Catch the conversation here: Rappin' Up The Future
A sports scholarship to attend college in the US is such a great way for committed athletes from around the world to not only compete on a very high level, but also to gain a fantastic and expansive life experience. That was certainly the case for both our podcast host, who spent four years on the tennis team at FDU in New Jersey, and for our guest on this episode of ONEOFTHE8 Ravi Patel, who played on the team at Drake University in Iowa.
It’s no surprise then that it is tennis that connects our host and our guest, or that Ravi’s mum Shanti was someone that Jake knew very well from her role as a highly-respected organiser of the British junior tennis circuit.
Whilst some athletes go on from their US college careers to join the professional ranks, many take very different directions after graduation, and it’s always fascinating to hear how their life journeys have progressed. For Ravi, rap and rhyme have taken over from forehands and backhands.
Music has always featured in Ravi’s life, and with his family roots in India and Guyana he was always around different types of music growing up. As well as strong musical influences, Ravi’s grandfather also brought with him from Guyana the great work ethic that Ravi has inherited, a family trait and something that he is openly grateful for.
It’s hard work and dedication that our guest also refers to when talking about one of his major influences, Eminem, and it is his own hard work and dedication that took Ravi to college in the US, where he found a warm welcome and strong sense of community.
‘It just blew me away how welcoming the people were, how nice people were, the sense of community they had was fantastic.’
Looking Indian and having an English accent, Ravi clearly enjoyed being ‘the odd one out’ in the US, and mixing with students from all around the world ‘it was kind of cool’. But it’s back in London where our guest feels most at home, revelling in the multi-cultural community and loving the contrast with Iowa that means in London ‘I can do so many things in such a small area’.
‘I like different ways of thinking, different people.’
It was long before heading off to the US that our guest got into rap music though. As an 11 year old growing up in the capital he became aware of the Grime scene, which was mostly underground back then in 2002. It resonated with Ravi because it used the accents of the people to speak about the surroundings they were in, ‘someone in the UK talking about their life’.
‘I could have a real understanding of this person.’
Fast forward to today and ask Ravi where he gets his own lyrical ability from and he’ll tell you ‘to this day I really don’t know’. But he will tell you that he thinks a lot about what he’s writing, what it makes him him feel, how he can say something to someone. His aim is always to put words together that take people on a journey, walk them through a maze, then take them to the end, where everything fits together like a puzzle. How he does it, who knows.
Ravi is never afraid to put his writing to the test either, performing his rap songs at poetry nights, where his words come to the front and people can hear every single spoken word.
‘Doing the poetry scene has definitely helped me to make sure that my words genuinely make sense.’
It’s early days in his music career, but Ravi has already had his successes, with a piece called ‘Broken’ for Mind Over Matter London, with video ‘The Commute’ featuring his family and friends, and highest profile of all (and with a return to tennis) a rap for the BBC during their coverage of Wimbledon 2018.(Check out the video here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/tennis/44751745 )
Transitioning from tennis player to taking his music seriously, Ravi made a video called ‘The Rapping Tennis Coach’ that went viral amongst the tennis world. That inspired him to pitch the idea to the BBC, and once they’d seen it, it was game, set and match.
‘We love your video, let’s do something for Wimbledon’
The brief? To recap the first weeks results in rap, the biggest names, the winners, the players who would be going through to week two of tennis’ most famous tournament. There was one slight problem though, timing for the release of the rap on worldwide TV was so close to the wire that some matches were still on court!! Federer was still playing, so was Serena, so it was down to Ravi to use his knowledge of the game and ‘predict’ the outcomes. To his relief he ’thankfully got them both right’.
Being on the BBC, on Spotify, on YouTube, it’s all good, yet the battle now for Ravi is one of really finding his audience, becoming that someone that people connect with, someone that people follow. He has his style, his words are distinctive, rapping about things like technology, mental health and global issues, he has his niche. Taking the differences in people, the different sets of values that they have, putting them onto paper and making them into a song, Ravi lets us tap into other peoples points of view.
‘I’m genuinely interested in all of those things, why people think the way they do, why people act the way they act.’
So what is his dream? To play a sell out show of course, but more importantly to have an audience that care about what he stands for as a person, an audience that care about what he has to say with his music, an audience that he can draw in, as he says himself ‘if we genuinely have a connection, that’s perfect’.
And he’s had a taste of this already, with the piece he has given us a little of in our podcast episode, ‘Deeper Side’. After just a few minutes of his first live performance, Ravi heard people singing back the chorus, it was a completely organic reaction, it was a moment, and it was when he realised ‘there is actually something here’.
'I was growing in the space of three and half minutes’
For Ravi Patel music is about much more than just words and rhythm, and he recounts a valuable lesson he learned when working with a vocal coach. This was a vocal lesson, but it began with the coach wanting to know all about Ravi, about his family, about his friends, where he liked to go out, what he liked to eat. It was then that the coach told Ravi that ‘you need to take all those things that you do, and put them into your music’.
Listen to Ravi’s work and you’ll recognise that he has done just that, and his own advice to others is to first look at ‘what makes you, you’.
‘What is your outlook on life? If you can take that and manifest that, your surroundings, into music, no-one can replicate that because that is 100% you. You can only be the best you. If somebody else tries to do what you do, there’s no way they can do it as good as you’