Interview with Guvna B
From a session at Everything 2020
Guvna B, a double MOBO Award winning rapper and author from East London, was recently interviewed at the Everything Conference, the focus of which is how Christians can renew culture. Guvna B has faced challenges and disadvantages in life but has nevertheless achieved some remarkable things. How has God has used these weaknesses or the disadvantages in his life to more effectively serve Him? Guvna B reflects:
Well, I grew up on a council estate in East London and a big disadvantage would be the lack of opportunity. I think there's a real humility when it comes to success if you know that you haven't been handed everything on the plate. I look at the music awards that I've won and think, you know what? These things wouldn't have happened without God. And I think when I started to get a little bit of success, I had to look up to the heavens and just know that God, this is because of you and I couldn't have done it without you.
I actually started out rapping about girls, guns, drugs, and I realised that I didn't do drugs, didn't have a gun, didn't get any girls. And so I just felt this deep conviction that I wasn't being true to who God wanted me to be. And every time I went into the studio to record music, I just knew I was meant to be rapping about my faith because it shapes my worldview.
I'd say the only thing more exhausting than standing out and being true to yourself is waking up every day and having to put on a mask and pretend that you're someone that deep down you know that's not you. If you wake up in the morning and try your best to be who God has called you to be, it might be daunting. It might be risky, but you can go to bed knowing you've given it your all. And that is one of the most satisfying feelings that I've ever felt in my life.
In 2017, my dad fell ill and a week later he passed away in hospital. I spiralled into a deep depression after about three months, because, initially, I was in autopilot. I'm the oldest child. I was making sure my mum was okay, my younger brother was fine, the funeral arrangements were as they should be. And when people stopped calling and checking up on me and that kind of stuff, I felt really isolated. But now that I reflect, I think that that situation actually brought out the characteristics that only get shown in times of trouble and despair. And I came face to face with my humanity.
And I guess the turning point, I made the decision to take an opportunity to go and tour America. And I was on this beach in Newport and just outside of Los Angeles. And I was just writing and reading and I came across Psalm 13 and it's David crying up to God. He's saying things like, "God, why have you left me? Why have you forsaken me? Why are my enemies triumphing over me?" And it just hit me. And I thought to myself, I can actually be honest with God. "God, right now I'm hurt. I don't understand where I am. I don't understand why you've done this, why I didn't get any warning."
And I just started to pray really, really honest prayers and it felt weird at the start, but it created this deep connection with me and God and I felt his presence like never before. And I guess that was the start of me turning a corner and seeking counselling. And right now, as I talk to you, I wouldn't say I'm completely out of the tunnel, but God has definitely shown his goodness.
I never used to think good things come from bad situations, but they absolutely can. I find that I'm strong enough to have these conversations now. I can help people that have been through similar things. And I know my dad, who was a Christian, is with Jesus and his legacy lives on. So yeah, it was a real turning point reading Psalm 13 and trying to move forward. What I learned about grief is there's not a manual. Everyone deals with it in different ways. And I encourage you to feel all of the things. Feel joy, feel sadness, feel all the things, but know that in that Jesus will never leave you. He will never forsake you. So I would say feel the things, but know that you're never alone.
A song about my father's death had a pretty amazing response. Me writing about it was only meant to be for me. It was a form of therapy. Didn't expect anyone to hear it, but a friend heard the song and said you need to put this out. And I was astounded by the response. And I think that just goes to show that people don't mind hearing vulnerability and people don't mind tapping into honesty. And so we mustn't feel that we always have to have things planned out or mustn't feel that we always have to present the best version of ourselves, because sometimes what connects us is our weaknesses and our vulnerability.
Since then I've had a son, his name's Ezra. He's one now. And just looking at him and thinking, no matter what you do, I'm going to love you unconditionally. And I'm going to try my best to protect you just helps me recognise that whatever I go for in life, there is a God that can see around corners that I can't, and he is protecting me. So through having my son, I've seen my relationship with God in a new way and through a new lens and that's given me a lot of strength.
One of the things that's happened in recent months is that this nation has been having a conversation about race and think we're probably more united than we would think. I think, historically, we have been divided, but that division has been covered up. And what's happened in the last few months is it's been uncovered and we've been forced to have uncomfortable conversations. But those uncomfortable conversations have been a bit of a bridge. And so I think that we're at a great time where we've realised there's work that needs to be done, but we need to feel uncomfortable. And I always ask the question, how much do we care about this? Do we care about it enough for it to interrupt our politics? Do we care about it enough for it to interrupt our finances? Do we care about it enough for it to interrupt our lives? And if we do, then that's a great thing.
When I look at the life of Jesus, he didn't mind being interrupted. He was sleeping on the boat. Got woken up. Didn't mind. A couple of guys came in through the ceiling. Didn't mind. And whenever it was time to work or just work for peace or bridging that gap, he was open to it and didn't mind being interrupted and I think we need to follow in his footsteps when it comes to that. But, ultimately, I am encouraged because anything that is spoken out, anytime the truth is being told, we have a choice. We can move in the right direction or we can stay stagnant. And it feels like the majority really want to move in the right direction. And that encourages me, especially when it comes to the church.
People are now more concerned with empathy and caring and the ability to put yourself in someone else's position. Hopefully together, we can find the answers, but don't always worry about, "I'm not too sure about building community in this area because I haven't got anything to give or I haven't got the answers." Just worry about connecting with people and building relationships. And as long as we're all on the same side we'll move in the right direction.
I try to use my platform for good, sometimes explicitly for Jesus, otherwise more generally using biblical principles that will help the flourishing of any community. Some people say that's a waste of time. We should just focus on the spiritual side of things. But it needs to be Bible in one hand and newspaper in the other. They all work together.
You can hear this interview along with other sessions with Andy Crouch, Rachelle Ann Go - West End star of Hamilton and Miss Saigon, small business owners Emily and David Lynas who run Lost & Found cafes in Northern Ireland, Temi Oh - award winning author and others after paying a fee to access the Everything Conference content here.
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From a session at Everything 2020, 12/01/2021