Professor Green

Normally when you ask the standard “how are you?” question, you expect a shrugged off response of “oh, I’m fine” but Professor Green - the alias of Stephen Paul Manderson - has never been one to shy away from giving his honest opinion. “My week’s been terrible!” He laughs. “I haven’t got much of a tolerance towards alcohol because I don’t really drink anymore and then on Sunday my brother stayed and one glass of wine turned into a couple of bottles of red wine which turned into about six Old Fashioneds which turned into me and my Mrs taking turns praying to the porcelain god mostly yesterday…” 

Although you may have thought that after over a decade in the ‘biz Green would be somewhat used to taking on a Sunday evening “sesh”, the 34-year-old Hackney-born rapper has veered away from the somewhat stereotypical trajectory of going out every night, although he’s yet to consider himself a proper adult yet. “I see my friends who are in city jobs and stuff and, I don’t know, they seem like adults!” He tells me. “I think it’s really weird because I’m one of the few people who really can afford the ability to not grow up.”

First bursting onto the scene back in 2006 with his “Lecture #1” EP, he became a chart topping sensation, laying down tracks with artists ranging from Emeli Sandé to Miles Kane and releasing three critically acclaimed albums. “To be able to support myself throughout that whole time on the back of a hobby is really fortunate because it’s selfish.” He smiles. “When you write music, unless you’re one of the six writers in a room writing a One Direction song, you don’t go into the studio with the thought that ‘oh I’m gonna sell a lot.’ You basically go in to work on something that reflects how you feel at that moment.”

These feelings, however, were often a tricky point for Green to explore. “People almost expect songs all the time and some people are lucky, they are prolific and profound - good for them - but life got difficult at a point and it wasn’t stuff you wanna put into songs.” He tells me. “You know, people associate me with putting a lot of hard styles into music but even when you do that you don’t do it straight away. I didn’t write a song about my dad’s death and how he took his own life the day after it happened, it happened years later. So you have to process everything that’s going on and there’s stuff that I just wouldn’t want to write about. I guess part of it was finding my own feet again and getting used to life and then working out what I wanted to say.”

It was his father’s death in 2008 that inspired his 2011 song “Read All About It” in which the then-27-year-old Green addressed his dad and his conflicting feelings towards his suicide - “The last thing I said to you was I hated you, I loved you and now it’s too late to say to you. Just didn’t know what to do or how to deal with it, even now deep down I’m still livid.” His suicide was later explored in much greater and personal detail in Green’s 2015 documentary, Suicide And Me. A harrowing and emotional story highlighting the high rate of male suicide, the documentary saw Green exploring emotions he hadn’t previously dealt with and revealing his struggles with his father’s death. “It was a turning point for the documentary because it was supposed to be a take on male suicide and halfway through shooting they asked me about my dad.” He explains. “I didn’t agree to do it and that was because I didn’t want to go down that road on camera. And then I thought that me not wanting to do that on camera is because I’m gonna get upset because of pride and ego and all of that that people have and are entitled to. I realised that’s a problem. People don’t want to see you struggle and, especially with men, we tend to hide all of that and that’s the biggest contributor to people taking their own lives and suffering in silence.”

“[Mental health] is much more of a conversation now and I think that after that comes the understanding.” He continues. “I think we as men are a little bit behind when it comes to our feelings and when it comes to expressing them. It’s difficult because some people don’t suffer and so their idea of it is just like ‘come on, just get on with it’ or ‘come on, let’s just go and have a drink’ but they’re not fixers. I’ve gone through most of my life with anxiety and I’ve always fought against that and I am really lucky because I’ve been able to use this as something to go through.” He pauses, a smile spreading across his face. “I mean, I walked out on stage supporting The Stone Roses in front of 750,000 people and it was not a very comfortable situation but I did it and I turned it around as well. All I had to do was use the word ‘cunt’ and all of a sudden they were on my side!”

Following the documentary’s critical acclaim, Green followed this with others exploring topics ranging from homelessness to legalising weed. However he’s yet describe himself as a documentary maker. “I’m just winging it really!” He smiles. “I’m not a journalist but that’s probably been in my favour because I don’t approach people as a journalist, I approach people as a person. I think when some people make a film, they already have a beginning and an end in their head. It’s quite scary just to start filming and not have that, but I think then you’re led by the people and their stories. The idea is that if I make a film where I can make people think that’s the return, that’s the reward for me. People always ask me ‘do you enjoy documentaries?’ No! It’s horrible. I’ve met people in horrible situations who’ve gone through terrible things and their lives don’t change after the documentaries, but the reward is making people think.”

Stepping away from his filmmaking ways for a little while, 2018 sees Green return with brand new music. Having dropped single “Unruly” earlier this year, it’s his first new material in four years and a taste of his upcoming fourth album which - when we meet - Green is very tight-lipped about. “I can’t tell you much!” He laughs. “All I can say is I’m collaborating with one of my favourite photographers and directors so I’m in heaven. We’ve got something really special planned.” Let’s just hope there’s no Sunday night “sesh” before.

Photography - Bartek Szmigulski

Fashion - Kamran Rajput

Grooming - Charlotte Gaskell

Rollacoaster Magazine Spring/Summer 2018 Issue