Spotlight On: Maxwell Golden

CountryBoy’s Struggle offers an interesting concept: mixing hip hop with physical comedy and spoken word, one man plays over 40 characters to narrate a fast, funny and honest story of a young MC’s journey to the big city from his rural roots. Maxwell Golden, the man behind CountryBoy’s Struggle, is just that: fast, funny and honest.

Golden’s journey into hip hop was by no means a normal one, as he spent the majority of his childhood in Cornwall, a million miles away from his current London base. “I grew up between Cornwall and London, and I’d been into hip hop for a long time and when I was in Cornwall there was no hip hop scene. It just occurred to me that if you were an aspiring rapper in Cornwall: what would you do? It was quite a funny premise, and I talked to a few people about it and they thought the same. I mean if you were 18 to 30, what were you going to do? So a guy moving to London became quite a relevant story.” Initially, Golden’s main interest lay in MC-ing and music, which saw him collaborating on drum and bass tracks. However, he got an opportunity that opened up more avenues to him.

“I got the chance to recite my lyrics without a beat at a performance poetry slam, so I did that and it went down really well. Someone saw me do that and said they wanted to put me in a theatre piece. I’d never really done acting before, but I thought I’d give it a go – and that was eight years ago! Since then I’ve been working in the theatre, and hip hop theatre.” Golden hasn’t had any formal training, however: “I’ve learnt music, and how to write songs and then lyrics off the back of that. The rest of it I’ve learnt as I’ve worked on new projects.”An important element of CountryBoy’s Struggle is the certain stigma attached to hip hop and the way it can be represented in the press. Golden explains: “So many people have come to the show who don’t like hip hop, or thought they didn’t, and come away afterwards saying ‘I didn’t think I’d like that but I absolutely loved it’.”

Golden’s enthusiasm and excitement about this project is infectious and it is clear that he truly believes in his subject. “What attracted me to hip hop culture was the sense of community, it does have a rebellious spirit, but it also has the sense of the collective as well, like we all want to create a better world. Everyone knows about the rap battles but not many people know about cyclers, which is the other side of it. Everyone getting together and freestyling, supporting each other to come up with the best rhymes they can and work together, and that is part of my training of being a lyricist, being part of that.” Golden is undoubtedly incredibly passionate about hip hop as he predominantly sees it as being part of a community, and his desire to share this with the general public is infectious: “Community: that is the essence of the movement, and you should experience it. That is not what is portrayed by the media, at the expense of others.”

Briefly touching upon the riots last year that caused mayhem and saw a certain class of society damned, Golden offers his insights: “I think it is rubbish to talk about the youth like they are a homogenous entity, it is ridiculous. You only have to meet two young people to know that they are two different people. Everyone is different and that is what makes life interesting. It upsets me when people generalise about whole groups of society, be it based on age, or anything, abstract concepts. The riots did happen and that was a wake up call for every young person in society. A lot of people think hip hop is about materialism and misogyny, but that is more linked to Hollywood than it is the actual culture of hip hop.”

Golden moves on, discussing who inspires him and demonstrating his extensive knowledge of artists and music: ‘‘For knowledge and power its KS1, for conscious stuff  there is QTIP, for more comedic stuff it is Farside. Big Pun for his writing, he has these crazy internal rhymes, it has a complicated rhyming pattern. He does next level. For flow it is Notorious BIG. He has a kind of authority and flow that is really inspiring. There is just so much out there to listen to and get inspired by!”

On contemplating what this success has meant to him personally, it’s clear just how seriously he takes his work. “When you create something in the studio, you hope that people will enjoy it and that you’ll be able to take it out and enjoy it, and show it to people. You want it to be a benefit; be entertaining, yes, but also to maybe help someone see something in a new light. Whether it is something about their own life, or a perception they had about someone. All these things have come out doing this show and that’s what I hoped for. The audience’s response is what is important. I make work for people, I don’t just make work for myself. That is what it means to me – that sense of it all being worthwhile.”

Our interview concludes with Golden telling me: “The original four principles of hip hop culture were peace, love, unity and having fun.” And you can certainly hand it to him – hip hop has never sounded so much fun.

CountryBoy’s Struggle plays at the Pleasance Courtyard until 27 August. For tickets and more information, visit www.edfringe.com and for more about Maxwell Golden, visit his website.

Image credit: CountryBoy’s Struggle, Contact Manchester and Maxwell Golden

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