Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rap Kept Me out of Prison; Diplomat's Son and Former Drug Dealer, Big Brovaz's J-Rock on His Path to Four MOBO Nominations

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rap Kept Me out of Prison; Diplomat's Son and Former Drug Dealer, Big Brovaz's J-Rock on His Path to Four MOBO Nominations

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL CLARK

JOHN Paul Horsley is not your typical rap star. The son of a wealthy diplomat, he spent his childhood being chauffeured around from his luxurious home to school. A life of privilege seemed to be his destiny. So it is all the more surprising this week that J-Rock - as he's now known - and fellow band members Big Brovaz are being heralded as the great British hope at the MOBO awards. With four nominations, the group are the hottest property in urban music.

In the past 18 months, the three male rappers and three female singers - who live together in Tulse Hill - have eclipsed their rivals with a fusion of hip hop and R&B scoring them a hat trick of top 10 singles and a top five album.

J-Rock, 25, has a permanent grin when we meet in the office of Jonathan Shalit, who discovered Charlotte Church and who has groomed Big Brovaz for fame.

"Music turned my life around, just as I was about to give up," J-Rock explains. "God knows what would have happened then." He thinks his future would have been "in jail or at the wrong end of a bullet". From such a pessimistic statement, it's easy to assume J-Rock grew up in an inner-city ghetto.

But the youngest of seven children was born in an affluent district of Washington DC, where his father Richard was successful in his work with the Barbados government. "My mother didn't have to work. Before I was born, my family had servants. I was chauffeured to school. The chauffeur's kid would take the bus and I remember thinking it was wrong."

However, his privileged world was turned on its head when, aged six, he was forced to follow his father to London after a political shift in Barbados ended his father's diplomatic career and he was offered work over here on a newspaper.

"It was a shock when my parents bought a house in New Cross. I was scared," he recalls. At his new school, Edmund Waller Primary, people laughed at his accent and he found it difficult. In 1986, aged eight, his Brazilian mother separated from his father and returned to America, leaving J-Rock feeling isolated.

But a year later, a holiday in the States proved a turning point as he discovered America's hip-hop scene. …

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