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Kareem Dennis (born 23 May 1986),[1] better known by his stage name Lowkey, is a British Iraqi rapper and activist based in London, England. He first became known through a series of mixtapes he released before he was 18,[2] before taking a hiatus from the music business. He would return in 2008 with wider music coverage, featured on BBC Radio[3][4] and appearing at various festivals and concerts including the BBC Electric Proms,[5] Glastonbury, T In The Park and Oxegen[6] in the buildup to his first solo album Dear Listener, as well as collaborating with other British musicians to form the supergroup Mongrel. He released his second solo album, Soundtrack to the Struggle, independently on 16 October 2011.

Lowkey performing in Bristol, 21 September 2009
Background information
Birth nameKareem Dennis
Born (1986-05-23) 23 May 1986 (age 33)
London, England
Years active2001–2012
LabelsMesopotamia Music
SO Empire Recordings
Associated acts

After a five-year hiatus, Lowkey released a string of singles between 2016 and 2018 to precede the release of his third album, Soundtrack to the Struggle 2, released on 5 April 2019.


Early life

From the age of twelve he began to rap, initially imitating American rappers but soon began using his own accent.[1] He began attending the open mic sessions which took place at the Deal Real record shop on Carnaby Street, Central London.[7] The first time he went he introduced himself as Lowkey and was told there was already a regular there by that name; the two had a rap battle to decide who would continue to use the alias, Kareem emerged victorious and continued to use the name thereafter.[8]

After a five-year hiatus, Lowkey released a string of singles between 2016 and 2018 to preceded his third album, Soundtrack to the Struggle 2, released on 5 April 2019.

Music career

2003–09: Mixtapes & Dear Listener

The first part of his mixtape series Key to the Game, was released independently in 2003.[6] Within a year and a half he had released a second and third volume, all of which gained critical acclaim from UK hip hop circles.[2] Though the first volume largely used music from other artists, the second was mostly original work in conjunction with numerous artists and producers while the third, which had no skits or short songs like a traditional mixtape would, was mostly his own work.[6]

While Lowkey the man was busying himself with European tours in support of Immortal Technique, Canibus, and Dead Prez,[6] he began to make musical contacts and set about recording his official debut album. Though stalled by other artistic endeavours, Dear Listener was eventually released in January 2009.[9][10] He bookended the year with another release, Uncensored, with highlights from the entire Key To The Game series and Dear Listener. This was released digitally in December through iTunes.[11]

2009–12: Soundtrack to the Struggle

After touring with Immortal Technique the two made a single, "Voices of the Voiceless" which was released in September 2009.[12]

The second single, "Long Live Palestine" (also known as "Tears to Laughter") was digitally released on 9 March 2009. In December 2009, Lowkey revealed he would release a second part to "Long Live Palestine" featuring international artists including Palestinian rap group DAM, Anglo-Palestinian soloist Shadia Mansour, Narcy from Iraq, Iranian artists Hich Kas and Reveal, Syrian-Lebanese performer Eslam Jawaad and African-American Muslim Hasan Salaam. "Long Live Palestine" was packaged in an EP with Part 1 and the instrumental.[13] The single received statements of support from Tony Benn and Benjamin Zephiniah.[14]

Soundtrack to the Struggle was released on 16 October 2011. The album entered the UK Albums Chart on 23 October at number 57 – becoming Lowkey's first entry on the national charts. In the UK Download Chart, Soundtrack to the Struggle peaked higher than its UK Albums Chart position – at number 14. And in the UK R&B Chart, the album received its highest OCC position, number 6. In the UK Indie Chart, the album peaked at number 9.[15][16][17][18]

2012–16: Musical hiatus

On 17 April 2012, Lowkey officially put his musical career on hiatus, announcing the news on Facebook. He said that after months of contemplation, he has decided to "step away from music and concentrate on my studies". With this, he announced that he would deactivate his Facebook page, which had over 180,000 followers.[19]

2016–present: Return and touring

On 26 July 2016, various sources shared an image on social media relating to Lowkey's return to the music scene with new single "Ahmed". On 29 July 2016, Lowkey released a video for the single, the subject matter of which revolves around the refugee crisis and Europe's response. In addition, a seven-day tour across the UK in September 2016 was announced.[20] On 3 September, his next single "Children of Diaspora" was released. The track addresses issues of racism and xenophobia, and mentions victims of police brutality in the UK and US.[21]

In August 2018, Lowkey announced via social media that he would be releasing his single "Ahmed", which features Mai Khalil, on platforms such as Spotify and iTunes on 2 September 2018, stating that this would be his first commercial release since 2011. He also confirmed that he was in the process of making a second album, titled Soundtrack to the Struggle 2.

