Skip to main content

Meet the MC: Oscar #Worldpeace

Tottenham rapper Oscar #Worldpeace has always kept it real, unafraid to bare his soul, tackle communal hardships, and speak about the ups and downs of life in his lyrics. He talks to DJ Mag about spreading his music, his North London home, and the people who’ve inspired him most along the way

Oscar #Worldpeace is a long way from home; 10,493 miles to be precise. The Tottenham born-and-raised artist joins DJ Mag on Zoom from Melbourne, Australia. It’s a storm-battered Tuesday evening here in the UK, but Oscar is at the start of a brand-new, sun-blessed day on the other side of the world. “I’ve literally just woken up,” he says, laughing, the embers of a good night’s sleep still in his voice. “I’m loving it here. There are so many similarities to home. It’s like the UK, with good weather.”

He is in the city to appear as a special guest on Southeast Melbourne rapper Jaal’s tour, after shining like the North Star on ‘TRY GET AWAY’ from Jaal’s album ‘YOU ONLY DIE ONCE’ last September. The day before our conversation, Oscar hosts a pop-up, selling vinyl of his 2020 debut album ‘Sporadic’ and plenty of cool #Worldpeace merch. “I’m just out here introducing myself to the people and letting them hear my music,” he explains. “So when I come out at the end of the year for a tour, I’ll have some friends and family that are already familiar with me. That’s what I’m gonna do from now on, try to visit other countries and spread the music. Because there’s an underground everywhere.”

Oscar’s music and his lyrical testimony is important. He hails from Tottenham, the pocket of North London which has twice been the epicentre for resistance against police brutality and racism: first after the death of Cynthia Jarrett during a raid of her home in 1985, and then following Mark Duggan’s shooting by armed police in 2011. Oscar’s incendiary 2018 EP ‘IC3’ embodies that spirit of resistance. “It’s a rich, rich story that I’m telling,” he says, reflecting on the manor that made him. “Wherever I go in the world, people ask me about Tottenham. People know about that history through what they’ve heard in the music. We might take that richness for granted sometimes, but growing up I always knew Tottenham was special.”

Black and white photo of Oscar #Worldpeace wearing a white hoodie and black denim jacket

“Two decks. Mics. Big speakers. Community. Friendship. Love. My cousin would let me jump on the mic. I’d get my first wheel-up and feel that energy.”

The area has been a hotbed for grime and UK rap, producing the likes of Skepta, Wretch 32, Chip and Headie One. While much of the lyricism emanating from Tottenham zooms in on gritty street dispatches about young Black men attempting to hustle their way out of poverty, Oscar raps through a different lens. He’s a real rapper in the truest sense, honestly chronicling his experiences as an ordinary guy in the ends, trying to make sense of his environment, provide for his people and have fun. “I was lucky enough to have good friendships,” he explains, thinking about how he avoided the violence and trauma that lurked nearby.

“And I was lucky enough to navigate my life in Tottenham sensibly. That was down to my friendships, and especially my older cousin. He gave me that protection, that shield to be who I wanted to be.” Oscar’s big cousin Chev, who he credits as being the first person to put a microphone in his hand, sadly passed away a few weeks ago. “He was a big influence. He allowed me to focus on music and gave me that protection that I needed. That allowed me to be a well-respected person because of my talent. And all the deaths, the casualties, they motivated me to carry on doing what I was doing.”

It was in his auntie’s kitchen with Chev that Oscar discovered grime in the early 2000s. This was the era of back-of-the-bus cyphers, polyphonic ringtones and chaotic pirate radio clashes. The emergent scene’s pull was irresistible. “That’s when I was like, ‘I really wanna do this’, because I would see people come to my auntie’s house and do a grime set,” he remembers, the warmth of the memory radiating in his voice. “Two decks. Mics. Big speakers. Community. Friendship. Love. My cousin would let me jump on the mic. I’d get my first wheel-up and feel that energy. People weren’t even thinking about money then. You just wanted a wheel-up, you wanted to go on radio, you wanted to have some clashes. That’s what success was for us. And that’s the beauty of grime. That’s why I still try to implement it into my music. It’s what the UK brings to hip-hop, and music in general.”

When thinking about the project that made the most indelible mark on him and the path he’s forged in music, Oscar is in no doubt: “Definitely ‘Blacklisted’, that definitely made me want to continue doing music. I was like, ‘Man, I want this feeling’. That really changed everything,” he says. Fellow Tottenham native Skepta’s 2012 project saw him recalibrate and reconnect with the person he wanted to be, after a period of disillusionment. It was the precursor to the grime renaissance he led soon after. “I feel like it’s the reason why we’re here, if that makes sense. It reset the game.”

Photo of Oscar #Worldpeace in a brown jacket in front of a sunset

The influence of Blacklisted on Oscar’s music is clear; as an artist he’s always excelled at being his full self, boldly wearing his fears, flaws and insecurities like warpaint, from the opening bars of his 2014 debut single ‘Mook’ through his 2017 debut full-length ‘Recluse’. That project frankly addresses being broke, his own mental health, and the sad state of politics on our cold island. “‘Recluse’ was literally me telling my story because I had the example of Skep doing it. I was able to do it, to know that I could do it,” he explains. “That was so important. The influence he’s had on me, and my life... yeah man, the GOAT, definitely.”

Musically, Oscar has always drawn from a broad palette of Black sounds. 2020’s ‘Sporadic’ blends grime, UK garage and R&B, while January’s three-track ‘Ferocious’ EP glistens with the cool shimmer of laidback UK rap. Thematically, there’s been a subtle shift. There’s more space for braggadocious flexing now, like on the bouncing, lustful title track. And there’s a heightened note of serenity to his work too. Oscar’s son Shine was born in 2019.

His beautiful, profound ode to Shine opens ‘Sporadic’ and is testimony to the life-affirming nature of fatherhood: “Suicide should have taken my life / But now I got yours and mine,” he raps candidly over the dreamy production. “It’s made me the person that I always knew I wanted to be,” he says, reflecting. “I always wanted to be a dad, to be married, to be a family man. I was raised by my mum. SoI didn’t have that. I know my dad, and I love my dad. But he wasn’t in the house. Having that family unit is beautiful. I want more kids, but being a dad has definitely completed me, 100%.”

So can we thank Shine for the almost tangible sense of peace in Oscar’s music now? “I always rap about things that I’m living through, and I’ve always been a conscious mind, but yeah... being a dad has definitely added that sense of gratitude, of serenity, of zen,” he explains. “It’s made me want to give more. Because my music will be there. He’ll be able to find it whilst I’m here, and when I’m gone.”