Jermaine Beckford x Jovanni Sterling

Jermaine Beckford x Jovanni Sterling

Duo discuss BBC's Rap Game UK as part of Black History Month celebrations.

As part of the club’s celebrations for Black History Month, Jermaine Beckford caught up with former Leeds United Academy star Jovanni Sterling, who is currently starring in The Rap Game UK.

During the chat, which took place over a video Zoom call earlier this week, the duo discussed the new TV programme that is available to watch on BBC iPlayer, the youngsters history with Leeds United, who he admired growing up along with key topics around Black History Month such as stereotyping and experiencing racism.

Known as ‘Graft’ in the music industry, Jovanni Sterling is proud to represent the city of Leeds on the brand-new show that has launched to discover exciting talent in the rap industry, he is hoping to follow his beloved Leeds United, where he was a scholar from the age of 16, by bringing home the title.

Speaking about his time with the club, Jovanni said: “My time at Leeds football wise was one of the best times, in fact it was the best time playing football. I was there from Under-16s to Under-18s, I was captain for the Under-16s and then playing reserves football when I stepped up to the 18s team and just the whole experience was amazing, the players, the staff, the environment. It was all great and I just loved my time there at Leeds United.”

Leading into how he got into music, he added: “I used to actually write lyrics when I was 14, so I’ve been rapping for a while but football was always number one for me and that was my goal, from being a young kid, but then as time went on things obviously changed. But playing football, during that whole time, football was my main priority.”

Former Whites’ star, Jermain Beckford, who was hosting the chat then introduced the subject of Black History Month and whether Graft had ever experienced any form of racism growing up: “For me, Black History Month is every month, it’s not just one month. The people that I celebrated when I was younger, I used to look up to my mum, if I’m making it a bit more personal, that’s where I got my artist name from, Graft, because she’s always worked really hard for me and the family from a young age so I used to look up to my mum a lot. Then other more sporting inspirations I used to look up to were Ronaldinho when I was a kid and definitely Michael Jordan.

“I’ve definitely experienced racism, for instance an example could be that I might be walking on the pavement, and there might be a couple, say a white couple or an Asian couple, and I might have my hood up because it’s cold or raining, or I may not have my hood up and sometimes I’ve seen them move across the street because they feel uncomfortable, based on a lack of knowledge and ignorance and based off my appearance. So, it can be uncomfortable, especially growing up and witnessing that but as I’ve got older, I’ve learnt to try and laugh it off.”

Before the call came to an end, Jovanni was asked about the new show he is currently featured on, The Rap Game UK, explaining what the show is about and how supporters can watch and get behind him, he said: “It’s a show for six unsigned artists hosted by Krept and Konan and DJ Target and the winner gets a record deal with Play Dirty Records, which is Krept & Konan’s own personal label. Throughout the competition the artists go through a number of different challenges, and it’s been great because they tested us all in different ways.

“Episode One has already been released, which you can catch on BBC iPlayer (Episode Two is also available now) and every other episode will air on a Thursday night at 7pm, on the iPlayer. I’d love everyone to tune in and get behind me and support me because I really want to bring the title back home to Leeds.”

To watch Jovanni Sterling in action on The Rap Game UK, please click here.