On 23 January 2019, Soundtrack to the Struggle 2 was revealed to have a release date of 5 April 2019. The UK tour dates were revealed to start less than a week after the album release.


Lowkey joined a hip-hop group called Poisonous Poets with which was formed by rapper Reveal and released one self-titled mixtape in 2005.[22] Poisonous Poets (sometimes known as Double P) the group also consisted of Doc Brown whom Lowkey met at Real Deal records, Reveal, Stylah, Tony D and Therapist.[22]

Lowkey's manager passed on the first two parts of Key to the Game to Jon McClure, frontman of Reverend and The Makers who is also an outspoken political activist.[23] Wanting to mix popular music with politics, and mix indie rock with hip-hop, the two set about making a supergroup, Mongrel, composed of other noted musicians. Also in the band is Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders and ex-bassist Andy Nicholson alongside bassist of Babyshambles Drew McConnell and a revolving set of other musicians. They have had trouble coordinating their busy careers to perform live dates[24] and their debut album has already been pushed back from October[25] to 2009 along with a February tour.[26] The album, Better Than Heavy, was released for free with The Independent on 7 March. The band were asked to perform live in Venezuela on the invitation of President Hugo Chavez.[27] Lowkey visited Caracas during the first summit of CELAC and described Venezuela as "far closer to democracy than what we have in England",[28] championing Chavez as "a leader who is striving to build an independent alternative to the neo-liberal capitalism which has disenfranchised his people for decades."[29]

Political activism

Lowkey is a vocal opponent of Zionism and is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. He characterises Zionism as colonialism and ethnic cleansing.[29][30]

In February 2009, he travelled to Palestinian refugee camps around the West Bank area to perform fundraising shows to help rebuild the Gaza Strip but was detained by the Israel Police for nine hours at Ben Gurion International Airport and interrogated, while having his passport confiscated.[31] Later in 2009, he travelled with M-1 of Dead Prez to carry out a humanitarian aid mission and bring medical aid to the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip; this led to a collaboration between the two on Soundtrack to the Struggle.[32] He was detained for a second time in July 2010, en route to a number of concerts and musical workshops in refugee camps in the West Bank. After detaining him for twelve hours and an online petition was started, he was released.[33]

Lowkey has been a prominent member of the Stop The War Coalition and has spoken against the invasion of Iraq. Furthermore, he has been a sharp critic of United States and British foreign policy, claiming that the two powers are only interested in supporting leaders who are under their influence or are willing to assist them. He also claims American media overlooks those within the country who do not believe in American military supremacy.[29]

In May 2017, Lowkey endorsed Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the 2017 UK general election. He said: "We have a choice between policies which foster empathy and policies which foster greed, resentment, estrangement and alienation."[34][35]

Lowkey witnessed the Grenfell Tower fire disaster on 14 June 2017 which resulted in the death of more than 80 people. He criticised the British government, Queen Elizabeth II, corporations and the mainstream media in the wake of the disaster; and opined that the tragic event was a result of the injustice and criminality at the heart of Britain’s current political system.[36] He subsequently made a tribute song titled Ghosts of Grenfell in honor of the victims. He was later hailed in Parliament as "poet laureate" for Grenfell Tower by MP Emma Dent Coad, comparing him and others to Ben Jonson and Alfred Lord Tennyson.[37]


Involvement with Palestine Solidarity

In January 2011, Marcus Dysch writing for the Jewish Chronicle about the involvement of Lowkey in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign claimed "One expert studying anti-Israel activity described the increasing influence of performers such as Lowkey as a "potential nightmare," and compared the impact of his backing for the campaign to the effect of artists such as Annie Lennox and Elvis Costello "attacking the Jewish state."[38] Fox News host Glenn Beck mocked Lowkey on his radio show, poking fun at the lyrics of his song "Terrorist?", and recorded himself dancing to the song and showing gang signs in an effort to ridicule the content.[39]


