Big Jest triumphed in series four of The Rap Game after joining five other hopefuls vying for the £20,000 cash prize and title (Picture: BBC)
A journey that began in the school playground turned into a rapper fulfilling his late dad’s wishes by lighting up the industry in front of one of the nation’s leading rap DJs.
Big Jest won BBC Three talent show The Rap Game after baring his soul in front of Kenny Allstar in the final episode with a raw and deeply personal reflection on life, loss and ambition.
The wordsmith’s creativity has earned him the tag of ‘Punchline King’ but he showed his versatility during challenges which included the final, one-take recording with the Radio 1Xtra DJ.
His dad had encouraged him to send his music to the rap music heavyweight and to audition for the show, which gives unsigned artists the chance to win £20,000 and launch their own music.
When the adrenaline-inducing moment came, the 27-year-old, from Croydon, south London, overcame ‘cup final nerves’ to deliver one of the standout moments of the four series to date.
‘There was an energy in the room, definitely,’ he tells Metro.co.uk.
‘At the time when you write something that personal it’s a good feeling, because you feel like you’re venting, it’s how we express ourselves.
‘When you rap in front of people on a show there’s a different feeling when you rap on that kind of platform.
‘There was a bit of an adrenaline rush and cup final nerves at being in that situation. There was definitely an energy in the room, it felt like a moment.’
Big Jest impressed with his wordplay as he scored highly throughout series four of The Rap Game (Picture: Naked/Rachel Joseph)
Big Jest saw off the competition from challengers including Mwangi (left) and J Clarke on The Rap Game (Picture: Naked/Trevaughn Omari)
As a teenager, the rapper’s parents were heavily involved in his pursuit of a career in music, which included paying for his studio time.
His dad was a huge fan of Kenny Allstar and The Rap Game, and encouraged his son to send in his music to the DJ and enter the reality TV show.
‘Like most of us, I started rapping at school in the playground, the original training ground where we start, and as for the wordplay, that could be partly to do with music I liked at the time,’ Big Jest says.
‘I was very good at English, so it was just something that came naturally to me, I can’t say it was a deliberate thing.’
Blessed with a wide vocabulary, his tapestry of bars on the show ranged from fiery notes on ‘mental hell’ to a playful line about being gone with the cash like Meghan and Harry.
Taking the mic in front of Kenny Allstar, Big Jest’s track began with a soft voice note from his dad in 2020, where his guiding light speaks with him about sending tracks to the DJ.
Big Jest enters the fray in one of the challenges on the music competition show (Picture: Naked/Trevaughn Omari)
The following year, the pair spoke about the lyricist going on the show, which is hosted by urban music figureheads Krept, Konan and DJ Target.
Big Jest’s appearance came too late for his dad, who died last year.
But he became the hot favourite after joining five other contenders who moved into a Manchester penthouse for the latest series.
Big Jest then relayed his story in fiery but word-perfect form as Kenny Allstar laid down the beats, saying how he ‘almost drowned in tears’ in dark times.
Delivering his verdict, DJ Target, also a 1Xtra DJ, told the series winner ‘the stars had aligned’ behind his victory and it was a ‘destiny moment’.
Explaining the conversations with his dad about getting heard via the BBC, Big Jest says: ‘As for the Kenny thing, that conversation happened in 2020 and he was a fan of Kenny’s show and of The Rap Game, and he said to send Kenny some songs to get him to play them, as I said in my lyrics.
‘It was a crazy moment when it came full circle and I actually managed to complete what we spoke about attempting to do.’
Over the episodes which have landed on BBC iPlayer, the rappers all delivered heavy-spitting but highly creative takes reflecting an evolution in grime and drill towards a new form of UK rap.
The series showed how the medium has evolved closer to spoken word and poetry, while overlapping music production and social media.
The Rap Game saw fierce competition from the contenders (from left) P3Lz, JClarke, Zoellz, Mwangi, Big Jest and Mayo (Picture: Naked/Rachel Joseph)
Krept (left), Konan and DJ Target have put up-and-coming lyricists through their paces on The Rap Game (Picture: Vicky Grout/BBC/ Naked)
Big Jest waits in line with Mayo (left) and Mwangi as he closes in on The Rap Game title (Picture: Naked/Trevaughn Omari)
The independent artist has almost 276,0000 followers on TikTok but his music is gimmick-free and rooted in hard-edged grime patterns.
His social reach is fitting for the victor of an award-winning show which began in 2019 as an extension of a US format and is part of the BBC’s commitment to reach ‘new and younger’ audiences.
‘In this day and age I feel it’s important to find a way to translate your way through the different mediums at our disposal,’ Big Jest says.
‘Nowadays there’s the music but people want to know you as a person as well, so you’re doing yourself a disservice if you can’t find a way to translate yourself through these platforms.
‘Sometimes people don’t know how to get themselves across but I’m trying to find a way, so it’s so far so good.’
Big Jest is continuing MC duties with the title of The Rap Game 2022 under his belt (Picture: Naked/Trevaughn Omari)
The newly-crowned MC is now looking to ‘bigger and better’ as he embarks on the mentorship scheme that comes with the series title.
‘You never know what’s coming in the future, but regardless of what this is, I’m dropping new music and I’m probably going to work on some single releases,’ he said. ‘Just loads more music, bigger and better, that’s the motive moving forward.’
Big Jest’s dad would no doubt be proud, and now millions more fans will be joining the rapper as he moves to the next phase of his journey.
Catch up on the latest series of The Rap Game on BBC iPlayer
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