Instead of feeling broken, reconstruct yourself to be even better

By Beverley Knight

South East London rapper Madaldn told the world her opinions as soon as she could scribble on paper. Nothing will stop her from standing up for what is right and proper treatment for all. This strength comes from an unfair share of tough times in her life. Surrounded by violence, poverty, homelessness, poor health, isolation, and stigma, she could go on. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, like some great, old Greek dude said.”

As a working-class youngster, she remembers eating Turkey Twizzlers, checking phone boxes for change to stick in the arcade, drinking Panda Pops until her tongue turned blue and rocking bright orange Kappa Popper pants. Some people from well off backgrounds refuse to speak to her because of her accent, even telling her she’s inferior, embarrassing and worse.

“I’ve experienced classism – they don’t like us, and we don’t like them. We’re to the point, and they ain’t got one.” As you can imagine, she’s not one to bow down, and she stood up to people looking down their noses by starting the movement That is Class. “It’s a project that teaches ‘posh’ people how to identify and eliminate classist barriers in the Arts. It worked for a bit, but other pursuits distracted me.” However, Madaldn will always be fiery about the subject.

When she was 13, her life turned upside down. Not to say it was coming up roses before that, but it wasn’t quite as destructive as what lay ahead. Madaldn experienced gang violence in all its forms. “I didn’t have any control over what was going on. I was drowning in the deep end, trying to gasp for air.”

“No one saw me drowning, and when they did, there wasn’t a life jacket or a way to hurl me out of deep water.” By the time she felt saved, she’d sustained trauma and mental scarring. “That took its toll and affected me for years to come. Long after, I felt myself beginning to drown again, but before I began to choke, I wrote my song Fallen Star.”

Fallen Star took great care and effort to make. It depicts what happened when she was a teen and throws a lifebuoy to anyone floundering. Madaldn thinks of her music as therapeutic and dispelling political myths. “Fallen Star goes against the tide. It seeks to inspire listeners from all walks of life who have been through shit. Instead of feeling broken, reconstruct yourself to be even better.”

Challenges make you who you are. “But I can’t stand here and say I like everything about myself.” It’s essential to avoid negativity and to stay on the light side. Again, this echoes the message in Fallen Star. “We can all plunge. No one thinks that it will be them, but look at the atrocities that are happening every day.”

Madaldn also finds time to be lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist in the punk band Bang Bang Bunny. “It’s different because I have to work with other misfits. And that’s not easy. There’s no rule book to managing a band, and we ain’t professionals.’ But there’s love there – in a familiar tale, the band became family. Bang Bang Bunny’s sound has more shouty, punky components, whereas Madaldn’s solo work is electronic, beat-filled and maybe a tad less in your face.

So, in music and life, does Madaldn have a wealth of advice to give? At 18, she joined the programme Connections. It paved a route for university, where she proudly earned a first in Philosophy from Greenwich and then a masters degree. Now, she’s also an incredibly busy single mum of two.

“Some people find themselves in specific situations where I could share knowledge. But I won’t sell you some trite capitalist quote like never give up, or you’ll make it in the end. If you like to create, you’ll do it. If you fucked and exhausted, you won’t.” Madaldn believes life comes in phases that we can’t predict. “You might not do it now, but you could in a second.” Despite everything she tackled, she always comes out the other end and embraces positivity. “I try and create more love and light than hate and war.”

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