Chipmunk released a freestyle over the instrumental Woo Riddim, where he mentioned a line about rapper Dot Rotten. In June 2010, Lowkey posted to Twitter that "If Dot Rotten doesn't duppy Chipmunk with a riddim, I might have to, Baghdad style."[40] Chip's response highlighted that he was not aware of who Lowkey was whilst also tweeting that "(he) shouldn't be allowed to tweet (him)." This consequently led to a series of tweets between the pair which eventually led Lowkey to release a diss track towards Chip titled The Warning, it was freestyled over Puff Daddy's Victory.[41] When asked about Lowkey's diss track Chipmunk stated that he did not remember the Twitter feud had taken place.[42] In an interview with Community Voice FM in 2011, Lowkey addressed the issue, saying that he shouldn't have taken it as far as he did, however, the reason he released the diss track was that he took offence to Chip's response.[43] The two tied in tenth place on MTV Base's poll of Best Of The Best: UK MCs 2010 with Tinie Tempah in the top position. Despite garnering over half of all public votes with over 3000, the panel ranked him lower when taking a wider context into consideration.[44]

Tim Westwood

Lowkey turned down an opportunity to appear on Tim Westwood TV in protest, after Westwood chose to broadcast his show from the British military base Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.[45]

Other work

In July 2008, the Theatre Royal, Bath put on a production of 'Max and Beth', a contemporary adaptation of Macbeth by William Shakespeare written entirely in rhyme.[46] Lowkey also helped publicise the NSPCC's Don't Hide It campaign, also contributing a free song to it, in which his lyrics are delivered from the perspective of a female victim of sexual abuse.[6] He also formed a non-profit organisation, People's Army with fellow rapper Logic, who he has also made an unreleased album with (New World Order[1]), and met up with then-Liberal Democrats leader Menzies Campbell as a representative of his local community.[23] He has written articles for The Guardian[47] and left-wing website Ceasefire Magazine[45] and regularly appeared on RT to discuss the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.[48]


Studio albums

List of studio albums, with selected chart positions
Title Album details Peak chart positions


Dear Listener
Soundtrack to the Struggle
  • Released: 16 October 2011
  • Label: Mesopotamia Music
  • Formats: CD, digital download
57 9 6
Soundtrack to the Struggle 2
  • Released: April 5, 2019
  • Label: Mesopotamia Music
  • Formats: Digital download
26 2

Collaboration albums


  • Key to the Game, Vol. 1 (2003)
  • Key to the Game, Vol. 2: Still Underground (2004)
  • Key to the Game, Vol. 3 (2005)
  • The Dubs Mixtape (2007) (with Stylah, hosted by DJ Limelight)


  • The Past, The Present and The Future: The Road to Mongrel (2008)
  • Uncensored (2009)
  • The Best of Lowkey (US Version) (2010)


  • "Politics" (2004)
  • "London" (2005)
  • "Tears to Laughter" (2009)
  • "Voices of the Voiceless" (2009) (with Immortal Technique)
  • "Long Live Palestine Parts 1 & 2" (2009)
  • "We Don't Want Them" (2009)
  • "Alphabet Assassin" (2009)
  • "Something Wonderful" (2010)
  • "Revolution Music" (2010)
  • "Terrorist?" (2010)
  • "Obama Nation" (2010)
  • "Ahmed" (2016)
  • "Children of Diaspora" (2016)
  • "Ghosts of Grenfell" (2017)
  • "The Death of Neoliberalism" (2017)
  • "Lords of War" (2017)
  • "McDonald Trump" (2018)
  • "Sunday Morning" (2018)
  • "Ghosts of Grenfell 2" (2018)
  • "The Return of Lowkey" (2019)


