I’ve always been a big fan of Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs – Roy Plomley, I salute you – but sometimes felt a bit frustrated by its formulaic nature. I guess I wanted to hear more in-depth discussion behind the guest’s respective musical choices. This, alongside the realisation that I knew quite a few people deep into music – with plenty of good stories to tell – spurred me on to make Mixtape Assembly.
But the idea was bubbling away in my head for a couple of years before I managed to release the first episode in April 2018. One year later, the podcast is twelve episodes strong, with the most recent show featuring the legendary poet Benjamin Zephaniah (main pic, above).
As a Kentish Town boy, with one foot in Tufnell Park – I grew up on Lady Somerset Road, went to Acland Burghley school – it was inevitable that the podcast would be permeated with north London culture, and the episodes below illustrate this. The initial idea was to get guests on the show from all walks of life, with the only requirements being a love of music and an interest in telling stories.
However, as the dust settles and I look at Mixtape Assembly’s hall of fame, it’s clear that the podcast is somewhat dominated by rappers, musicians and singers. This is unsurprising, given my own involvement with music over the years, and hip-hop in particular: a few years ago I released an album, entitled Sixteen Sunsets, which combined rap and poetry with blues and soul.
Inspired by the life and death of my late father, Roger Lloyd Pack, it was made alongside a bunch of amazing artists, including my mum (aka poet Jehane Markham), folk star Sam Lee, and the soul singer Janai. Which brings me nicely onto thinking about the episodes of Mixtape Assembly that readers might enjoy.
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Five to look out for
1. Janai: Soulja Survivor
In this episode, Janai – formerly of Camden School for Girls – talks movingly about the cathartic impact of singing (she has performed alongside the likes of Gorgon City and Jennifer Hudson), and reminisces about rampaging through London as a garage-loving-carnival-raving-Beyonce-worshipping teenager.
2. Shazad Latif: Romantic Banter
This episode features my old school pal Shaz, who will be well known to any Trekkies out there, playing as he does Lieutenant Ash Tyler in the new CBS series Star Trek: Discovery. Shaz talks vividly about his love of nature, including bittersweet walks through Hampstead Heath, accompanied by the ghost of William Wordsworth.
3. Mighty Moe: Heartless Affair
We’ve got the vibes yo! As a big fan of Heartless Crew, I was excited to have Moe on the show, who remembers meeting fellow crew members Bushkin and Fonti at Holloway School… many Heartless anecdotes ensue, including a shaky start to life on pirate station Mission FM, Fonti’s days as a bossman barber in Archway, and waking up Bushkin’s nan in the middle of the night to chase off a rogue Jamaican possum.
4. Zoe Buckman: Flowers In The Pouring Rain
Zoe is an artist who has developed a reputation for the bold and innovative ways in which she confronts the themes of feminism, mortality and equality. As a north London girl relocated to New York, Zoe explains some of the cultural differences between the cities, particularly in terms of race and identity, in the process paying homage to one of Camden’s finest, Amy Winehouse.
5. Mongo: A Life Less Rawdinary
Mongo honed his rap skills whilst roaming around Finsbury Park as an unruly adolescent, forming the legendary hip-hop crew MUD Family alongside Skinnyman and Chester P. A north Londoner to the bone, Mongo considers the way the city has changed, particularly in terms of the racism he experienced growing up in Islington.