Insightful Excerpts From Chapter 3 Of George The Poet's Critically Acclaimed 'Have You Heard George's Podcast?'

The new series of Have You Heard George's Podcast? (HHGP) returned on 15th July with a gem-packed Chapter 3 as expected. The renowned podcast is the brainchild of George Mpanga, popularly know as George The Poet, an acclaimed British poet, rapper and social commentator of Ugandan descent, who uses his spoken word work to interrogate pertinent social and political issues. 

The critically acclaimed podcast has been running since 2018 with the release of chapter one followed by chapter two in 2019, which won a Peabody Award for Best Podcast. The Peabody Awards honour stories that Matter in television, radio, podcasts & digital media through symposiums, screenings & an annual awards ceremony.

During Chapter 2 of his podcast in 2019, he disclosed how he turned down the Member of the British Empire recognition because of the pure evil perpetrated by the British Empire. "It will remain unacceptable to me until Britain takes institutional measures to address the intergenerational disruption brought to millions as a result of her colonial exploits," he expressed. 

Just like his previous seasons, Chapter 3 is edutainment personified with a blend of politics, sociology, history and entertainment. In the opening of the new chapter, the revered poet expressed how HHGP is his way of breaking down what's going on in his life and his community, through storytelling, looking at popular songs, creating characters that live in his head, and breaking it down intricately with his producer, Benbrick. 

These are some of the insightful excerpts from Chapter 3 of Have You Heard George's Podcast thus far, particularly from episode 19 - episode 23: 

Episode 19 titled 'Common Good '

In this episode George starts with how we need to move away from employment that doesn't solve our problems and makes us avoid them and uses an analogy about The Market; how it doesn't care about human beings and introduces a new platform that reflects George's audience as a network know as Common Good. He opens this episode with how he doesn't want to bore his audience with his COVID-19 troubles and just wants to give them chapter 3 three along with a platform to feed back to him; which is known as Common Ground. Common Ground is George's dream of his audience becoming a network, where they share their feedback through a brand new online platform

  • "Black people have made popular new sounds from 1800's up to the 2000's, and there's no sign of us losing this ability. Music continues to improve our visibility. Every Black society has been abused in recent history, but music has supported us through this instability. Listen, I'm not as concerned with credit and sales as I am with seeing us develop ourselves, so, given what we've given, for the time it's been working. When people take our Blackness and define it as "Urban" just so they can sell it without us taking credit, I find it disturbing. And maybe, I wouldn't feel it as much, if we didn't need it as much. Music is our golden ticket, and we're missing out on a lot if we don't admit it. We need change. And if our position in the economy won't permit it; we need to use the opportunities inequality won't inhibit. So, I'm saying, we can pull a lot of Black people out of perpetual poverty by thinking of music as our intellectual property."
  • "We've all got to focus on whatever we want, but the market isn't kind to every one, and trust me, when the market isn't kind, it can be harsh like prison time. The market doesn't care about human beings, with the difficult positions it puts you and me in, because in a real market, there's no higher command than the laws of supply and demand. I see Black people as a worldwide collective. Everywhere we go, we got Black people problems making us feel like we lack legal options. Not just in the ends, but the governments of Africa. We got so much conflict and we are struggling to patch it up. Children need affection, young'ns need direction, workers need protections and free and fair elections .. and the more I study our people, bro, the more I realise how much time it's gonna take... Over here were trying to make it make sense, over there, they're up against the violence of the state. All of us agree we need to find another way. Some of us are mainly reliant on our faith, none of us can say we have a political system that's international, reliable and safe. See, what that means is that our survival is at stake."

