Up and coming rapper Kulez shares a small space with AMELIA NALLAMILLI to talk about battling, tea and his Zimbabwean roots
AT JUST 19, former Stanmore College student Kuda Chikohora - better known as Kulez - is already working as an MC and music producer, leaving stereotypes in his wake.
I caught up with the young man from Edgware at Wah Blow, his new hip hop open mic night, which takes place every third Wednesday of the month at that champion of new music talent, The Trinity, Station Road, Harrow.
The Burnt Oak boy, who cites Tracy Chapman among his influences, welcomes me into a space more store-cupboard than the dressing room it is meant to be and befitting of his happy-go-lucky nature.
"At 12 I started battling," hetells me (referring to the custom of taking it in turns to out-rap another artist, usually judged by on-lookers, in a kind of 'rap debate').
The internet is rife with video-footage of these battles and Kulez says these are what led him to what was probably the highlight of his career so far.
"This festival, 'Scribble Jam,' flew me out to Ohio in 2006 and I was the first person from the UK ever to perform there. It's where Eminem started," he says.
Hangers-on, eager for a shard of the Kulez limelight, fill the tiny room where we are speaking, grasping for every opportunity to turn the conversation to themselves.
Kulez sits back, not sharing their need to prove something. And it is this same self-possessed manner he brings to his performance art.
Not to say that he doesn't exude enthusiasm - it just seems to come from a centred place.
He raps competently about stuff that's just happened that night, even cheekily drawing me into his lyrics.
Though he wants to move away from battling, it has clearly sharpened his skills.
His recorded tracks deal honestly with things that pepper many a 19-year-old's life, such as college, and his latest single Smell the Tea was inspired by his realisation that things were not working with his girlfriend.
Proud of his Zimbabwean heritage, he tells me of childhood trips to Harare where everyone called him 'Kulez'.
He thought it was a special name just for him. Only later did he realise it was "a slang term for brother, like 'bro' or 'bra'" used for everyone.
Thursday, March 5, will find him in Leeds supporting legendary hip hop maestro Sway.
"I like my tea dark and strong, just like me," he says, before collapsing into a fit of bashful giggles that do more to prove he is like the three spoons of sugar he puts in that tea: sweet.
* Wah Blow, Kulez's hip hop open mic night, every 3rd Wednesday of the month, 9pm - 2am, Trinity, Station Road, Harrow. For more on Kulez visit www.myspace.com/kulez.