If you’ve heard two of the biggest names in music at the moment, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man and Rizzle Kicks its also important you know where they started and how they built up their talent to where they are now. And for that you need to know a bit about Audio Active.
Audio Active is a ground breaking, creative organisation based in Brighton. Currently run by Adam and Tom, they work with predominantly young people in the local Brighton area as well as getting attendants from as far as London and Bristol. They create a crowd for those interested in music, technology and the urban culture. Quoted from their website that sums it up perfectly:
“For us, music is an end in itself as well as a tool for social change, education and personal development. We are restless, unafraid and excited about what we do”
As it gets easier and easier for people to stay at home on their phones and network online, one of the greatest successes of Audio Active is managing to inspire the community to get out from behind their screens and have the confidence to meet up with a group of new people and share these experiences.
Below is a perfect example with their video of the incredibly talented Phonetic doing what she does best. The video spread through Facebook like wildfire reaching 45,000 views and rising and even being shared by Rag n Bone Man and being ‘Liked” by big US artists like King Syze of the legendary Army Of The Pharaohs.
I met up with Tom Hines to find out more about Audio Active from the man himself.
“Yeh, man my name is Tom Hines and I’m a Project Manager at Audio Active and I’ve been working pretty much since the beginning with the charity which was established in 2004. I came in as a Rap Tutor but now I’m mainly involved with management and engagement with young people and projects. It started off as its own project trying to get things going on for young people but then it kind of evolved into its own thing and became independent. It started off with DJ forms and that sort of urban music but its more of a bit of everything now. Still Hip Hop is what eve been most successful for and best known for. “
Rag N Bone Man, how was he involved with Audio Active in the earlier days?
“The thing with Rag n Bone Man is there’s a lot of overlap between the night I do, Slip Jam, and the workshops that I’ve done. Cos the workshops have kinda been s staging ground for young people and then its gone on for people to perform at Slip Jam. So Rag N Bone Man’s come down to workshops ion the past to help kids with a bit of vocals and just got involved with panels etc. Its also through Slip Jam where it got some of his earlier shows. But he’s always kind of been involved with us and supported us and when he made it in the music he was moe than happy to become a patron for us and promote our work. Also we got some big things coming in the future collaborating with him which is really exciting.”
So tell us a bit more about Slip Jam and how that is linked with Audio Active?
“Well to be honest they’re very similar. Slip Jam has always been a community in just getting people together while keeping it free and keeping it inclusive., just open mic sort of stuff. And the workshops at Audio Active have been very similar as well. So when I started working in a more managerial capacity at Audio Active the lines between em got even more blurred and people couldn’t really tell the differn3ec so its naturally become one and the same in some ways. My experience of putting on event sna linking up with other artists has become a apart of Audio Active and getting these kids and linking them up with other artists to help inspire them and push em in the right direction.”
Jordan from Rizzle Kicks is always singing your praises. Is Audio Active where him and Harley met and became Rizzle Kicks?
“They had met before, knew each other when they were younger but they kind of lost contact and they came reacquainted at Audio Active. They weren’t really working together so much in those days, Harley was doing more Grime stuff and Jordan was focusing more on Hip Hop. Then they started working together through the workshops. Its really interesting actually because we’re always pushing people to be themselves and stuff and they really ran with that and went further with it than I thought they could do. So they were quite happy to become our first patrons as well so they’ve done a lot of fund raising for us and come back to help and do master classes. And again we are going to be working with them a lot in the future.”
I’ve met a lot of the members of Audio Active and they are very complimentary of you and the team and have a lot of respect for your methods of teaching. Where did you learn to nurture and inspire the kids where others have failed?
“That’s a really interested question. I think from my background of having no one really to rap with when I was younger and kind of getting no one helping me I always thought that when I had the opportunity I would help other people really. So I took a few people under my wing to kind of give them a chance before I ever thought of doing it in a professional capacity. But its just a natural thing I think. The other thing is there’s a lot of misconceptions in Hip Hop and I’m always trying to show the general public that the stigmas aren’t true. But I think that goes down to the young people as well. They sometimes come and they are very set in what they want to do and we help them open their minds and giving them some other opportunities.”
How would you describe the Audio Active crowd that you get in?
“I mean we do so many projects, like there’s a lot of Hip Hop stuff but we also do all sorts of things. We a do a lot of shows and cyphers in the parks but there’s also more high-end stuff that we do that doesn’t perhaps recognized. We also got bigger projects, ambitious projects that are a bit more artsy that don’t seen to be doing as much. And on top of that we do very targeted stuff with different charities, like we work with homeless people down at the Clock Tower. We work with a charity called Man Kind. There’s lots of these little projects we do that we don’t sing and shout about because they are a lot more personable and they are a lot more sort of secret really. So it’s a massive wide range of our crowd, but that’s one of the reasons we can feed people into these different projects once they get good. We can give them other opportunities to mingle with the rest of the Rap and Hip Hop community and musicians. That’s why there’s always this kind of scene and community bubbling up because we are bringing in these people from different parts of town and different backgrounds to create these experiences.”
What’s your biggest issue when it comes to mobilizing your crowd?
“Ahhh well its quite difficult, people are always quite cynical about stuff. I think if I do a cypher on the Level, young kids are a bit intimidated by these experienced rappers. Older heads don’t really wanna rap with young kids when they’ve got it all completely wrong. These young kids would probably murder them with their rap skills, do you know what I mean. Its sort of the other way around really? Also there’s a lot of apathy nowadays as well. People just stay at home and don’t really get involved in stuff. Young people especially, they are just online all the time, they’re not actually out physically talking to each other and realizing what opportunities are out there and networking. And I don’t think they really realize how important putting a name to a face and having a chat with someone is gonna do so much more than sending an email or badgering someone on Facebook. So I think just getting people to place has always been difficult but with Hip hop Heads it seem to be even harder.”
What plans you got for Audio Active coming up in the Future?
"There's a lot of big things going on behind the scenes that I can't really talk about but yeh there's definately a lot of plans for expansion. Theres expanding what we doin with artist development and working on new ways to empower the kids to help them better further themselves really and to help network with the right people. So theres loads of conversations going on. We’re gonna be doing something with the Breaking Convention soon, , working with a dance company coming up as well. I go a conversation going on tonight with a mental health charity, working with storytelling army. So there's gonna be all these little partnerships. Also there's all these young people that are open to find work and all there's these organizations struggling to get people on board so we’re quite happy to send kids out to try and get em involved in this."
Bless man I love what you're doing here and really excited about the future of Audio Active. You got any final shout outs you wanna give?
"I gotta shout out Rag n Bone man cos he’s absolutely killing it right now and he remains to be very generous with all he does for us. Rizzle Kicks who are absolutely killing it. All of our Tutors who are incredible. Phonetic who’s absolutely killing it, Bobbie Johnson is getting involved as well,, Ben Addict from YoGoCop who's getting involved. Some really strong tutors coming through. People like Hatter."