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“I want to show the worst side of prison life"

REALITY: Zimbo, second right, said he wanted to show the truth of criminal life by shooting the video in an active, unglamorous UK prison

UNDERGROUND RAP artist and activist Simeon Moore, better known as Zimbo Freemind, is soon to launch his latest message to dissuade others from the ‘road life’ he used to live – with his new release Charge it to The Game. The forthcoming track was released last week, alongside a video which is believed to be the first to be filmed inside an active UK prison.

Although the facility’s identity cannot be revealed, the production team reports that it was “a very interesting experience to be taken around the prison by the governor, who was very helpful”.

The artist told The Voice: “The video does not seek to glorify prison at all, but the story is about a young man caught up in gangs and who ends up using a knife on another rival, so his actions caused him to end up in jail.

“The young man who goes to jail, thinks he’s a tough guy, like many do, but comes to see that by doing that, people will stick it on ya.

“For me, the importance is about showing what ‘the road’ is really like, the gangster life and the consequences there are from living it – getting caught, going to prison, losing people and death.

“I want to show the worst side of prison life because the gangster life is made to look so appealing, when it really isn’t – it’s time to show the reality, the definites – you will get caught, you will go to prison and you will die.”

GROOMED

Moore’s lyrics are influenced by the 36-year-old’s background: born and raised in Birmingham.

He had a taste of street life himself, beginning a criminal career by selling cannabis aged just 11.

“Although I wasn’t groomed into dealing, I believe that I was groomed into believing that this would lead to my success. I bought my first halfounce with money that I made from minding cars near our local football stadium.

“As time went by I saw older lads around the area driving nice cars and wearing loads of jewellery. I wanted the bring in, which meant I wanted them to get me involved. After pleading with a number of my older peers, one agreed and gave me my first large amount. It was only four and a half ounces but at that time I had never seen more than an ounce at once.”

Moore got deeper into street life until his late 20s, when he began to realise that he needed to change to his lifestyle: “That was 2009, I was moving away from the streets mentally, but it wasn’t until 2012 while I was serving a sentence that I moved away from the streets physically.

“I read a book by a black author about a man who changed his name and changed his life. It sent me on a journey of self-searching, which helped me make the change. I realised that my mind was not my own, it was controlled by external influences.

“I started to develop a real interest in the mind and how my character developed. I wanted to reshape it, choose the person I wanted to be, the environment and the people I want to be around.

“It was that journey of self that helped me come away from the streets, but most importantly, to stay away, which is much easier now than it used to be.”

Moore took his experiences and new-found mission to the field of music, and as Zimbo Freemind he’s built a large underground following.

Well-known for his hardhitting lyrics about his former life and its harsh realities, he’s known in some quarters, along with his former group B6 Slash, as pioneers of UK gangster rap. In 2012, Moore appeared in Channel 4’s award-winning documentary One Mile Away, in which he followed the journey of two men from opposing sides of a 20-year gang rivalry trying to bring about a truce.

This opened many doors for him and he has since become a prominent public speaker and sought-after interviewee and commentator, featuring on national programming such as Panorama. “My music is part of a wider campaign we’ve been working on for the last three years or so, to encourage particularly black people to take charge of their own narrative, and to use music and the arts to take charge of our culture.

ASPIRING

“Knife and gun crime are only symptoms of a culture that isn’t encouraged enough to aspire to do better. We should be aspiring to be professionals and aim higher and I want to start a movement to encourage that.”

Alongside his music, Moore runs DATS TV, a YouTube channel which he hopes can inspire cultural change.

Speaking on the recent news that Birmingham will receive an uplift of several hundred thousands to tackle youth crime, Moore said: “Whenever money comes into the communities to address these issues, it needs to be given to the right people. I have worked on youth programmes which cut violent crime in the Aston area by 50 per cent and in Handsworth by 30 per cent and that was with no budget.

“If the people receiving the money cannot get the attention of the youths on the streets, the money is not going to make the difference that it could in the right hands.”

The artist, and his manager Martin Stephens of Fereal Management, are looking forward to the release of Charge it to the Game, the next stage of the ongoing campaign against crime.

Stephens added: “Zimbo Freemind has been working with us for the last three years and the energy he possess is unreal and he as a great work ethic.

“His style of rap is truly unique and content original. More important, he has changed his life for the better.”

The video and single are available on all digital platforms.

For more information, visit zimbofreemind.com and search DATS TV on YouTube.

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