Episode 20 titled 'Young' 
This episode chronicles the life and times of Shawn Carter, aka Jay Z. Here, George uses Jay Z's life to break down his theory of change, which is all about Black music creating serious change:

  • "Breaking the cycle of fatherless boys becoming drug dealers is difficult. I've never seen a government do it, and I've seen neighbourhoods across the world struggling through it. But the few times I've seen people turn that experience into something positive; they've done it with music. Selling drugs ain't a character trait. It's no one's natural state; so why is it a factor on so many estates? People have to trade. Work comes up, cash gets paid. That's how transactions get made. Some people make billions and tax evade, others sell crack cocaine and invest in their music until their tracks get played enough to attract some fame; and transition into legal ambition. We hear a lot of music about crack cocaine but most of us can't explain how it attacks the brain. To me crack looks like a different kind of smoke. It looks like a spirit that grips you by the throat, jumps into your eyes and sits inside your soul. Now, what if you were Young and cash weren't attainable, and crack was the only work available. Could you stomach what it is doing to your people? Would you call that opportunity or evil? Black culture is big business, how the fuck does talent development still come down to luck? I hope we face up to the challenge and truth that the streets can both empower and damage the youth."

Episode 21 titled 'Flying The Flag'
He uses the analogy about the empire in this episode: "If Britain was Lil Wayne in 2008, America was Drake pigeonholing her (America) would be a helluva mistake." He uses the power of American domination in pop culture and marries it with Ela Mai's success and features a perfect choice of background music by Miss Lauryn Hill & Nas - If I ruled the world. 

  • "Ela Mai reached the status of the greats all because she made it in the States. Black music taught me a lot about America. In fact, music taught me a lot about hella stuff: like the power the power of the market; how many times have I seen a three-minute song generate more energy than a movie longer than an hour and a half did? How his podcast won Peabody award that no non-American had gotten before; Wizkid did it with Afrobeats, Ragga Dee did for the Ugandan scene; just highlighting how they're flying the flag. We all start off by doing what we love at the time where the money isn't guaranteed. We take our skills and we find a way to make our skills pay our bills and if we get it right, more people can eat; we don't even need to compete. RnB, Afrobeats, Rap, whatever; as a generation, we adapt together and as a rule, anything that thrives in the streets has the potential to drive industries."

Episode 22 titled 'Mavado & Vybz Kartel' 

In this episode George takes a trip down memory lane and expounds on the Mavado and Vybz Kartel beef (Gully vs Gazza Beef) that happened almost 15 years ago. He later explores the why accompanied with a brief history about Jamaica, the two artists' country, which opens with a brilliant selection of music; Damian Marley's Welcome To Jamrock. He then brings back The Market analogy as he delves into their social irresponsible art, and how the market doesn't care about the people. 

  • "The clash exposed a big problem that we had, a lot of kids just wanted to be bad. Mavado used to scream gangster for life even though he lost a lot of friends thanks to the life and Vybz Kartel loved to play the villain. From singing about killing, he made a killing. Why were they so obsessed with this way of living; with all this gangster behaviour? Mavado, Vybz Kartel and Damian Marley inspired me. They made me want fans that admire me, but what I didn't know when I was younger, was the background of that gagster society. This music emerged from the wreckage, every verse was aggressive, but the words had a message. There's no such thing as a perfect perspective, but other forms of storytelling weren't as effective. Damian Marley's perspective was Rastafarai, which is why he's one of the few artists I trust - I can't lie. He always found a way of promoting peace and unity; projecting strength and speaking beautifully, like his dad. Maybe his uplifting message reflected the life he had. But what about Mavado and Vybz? The life they wrote about is hard to describe. Both of them embraced the darkness with pride and drew people into the Gully Gazza divide. They sent out a message and the market replied."

Episode 23 titled 'Back To UG' 
    This episode details part 1 of Back To UG, where he speaks about Uganda and introduces his fiancé, Sandra, to his audience.

