In this issue we shine a spotlight on Wizdom Layne, Managing Director at Tileyard Impact the community engagement division of Tileyard and a CLOCK Level 7 Sector Expert and peer reviewer. Wizdom was a member of MOBO nominated Hip Hop group GreenJade and the original creator of The Big Music Project. Wizdom was also involved in the opening of renowned industry academy East London Arts and Music school.
We sat down with Wizdom to talk about his career in Hip Hop, his transition to youth advocacy and social engagement and get the lowdown on life as a CLOCK Sector Expert.
Tell us your story Wizdom. How did you get involved with music?
So, I started in a boys choir in my primary school which I loved. I loved singing, and I played music all the time, but my voice broke when I was about nine. So that was very much the end of my vocal career, and I was depressed about it. In secondary school, a friend of mine gave me a hip-hop tape, and I thought, this hip-hop thing is amazing! I started getting into Djing. It wasn’t until I went to Brit School as the first Year 10 intake that I started to get serious about it.
What sparked it was one night I was watching the news, and the British National Party had got into power. I had never written anything before, but I was just so upset about it, and words just started coming to me, and then the song ended up on a Brit School CD! Off the back of it, a friend of mine joined the school, and he was really good. So I ended up joining his crew which morphed into GreenJade.
Honestly, I didn’t take it too seriously. But it reached a certain point when I got into university. Instead of uni, I decided to get serious with GreenJade and opted for that over going to uni. It was just the path that I took. It didn’t always feel like I made the right choice, but it worked out in the end, let’s put it that way. So that’s how I got into it, and out of necessity I set up our label, I set up our recording studios, I filmed the music videos.
So you were the business-minded one, the entrepreneur in the group?
Yes. It was like ‘How…? I did that? You know, I’m the youngest in the group right?
So how did you become involved with mentoring and youth engagement? Was there a turning point?
So essentially what happened at the time of GreenJade’s inception, was that it was a gang in Clapham, but we kind of turned our lives around and decided to do better things. Specifically, one night we were playing a show in Birmingham New Years Eve in 2003. On the same night, two young ladies, Charlene Ellis and Letisha Shakespeare, were shot to death.
We drove home hearing it on the news thinking, we have to do something about this, and with the kind of group that we were, we ended up doing a lot of performances for kids. And we wrote a song called ‘Guns Down’. I played it to this kid I was mentoring who was also doing some nefarious stuff, and he just said, ‘it’s a good song but honestly what difference do you think that’s going to make?’ It made me stop and think so we decided to speak to XLP and see if we could make it into an anti-gun crime schools tour. I realised that I had an impact, and there was real meaning to what we were doing. It was more than just being famous.
Then everything with GreenJade came to an end, and XLP approached me to take over their arts side. But it became apparent that unless there was someone in industry at these places willing to open the door that all that young talent had nowhere to go. Without any real link to the industry, it was all a bit meaningless.
You approached Tileyard?
Yes. I pushed to get into Tileyard because I knew that it was this amazing independent central music hub. I needed someone in there who just understood rather than someone in HR trying to tick a diversity box. I wanted to do better than that. So that’s where Tileyard Impact came in, to bridge the gap between creative education and creative careers. I knew it was all about building relationships and having that portfolio of things that you’ve done. I wanted to end that cycle where you can’t get the opportunity because you don’t have the experience. But can’t get the experience because you don’t have the opportunity’.
How have you and the Tileyard Impact team adapted to current restrictions?
We’ve been doing online masterclasses, primarily for our cohort but what happened was they all started inviting their mates! We had classes with people like Glen Rowe, Jlo and loads of people from behind the scenes in the industry too. We’ve tried to focus on stuff like Google Ads and playlisting, amongst other things. Aspects no one talks about.
We have hosted about 30 masterclasses since March, and we still have a few more to go in various parts of the industry. I think my favourite bit is that it has seen our cohort through and given them something to do or look forward to in lockdown? This situation has been difficult for them. If like me you are an extrovert, being stuck in your house is not great. So being able to be there in a productive way has been special.
Tell us about your experience as a peer mentor with CLOCK. How does it differ to mentoring young people at Tileyard Impact?
I think what always interests me is the level of imposter syndrome that still exists. You get to a point in your career where a business is no longer a business name. It’s just a person that you know. Usually, with CLOCK Sector Experts, they are at that kind of level. But they tend to say they are just lucking it out. That is not the case after they’ve been lucking it out for 15 years.
You know, when I mentor young people it’s very common to hear, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing. My parents don’t support it, I’ll be poor forever!’ Then I also hear older professionals saying ‘I don’t know what I’m doing, my parents don’t get it. I’m still going to be poor!’ It’s just like, hold on? Why hasn’t this changed?
So much of this industry is about peoples opinion, but I also find that a lot of creative professionals don’t reflect on the good stuff they’ve done. They go from project to project to project instead of sitting down and going ‘huh, I invented that!’ It’s interesting, and it’s that side of the mentoring that means so much to me. I feel so lucky I get to do it with CLOCK because getting people to realise their self-value and the talent they have is so special to watch.
Share some of your CLOCK Sector Expert highlights.
Doing the facilitation at CLOCK in Amsterdam was so special because I got to take my family abroad while I was working there. Having the chance to have my family there while I was working and doing what I love was so amazing! It was brilliant especially, realising that the CLOCK programme is international, it formally validates professional creative practice.
After GreenJade finished, I went to industry and said, ‘I’ve got this, and I’ve done that’, but because GreenJade operated heavily within gospel or the Christian music scene, it just didn’t translate to the major music industry very well. So I realised to have something that not only proves what you did but validates all your years of hard work is of importance. It wasn’t for the sake of having a bit of paper, but it was more for a sense of self-worth. Another amazing thing is also the lasting sense of community that you keep even past your certification. It has opened so many doors for me. It’s just been an absolute Godsend!
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