Interview: Professor Green, rapper

Professor Green
Professor Green
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FIRST things first: Professor Green is not a real professor. Nor is his stage name a nod to any love for the popular board game Cluedo. He’s a rapper from Hackney with a 100,000-selling debut album and chart-topping single under his belt, and a Mobo, NME Award and MTV Europe Music Award sitting atop the mantelpiece at home.

The 27-year-old was born Stephen Manderson who, before he became a chart-topping rapper, had been making a living selling marijuana, or “green”, on east London estates, which is how he got his nom de rap.

“I didn’t choose the name,” he says. “It was given to me due to an old habit and it stuck.

“I haven’t regretted it yet. If kids ask me, I just say it’s because I’m into horticulture.”

A few days before the interview, Manderson performed his single Read All About It on X Factor with Emeli Sande. The prime-time TV exposure was priceless and the song shot straight to No.1 in the singles chart. But despite getting rave reviews for the duet, the rapper reveals that he suffered really bad nerves before appearing on the show.

“I was up at 4.30am the night before X Factor,” he explains. “I was up again at 4am the night after the show as well. I don’t know why I’m so nervous, I just get really nervous about everything.”

That admission seems at odds with Manderson’s persona. On stage he exudes a swaggering confidence, but he says much of his anxiety stems from the death of his father, who committed suicide in 2008. He dipped in and out of the singer’s life, while his mum was just 16 when he was born, which meant he was raised by his nan from the age of one.

Manderson admits that he has tried therapy to help with his problems – mostly anxiety and depression – but that the expensive sessions didn’t really work for him. “It became a battle of wits,” he says, “and I just wondered what they were thinking all the time.”

The only thing that seems to help now is his music.

“It’s a way to get all those emotions out and work out what I think,” he says. “Worrying used to take so much time but, fortunately, I had a morning where I woke up and realised that I can’t be wasting my time on that s*** any more, all that irrational fear.”

Manderson was understandably affected by the death of his father, and admits that his second album, the recently released At Your Inconvenience, helped him deal with the suicide.

“Writing about it was my way to deal with it,” he says.

Toward the end of the album, he addresses the issue head-on on the track Today I Cried, which credits his pal Lily Allen for the support she gave him while he was at a low ebb, with the lyrics, “See Lily came along when I was at my lowest/Selling wraps of coke not the raps I flow with/I made it and I owe to a chat I had with her/Who knows where I’d be if that chat hadn’t occurred.”

“It’s not complaining about being famous,” he points out, saying that some people have got the wrong end of the stick with that particular song. “I’m working out WHY I’m famous. I’m not ungrateful, I’m really not. I just have to ask why I’m not happy.”

At Your Inconvenience isn’t all soul-bearing emotion. As with debut Alive Till I’m Dead, the album is laced with humour, with model Daisy Lowe just one of the many celebs name-checked, along with feuding footballers Wayne Bridge and John Terry, former tennis beauty Anna Kournikova, her pop star boyfriend Enrique Iglesias, Xtra Factor presenter Caroline Flack and boyband JLS.

“I’ve not seen Daisy since the album came out,” he says. “More’s the pity . . . I saw her on the cover of Esquire, though. She’s perfect.

“On the last album I had a rhyme about Pixie Lott, but we’re friends,” he goes on. “And this time there’s one about Wayne Rooney, too,” he adds, referring to a lyric that goes, “Obnoxious preposterous loony a damn nutter/if I ever see Rooney anywhere near my grandmother ah.”

“Colleen Rooney had a pop at me on Twitter when she heard about that one, but after she’d calmed down she was OK,” he laughs. “There’s no malice, it’s just rapping.”

Overall, Manderson feels his new album is more complete than his first. “Despite all of the different sounds, it still feels like an album,” he says. “During the success and process of the first album I really found my voice and I think that shows on At Your Inconvenience.”

With At Your Inconvenience doing well in the charts, the rapper is looking forward to his visit to Edinburgh next week. “Scottish crowds are mental,” he says. “Can’t wait.”

Professor Green, HMV Picture House, Lothian Road, Tuesday, 7pm, £16, 0844-847 1740