  • "My mum suggested that I take sometime to unwind before the Cambridge grind, so, I spent half a year in Uganda and it changed my life. I studied my people, how they survive and the things about myself I had never noticed. It was a spiritual journey man. While I was out there I thought about The Ends. The lifestyle claiming all my childhood friends, I wished I could fly the whole hood to Uganda. Just walk around with them, absorb the powers with them. Don't get me wrong, in Ugandan society, there's also a submark of contempt. There's greed, corruption, people starving, but even the orphans in the streets were laughing. Looking back, we were part of a trend. Ugandans are so accommodating, for most of our holidays we just wanted to party with them and be with our cousins, uncles, aunties and friends. Mentally for me, it was far from The Ends. It was mad seeing Black people laughing again. Across the entire diaspora, more of us were becoming inspired by Africa; the continent was a symbol of optimism. Africans held all the top positions. And even though we were lucky to live in rich countries, the Motherland showed us what was missing. The people, the sun, the cultural healing, the food, the vibe - it was the ultimate freedom. For the first time in my life I wasn't Black; I think I got attached, mainly because of that. During this time, African music was making rapid improvements, probably because of music production and distribution becoming more digital and more Africans having computers, not to mention the young massive consumers creating new super stars and massive producers. Uganda's music scene was soon seeing a change there was more demand on the international stage. All Africans are part of the same story, but music put us on the same actual page. And that's how one of Uganda's most popular singers, Bobi Wine, ended up in a position to become a politician.... I'm gonna tell you something about Uganda, which you might already know; the older she gets, the more her insecurities show."

Concluding Thoughts

Poetry Over Politics: Instead of becoming a politician, George chose to write lyrics/spoken word poetry and that was an ingenious decision, because as he often asks: how many politicians get your undivided attention for 25 minutes?! The poet says if his podcast sounds normal, then he's not giving his audience enough reason to listen, and he really needs his audience to listen, and that's why he makes it sound different. Hence the refreshing out of the box execution of HYHGP? A great reminder of not taking the conventional way; there are various avenues to impact change in society and he's doing his through poetry. 

Humanities Theory: How George combines his triple majors of Politics, Psychology & Sociology, which he obtained through his degree from Cambridge, is ever-so invigorating. Ideology and theory are key for the revolution and you can tell he's not only reflecting society back to the audience, but is also backed with humanities theory. The renowned podcast feels like a Political Science module focused on political ideologies, and serves as a vital example of why the Arts/Humanities are as important as STEM. Science, Technology and Engineering don't operate in a vacuum, hence the Arts deserve to be prioritised too.  

Critical thinking is an imperative skill and in my opinion, no subject offers it like Political Science and the various humanities subjects. To become a society of critical thinkers and political literates, such subjects ought to be prioritised, after all, politics is engrained in every fibre of our society because everything is political. 

Edutainment Personified: How the podcast combines poetry, history, politics, music and social issues makes for a great mix masala. A stelar combination executed with thoughtfulness, both captivating and riveting; from the music selection, to the writing, articulation, storytelling and down to the execution.
The Have You Heard George's Podcast team have undoubtedly outdone themselves with a timeless piece of work. Imagine evergreen content like this circulating in classrooms, especially in Social Studies, Life Orientation and/or Political Education class and libraries? 

HHGP Chapter 3: When it comes to George's work, choosing a favourite episode becomes an extreme sport, because you can tell he thinks critically and extensively about the themes he explores in the way he articulates such pertinent social issues with conviction, which makes it hard to choose. 

The breakdown of Jay Z's story was both intriguing and remarkable and so was the befitting title, 'Young', but as someone who loathes capitalism and all its cousins, I don't think Capitalism will save us from the mess we endure as Black people nor will Black Capitalism and Black Capitalists, despite their "inspirational" come up stories. The Capitalist model was never designed for us to prosper as a whole; so, throw the whole damn exploitative model away. 

That said, the Mavado and Vybz Kartel breakdown is both moving and thought-provoking. A brilliant dissection of the role of pop culture and the two featured artists; how he hypothetically compares and contrasts them with Damian Marley, and how the two artists' social irresponsible art made it for them to thrive (because capitalism never sleeps) was an excellent comprehensive breakdown. His analysis of these two Jamaican artists was a reminder of how most of us are products of our environment and echoes Marian Wright Edelman popular saying "You can't be what you can't see." Some of us make it out of whatever indoctrination we may have had while others don't. 

NB: The insights shared above are mere excerpts of Chapter 3 thus far, click here to listen to full and new episodes of Have You Heard George's Podcast?  You can also checkout all his other work here.

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