As a kid I was very overweight and very lazy. All my school reports said I wasn’t meeting my potential, which my parents found frustrating because my mum was desperate for me to be a doctor, those traditional Asian expectations. There was no youthful rebellion because I didn’t have anything in me to be anything other than lazy.
Hip-hop and comedy were the two things I got into really young. A mate of mine left the Public Enemy album, It Takes a Nation Of Millions to Hold Us Back at my house when I was about 12. I couldn’t believe this music. It blew me away. It didn’t sound like anything I had heard before and the lyrics… On that album, there is a lot of black empowerment. I am not black, but at school I was one of the only kids of colour, so I related to the identity politics.
My parents came over from Sri Lanka for my dad to finish his accountancy exams and to give their kids a great start. We were comfortable, living in a nice semi-detached house and my brother and I were spoilt. My mum and dad got us the latest of everything. But then it all went a bit wrong.
It was insane, going from super comfortable to everything falling away
My parents’ marriage broke up, our house got repossessed and my dad ended up going to prison. This all happened very, very quickly. It was a struggle. My mum found out my dad had been messing around. He fell into financial difficulty so we ended up getting our house taken away. We were supposed to go into a council flat but they didn’t have enough so we were in a bed and breakfast for a year-and-a-half. And my dad was in prison. It was insane, going from super comfortable to everything falling away.
I had a scholarship to private school but had to leave because my dad was in arrears with the fees. So I just left. I didn’t say goodbye; I didn’t want anyone to know. Looking back, moving to the local comp gave me a lot of the values I have today. My brother and I often wonder whether we would have been arseholes if it hadn’t happened. We didn’t appreciate what we had got, then all that got taken away. I have kids now, and they are in a better situation than I was, but I want them to appreciate what they have. I might not have been as conscious of that if I hadn’t gone through what I did.
I would tell my younger self, look, you can come back from this. These things are temporary. It might feel horrible now but it will get better and you are always in control of what direction things are heading in. It really felt like the world had fallen apart. We ended up in the council house system and that changed me. I went off the rails, became even lazier. Cars got torched, joyriders would try to nick our car – but I don’t want to make out it was Compton, it was just a typical estate. By 16, we were happy there and life was getting back to normal.