Thesis Sahib a.k.a. James Kirkpatrick takes rapping to the next level. He makes his own instruments and modifies Game Boys and children’s toys to create the beats he raps to.
Kirkpatrick has been a part of the underground hip-hop movement for the past 15 years. Recently returned from the South by Southwest (SXWS) festival in Texas, he is performing in his hometown London this Sunday at the Blackshire.
Although Kirkpatrick uses a different name for each of his music projects, on Sunday he is performing as Thesis Sahib.
“Both were graffiti names given to me by friends at different times in my life,” says Kirkpatrick. “Names talk about who you are or what your stand point is.”
He got the name Sahib, meaning apprentice in Arabic, while discussing philosophy with friends when he was 17 years old. The name Thesis, coming from the idea of theory, came a few years later as he was spray-painting a wall.
The DIY nature of free-style rapping appeals to Kirkpatrick.
“I really like it because you don’t need all these instruments — just a beat and you rap over it,” says Kirkpatrick. “Everything you could find in your garage would be part of hip-hop. I like this dusty underground kind of thing.”
Kirkpatrick makes his own beats using modified Game Boys.
“I make a light on the screen because I program little loops of synthesizer lines I’ve made, and I need to be able to see those to trigger them. I play different parts depending on how people are reacting to the sounds.”
Kirkpatrick also uses a technique called circuit bending to make his own instruments and modify children’s toys.
“I open up the toy and see how the parts of the circuit are connected. Then I solder different bits together to make it permanent, so it will play with a different function.”
The creative musician also programs a microphone and circuit bent sounds into his face mask costume.
In recent years, Kirkpatrick has combined his fine art practices with his music. His latest release, Before the End, takes the shape of a little blue book. The book of artwork comes with a 16-song album on colour vinyl and a download card that can later be planted to grow wildflowers.
Though Kirkpatrick has gained international recognition and often travels to Los Angeles to record with other artists, London is his home base and he plans to keep it that way.
“I like it here — the people, and my family lives nearby. There’s a good art scene here too.”
This Sunday, Kirkpatrick will perform alongside artists Teenburger and PHC. The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $7 at the door.