  1. ^ a b c "Lowkey". Stand Up UK. Archived from the original on 6 January 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2009.
  2. ^ a b "Key to the Game Vol 3 Review". UK Hip Hop. Archived from the original on 19 December 2005. Retrieved 3 November 2008.
  3. ^ "31 Oct 08, Brand New Kanye West, Q-Tip & Lowkey". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 15 January 2009.
  4. ^ "Lowkey is live in the studio to talk about his BBC Electric Proms performance". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 15 January 2009.
  5. ^ "Electric Proms Artists". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 15 January 2009.
  6. ^ a b c d e Hallick, Stuart (4 January 2009). "Lowkey Interview". Hip-Hop Kings. Archived from the original on 23 January 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2009.
  7. ^[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "". Archived from the original on 22 September 2010.
  9. ^ Small, Elle J (5 February 2009). "An album full of poetry". BBC. Retrieved 29 September 2009.
  10. ^ Oliver, Matt (7 January 2009). "Lowkey 'Dear Listener'". Fact Magazine. Retrieved 18 January 2009.
  11. ^ "Uncensored by Lowkey". Apple Inc. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
  12. ^ Haider, Arwa (13 August 2009). "One to watch: Lowkey". Metro. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  13. ^ "Long Live Palestine Parts 1 & 2: Lowkey". Retrieved 13 January 2010.
  14. ^ Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Our Patrons Archived 4 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "Archive Chart". The Official Charts Company. 23 October 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  16. ^ a b "Archive Chart". The Official Charts Company. 23 October 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  17. ^ a b "Archive Chart". The Official Charts Company. 23 October 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  18. ^ "Archive Chart". The Official Charts Company. 23 October 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  19. ^ Mehreen (18 April 2012). "Lowkey Career Pause". UK Hip Hop. Archived from the original on 22 April 2012. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  20. ^ SBTV (29 July 2016). "Lowkey returns with new track 'Ahmed' and announces a UK Tour - SBTV". Archived from the original on 2 August 2016. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  21. ^ SBTV (5 September 2016). "Lowkey returns with video for Mai Khalil-assisted 'Children of Diaspora' - SBTV". Archived from the original on 4 November 2016.
  22. ^ a b Mehreen (22 April 2005). "Poisonous Poets Interview". UK Hip Hop. Archived from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2009.
  23. ^ a b McNally, James (December 2008). "Low Life". Hip Hop Connection (229): 48–51.
  24. ^ Michaels, Sean (5 September 2008). "Indie supergroup Mongrel reveal debut album". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 November 2008.
  25. ^ Jones, Damien (16 September 2008). "Arctic Monkeys 'supergroup' form". BBC. Retrieved 3 November 2008.
  26. ^ Rogers, Georgie (3 November 2008). "Mongrel announces tour". BBC. Retrieved 3 November 2008.
  27. ^ "Indie supergroup Mongrel to release debut album free with The Independent". The Independent. 27 February 2009. Retrieved 13 June 2009.
  28. ^ Lowkey en Venezuela teleSUR Archived 16 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, 5 Dec 2011
  29. ^ a b c Exclusive Jody Mcintyre interviews Lowkey Archived 5 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, 27 May 2011
  30. ^ Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Patrons Archived 2 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine, 2 November 2011
  31. ^ "Mongrel rapper Lowkey detained in Israel airport". NME. 3 March 2009. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  32. ^ "PodOmatic - Best Free Podcasts". PodOmatic. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
  33. ^ Israel releases British rapper detained at airport Archived 17 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine Ma'an News Agency, 21 July 2010
  34. ^ Sykes, Ed (19 May 2017). "Legendary UK rapper Lowkey explains why he backs Jeremy Corbyn 'wholeheartedly' [VIDEO]". The Canary. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  35. ^ Topple, Steve (8 June 2017). "Rapper Lowkey tells The Canary Corbyn has turned disenchanted people into 'shapers of the future' [VIDEO]". The Canary. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  36. ^
  37. ^ "Stormzy Hailed In Parliament As A 'Poet Laureate' Of Grenfell Tower". 12 July 2017.
  38. ^ Palestine Solidarity Campaign hits the youth trail Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, 27 Jan 2011
  39. ^ Why is Glenn Beck dancing, throwing gang signs and listening to anti American rap Archived 13 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine, 10 Feb 2011
  40. ^ Lowkey VS Chipmunk – The Sage Continues Archived 8 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine The LALA Report Wednesday, 16 June 2010
  41. ^ Tom Talks the Truth: Lowkey v. Chipmunk beef Published: July 30, 2010. Accessed: February 9, 2019
  42. ^ Little Donatella: Interview with Chipmunk: Addressed Dot Rotten and Lowkey feud (2010)
  43. ^ Community FM: Lowkey Interview, addresses Chipmunk beef. (2011)
  44. ^ BEST OF THE BEST: UK MCs 2010 Archived 15 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine, 02/21/2011
  45. ^ a b Lowkey: Why I had to say no to Westwood TV Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Wednesday 25 January 2012
  46. ^ "Max & Beth". Bath & North East Somerset Council. 11 July 2008. Retrieved 3 November 2008.[dead link]
  47. ^ The Met police are stigmatizing Hip-Hop Archived 9 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine, 10 January 2012
  48. ^ Lowkey: ME speech 'People will not be fooled' Archived 11 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine, 2011
  49. ^ "Lowkey Chart History". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 23 October 2011.

External links