UK rapper Geko: From tragedy to triumph

Geko talks to The Voice about his wild youth, losing his younger brother to cancer and his love of all things old school


GEKO STARTED rapping when he was eight. By 13, he was signed to the UK music collective USG – home to fellow rap star K Koke – becoming the youngest member to join the popular group.

Now aged 16, and disbanded from USG, the Manchester-born star is ready to follow up on the success of his debut single Heartless, which reached No.9 in the iTunes chart, with hard-hitting follow-up Crazy Life.

The success of Heartless was a major achievement for the youngster, who has gone from rapping in the playground to recording warm-up sessions with leading online youth broadcaster SB.TV and performing alongside Tinie Tempah and Big Sean.

“I’m not gonna lie, when I was 11 I went a bit wild in school,” he reveals. “I didn’t do the work I was supposed to do and ended up getting excluded, but I still came out with seven GCSEs.”

This candid admission comes quite early on in our chat, but Geko, who currently studying for his A-levels, is keen to talk about just how far he’s come despite stumbling blocks of adversity along the way.

When most children were still playing with toys and watching cartoons, the youngster was writing rhymes and fully immersing himself in a world of music.

He explains: “I started rapping at eight, but I only took it seriously from the age of 12. I know it might seem like a young age, but that’s when I really wanted to get into music. I got signed by USG at 13.”

Although his rise happened in such a short space of time, the young star admits it took him a little longer to snap out of his wild ways.

It was a personal tragedy – the death of his younger brother to cancer – which, by his own admission, made him “grow up.”

“I was with my friends spitting bars on the road, but they were bars that did not mean anything at all – it was just ridiculous. But when my little brother died, it made me want to write more meaningful lyrics.”

He continues: “I calmed down a lot. From that point, I decided to just write lyrics that actually meant something. It was after I made that decision when everything started to elevate for me. It just shows that when you say something that means something, people listen and take it in more.”

When he joined USG, Geko had created a huge following on the underground scene, notching up millions of hits on YouTube and landing himself in the ‘one to watch’ category on virtually every urban radio show going.

He was also the youngest rapper to ever record a BBC Radio 1 ‘Fire in the Booth Sessions’ with DJ Charlie Sloth, which showcases the best in UK lyricism, with the hottest MCs from across the country.

Despite the aforementioned success, the teen says his career highlight to date was joining USG, although he decided to leave the famed collective earlier this year.

“I was a big fan of USG,” he says. “I never thought I would become a part of it, it was a dream come true. I randomly got the chance to sit in the studio with a few USG guys and it grew from there. It was a big step for me. I was only 13 at the time.”

Although it is not an easy thing to do, Geko is currently juggling college and his music career and is seemingly very happy to do it.

“I’m studying business in college right now. Education – that’s Plan B. When I was in Year 11 I said, ‘That’s it, I’m not doing education anymore,’ but I thought about it and I realised it was needed.”

Though his journey has been anything but easy, Geko says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’d rather work for fame. No offence to anyone who’s been on X Factor, but I don’t like that type of stuff where you can go on something because you think you’ve got a bit of talent and then, boom, you blow up. You didn’t really work for it.

“They say they worked because they went on a stage and they tried to compete, but that’s not the same.”

Using a popular line from US rapper Drake to further his point, he adds: “Like Drake said, ‘started from the bottom and now we’re here.’ I’ve just slowly worked my way up. Now I’m where I am. It’s not anywhere big but I know that success is coming, I can see it.”

Anyone who sits down and speaks to Geko will understand his mindset is well above his age. It will also explain his musical preferences. While most young people his age are listening to rappers Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean or 2 Chainz, Geko is strictly old school.

“I look up to the USG group as a whole but I also look up to [rappers] Jadakiss, D-block, Tupac, those kind of people. If you ask anyone in my group now they will tell you, I’m a kid of this generation but, musically, I am a kid from an older generation.

“I don’t listen to new school rap, ever. I listen to UK rap sometimes, but I listen to straight old school rap like Ice Cube, Biggie, Tupac. That’s me.”

For more information follow @RealGeko on Twitter

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