It’s James here. Brian has asked me to take the reins on the #ThrowbackTuesday for a couple of weeks, so I just wanted to say hello!
This week’s Throwback is the poet and spoken word artist Suli Breaks.Every now and then you’ll hear Brian describe someone as the ‘quintessential’ London Real guest.
And normally it’s an entrepreneur or MMA athlete.
I think Suli Breaks also deserves this label.
He’s a poet, but he’s also a businessman in a way, and he’s committed to forging new paths for artists to survive on their creativity.
This episode took place at a key juncture in Suli’s career, and it’s for that reason I’ve chosen to revisit it, even though it’s his second appearance.
In everything from his poetry to his hugely successful YouTube business, to his plans to travel the world, life seemed to be in flux for Suli, in a very good way.
One thing that keeps coming up all the time throughout this interview is the importance of evolving.
Just as he and Brian were shooting this episode Suli was doing the final preparations for his ‘Around The World in 80 Days’ tour.
His plan was to visit four different continents and perform, meet businesses and entrepreneurs and inspire others around the world.
The basic idea was also a personal one.
As Suli explains, an artist’s tools are his experiences, so he felt almost duty-bound to expand his own horizons as much as possible.
This idea of experience is another theme which comes up again and again in the episode.
For Suili – anything is fair game.
Whether it’s playing Super Mario or visiting tech industry pioneers, it’s all learning, and it’s all fuel for the artistic process.
Suli’s online presence had just blown up in a big way too, with Will Smith sharing Suli’s video of his poem I Will Not Let An Exam Result Determine My Fate.Now, Suli’s great skill is keeping a perspective, keeping a kind of calm eye on the events around him.
But when one of the world’s biggest Hollywood stars shares your work on social media, it causes a worldwide storm!
Suli admits, on this one, he let himself enjoy the rush of fame and the thrill of that level of accolade.
But it’s not like Suli’s hasn’t had his successes.
He’s got over 300,000 subscribers on YouTube, which is more than DOUBLE what we have on London Real.
And Suli explains that he doesn’t like to get caught up in the successes.
It’s important for an artist to always keep evolving and always be trying to improve and develop.
Basking in the glory too much can kill the creativity, and Suli’s just too damn smart to do that.
But yeah, when Will Smith gives you a public pat on the back, then I think you can be forgiven for relishing that one, and going a bit nuts.
Suli has become a name, and his YouTube poetry videos have touched audiences across the globe.
As a result he’s spoken at entrepreneur conferences, and been invited to the British Houses of Parliament.What I like about Suli though is that he takes it all in his stride, and makes a point of doing that.
The main thing is his craft, and every experience is just another poem or artistic adventure.
Suli’s a man with a higher purpose, and he refers to it throughout the interview.
He’s always trying to expand people’s vision of what’s possible.
It’s fascinating to get inside the head of this man, and to see the ways in which his personality forms the foundations of his art.
Suli grew up between Wood Green in North London and Ghana, and he never really had a chance to completely settle as a kid.
He was always the new guy, always on the move.
This can be tough for some kids, but Suli recognises that it gave him his perspective on the world, and helped him become the single-minded individual he is today.
There’s a lot of joy, and a big heart, behind everything that Suli does creatively. But his art is also driven by a frustration.
He talks about this. Suli’s personality is to never accept what people tell him can or can’t be done.
He is always trying to prove to those around him that more is possible, and the the socially accepted limitations are just illusions.
In fact you can see a video below of him speaking to school kids in California about just this topic.That’s what his work on education shows.
It’s a message to young people that they don’t have to be the product of their schooling or their backgrounds.
It’s a message to us all really, telling us that we are masters of our fate.
Another one of Suli’s many projects is his work with tech companies.
He describes himself as a natural at marketing, he understands how to promote himself.
So he has a fascination with how companies in the tech industry resemble artists.
They are always trying to disrupt the environment they are in, break the mould and defy the limits of what people say is possible.
Suli likes being around entrepreneurs because they remind him of himself.
Rebellious, innovative and always looking for that new experience, that new game-changing idea.Another thing to watch out for is Brian’s query on Suli’s ability to reach so many people, without becoming this kind of ‘youth icon’.
That’s something he’s consciously tried to avoid, and it’s a mark of his intelligence to hear the reasons he has done that.
For Suli, his poetry is not about raising himself up for praise, or agitating people into some mass movement.
Suli’s too much an individual for that, too much of a lone voice.
His big message is for other people to fulfill their potential, not get caught up in more hero worship.
I also find it interesting how Suli balances the ‘fluidity’ of his creative process, and his incredible discipline at creating a sustainable structure around what he does.
As you’ll hear, Suli puts a big emphasis on planning, strategising and making each step count towards your goal.
At the same time, when it comes to his actual creative process, he allows himself a lot of freedom, trusts his instincts and doesn’t force a timetable on his art.
Suli’s riffs on the creative process are very valuable to anyone who has to balance paying the bills with their artistic talents.
I can’t wait to see when Brian gets Suli back on the show, because this guy is always changing, always developing something new.
He mentioned a couple of times how he was trying to embrace musical influences, learn guitar and was listening to classic songwriters like Tracy Chapman and Neil Young.
It’s going to be insightful to watch this artist grow and it helps to see someone lead the way on how an artist can integrate himself into the changing world of modernity and technology.
I know you’re going to love re-watching this episode and get both inspired and informed by a young man who is truly blazing the trail for modern creatives.
I’d love to know what your big takeaways from this episode are too.
Let me know in the comments below whether you agree with my take on it, or you noticed something else that really impacted you.