it’s more musicianship here than it is in America.”
Sir, who previously toured the UK with Mary J Blige, continued: “Stevie Wonder’s a big fan of my album and he said: ‘Hey, get to the UK fast because that’s where real music is’ – we’ve forgotten what real music is in America.
“20 years from now, people won’t care because America’s always like ‘What’s next?’ and it’s so crazy to throw away your culture when it’s what built you.”
A prolific artist who writes constantly, Sir has enough material for more than just a second album. “I have enough for seven albums,” he revealed.
“When I say I like creating with instrumentalists and great people that love music still, that’s who follow me in America – and I’m trying to do more of that stuff, to where people look and listen to this music and then go: ‘You know what, this gives me a feeling that I never thought I would get from hip-hop again’.”
Determined to explore a deeper, more intellectual side of rap, Sir concluded:
“Jay [Z] walked up to me at one of my first concerts that I did and said: ‘Thank you for what you’re doing because contributing to the hip-hop culture is really hard to do when we’ve only been known for our negativity’.
“We’re popular for how stupid we can be: how many chains we can buy when we don’t have the money, how many houses or cars, or how many girls we can have without thinking about STDs.
“We’re trying to grow hip-hop because most hip-hop artists die young. There’s a lot of us waking up, but the hip-hop that put us in this stigma is much more popular, to this day, so we have a lot of work to do.”