chapter  1
32 Pages

‘Revolution of a Next Kind’: Building Black London from the Bottom

Reain tells me that he spells his stage name a particular way for the purpose of putting two words together, ‘and two meanings together.’ His discussion of this name contrasts with what he refers to as his ‘given name.’ While there is nothing in our conversation to suggest any discomfort with the name given him by his family, ‘. . . the name of a king, brap!,’ the description he provides of the process of constructing another name, appropriate to himself, reveals a considered approach to the identity that he inhabits as a rapper. ‘You know you’ve got reign sovereign r, e, i, g, n, and you’ve got rain weather, and that’s what, basically, I’m trying to bring across.’ Although he does not make the connection more explicit, his valorisation of an aspect of his given name, related to monarchy, may be associated with his efforts to communicate the idea ‘[not] that I’m better than anyone, but just in a sense that I think . . . that anyone has a potential to be a king. Within their own right.’ This sense of Reain’s neologism is combined with another, which he considers to be ‘a bit more aggy: “Right I’m pissing down on people”. And that’s a bit more where the battle and rugged element comes into my style.’ By combining these words and meanings Reain fashions a sense of himself that incorporates a street ruggedness with a sense of dignity that the working-class, black Englishman believes is accessible to anyone: ‘whether you’re sweeping the roads or whether you’re sat on a throne.’ He took this name at about 16 or 17 years old, after listening to his elder brother’s rap music as a child, and rapping from the age of 15. As one of many genres of music that were played in his home, rap provided him with valuable cultural resources through which he has constructed his adult identity.