From unemployment to finding his voice, how Leeds rapper and poet Lence has found power in his story
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The Leeds rapper and spoken word artist covers a wide range of themes in his music, honest accounts of his life from dealing with unemployment to finding his voice.
Lence, real name Laurence Inman, enjoyed sports growing up but it wasn't until later in his teens that he turned to music.
His first music memory is listening to The Kinks, more specifically their record David Watts, a somewhat unexpected inspiration.
Lence told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “It spoke to me when I was quite young and made me think about the world, society and people.
"That’s what I found interesting, someone doing something a bit different and creating their own thing."
Lence started writing lyrics aged 16 - inspired by watching grime MCs deliver their frank accounts of life on the former Channel U music channel.
He realised he had something to offer the rap world.
The 29-year-old said: “When I first started writing, Ghetts was a big inspiration for me - his raw ability and how he writes about his own experiences.
"Everything that you’ve actually lived through, when you put that into a track it connects with people in a different way.
“Artists like Akala, Lowkey, The Movement - they were young role models for me, people who were positive and saying something important. They had a lot of intelligent things to offer in their music.”
Lence jumped into the deep end quickly after he started writing, performing at open mic nights across Leeds. His first performance was with a live band, where he learnt to adapt his flow to the sound of instruments.
Lence added: "Looking back, that was a good thing for me to do as I was learning as I was going along. I wasn’t overthinking too much, I was just going and doing it.
“I took the craft of lyric writing from rap and showed how that can stand up in poetry circles as well.
"When I do spoken word, it’s exactly the same as when I perform over beats, but I slow it down and project it. It gives me leeway to be more theatrical with it."
Lence merges a passionate delivery with social commentary; he hopes that by sharing his own life struggles he can give a voice to those who have struggled in similar situations - like in one of his breakout tracks, Industry of Unemployment.
"It's about my experiences of being unemployed and what I observed while I was turning up to the job centre," Lence said.
"I created a soundscape out of that, listening to what was going on, who was talking, what was being said and the things I had to do on a daily basis.
“That track became a big thing for me. I was able to take the moment where I was sat there, a situation that has a stigma around it and is seen as negative, and shine a light on it through the writing.
"That spoke to other people and I try to do that with all the topics I cover.”
Lence is a regular on the bill at spoken word events in Leeds and he's performed alongside the UK's poetry greats during a BBC Words First event in 2019.
He recently collaborated with the Dewsbury Rams to announce the arrival of their new signings, to a great response.
So what's next for the rising star?
Lence doesn't have a career plan mapped out - but trusts that in delivering his message, unapologetically, the right opportunities will come along.
He added: “I just want to know I've written all the verses and tracks that I should have written.
“That’s the only thing that’s important to me, getting all my ideas and creative vision out there through videos and tracks.
“Where that goes is up to the energy of the work. I’m here to do what my artist label is - if I’m a writer, I need to write. If I’m a rapper, I need to rap. And I need to do that to the best of my ability.”
Lence's latest release is Sorry I'm Like This, commissioned by New Creatives North, a platform that brings in new talent for BBC Arts.
There's a music video on the way and track has been featured on BBC Radio 6.
And there's an irony in its title.
Lence said: "It’s an unapologetic track about identity and not apologising for who you are.
"I wrote it about finding yourself falling into someone else’s perception and vision of you and trying to live up to their expectations. The track is a realisation of the power that you have when you step away from those opinions.
“I want people to feel there’s something they can relate to in my music, something that reminds them of their experiences.
"I want to speak to people and represent those who might feel they can’t express their own feelings."
Showcasing Leeds talent
As well as hosting creative writing workshops in schools and youth centres, Lence has launched his own events to help other aspiring musicians and creatives.
Blur The Lines brings together a versatile collection of rappers, poets and spoken word artists under one roof, helping them form connections with artists they might not otherwise meet.
Lence said: "As an artist I always want to take responsibility and create something else for other people from Leeds.
“It came from my own experiences with poetry and rap, and from there I wanted to go to different events and bring in different performers on the same night, people who would never usually end up on the same line-up.
“You might have a comedian that does parodies on acoustic guitar, and then a rapper."
One of Lence's proudest achievements is hosting a sold-out Blur The Lines event at Leeds Playhouse in 2019, and he'll host another event at Holbeck Working Men's Club in November.
“The event at Leeds Playhouse felt like a cup final of creativity," he added.
"In order to make the energy authentic and real, I had to bring in those people to add to the energy - instead of just seeing it as something for myself.
"The more people you bring in with the same vision and energy, they’ll add to it.”
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