Professor Green says he made his friend, musician Miles Kane’s day, by sending him a surprise bunch of flowers and calling him a ‘handsome b******’ in the attached note.
The 37-year-old rapper, born Stephen Manderson, has sold more than three million records and is an advocate for men’s mental health, having experienced anxiety and depression himself. He reckons treating your friend – regardless of gender – to a bunch of blooms is just one way to let someone know they’re important in your life.
The musician is on a mission to normalise the act of sending flowers from man to man, as he believes it can act as a catalyst to help people feel comfortable about opening up and sharing their problems.
We chatted to the rapper about channelling his feelings through music and learning from his upbringing…
Why do you think men often don’t feel comfortable sending flowers to their pals?
“This idea of ‘what it is to be a man’ is still hanging around. I think I’ve got a really simple way of fixing many things as far as gender stereotypes are concerned, and it’s just that we don’t apply [certain] behaviours to genders. But it requires unpicking the very fabric of society – so it’s not an easy resolve.
“If we don’t apply behaviours to genders though, then you can send your male mate flowers and it doesn’t have to be seen as feminine. I can take an interest in bouquets and becoming a florist, or being sensitive, open and emotionally intelligent – all of these brilliant things we [often] associate with being a woman.
“It’s like ‘God forbid’ that, as a man, we appear feminine or become comfortable enough with our vulnerabilities to be able to discuss them. It shouldn’t require an occasion, like birthdays or funerals. Even if my friend is fine, I don’t need to ask him if he’s OK – I can send him flowers to make him even happier. A little bit of kindness can go a long way.”
Has it been difficult being open about your mental health and showing your vulnerable side in an industry like rap?
“When I first opened up the conversation, nobody was talking about it. I was the least likely candidate to open the floor to talk about mental health. I fell into it quite naively by writing a song about my dad’s suicide [Photographs, released in 2018], which, by proxy, meant I ended up talking about it in interviews.
“A song about suicide wasn’t really meant to become a No. 1 single, but it did, which meant I was constantly discussing it. It was a really important lesson for me because I understood then that the sadness never goes away, but the more present you are, the less power these terribly painful events [can] have over you. There was a time in my life where I couldn’t even look at a photograph of my dad without bursting into tears.
“Through talking about it, I haven’t completely separated myself from the emotions that were attached and what happened, but I can talk about it without having to engage in them.
“With rap music, there’s a perceived bravado. The reason my music is so open and emotional is because the musicians I grew up [listening to], like Biggie [The Notorious B.I.G.], were the same; they were storytellers.
“There’s a type of therapy called CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and a major cornerstone of it is journaling, where you write down your thoughts, observations and feelings at any given time. I realised I’d been doing that since I was 18 with songwriting. Writing down what was going on in my head gave me perspective later, and there’s now years between me and some of the music I wrote.”
Has mental health been a journey for you?
“I grew up in a very rough place with a very fractured family situation. Six people in a three bedroom flat, with four generations. I took all of it on and learnt how to survive, but now I’ve found myself in a world where I don’t need [those things] to survive anymore.
“I’m still reactive and still self-defensive, so now I’ve got to unlearn all of that. Nobody wants to be too self-aware and sometimes that can be a problem too. I grew up with OCD where I overanalysed and catastrophised every situation. It’s really easy to build negative feedback loops. Everyone talks about balance but I kind of think, ‘chaos over comfort’. I think some chaos is necessary, as a lot of energy and good can come from it. It’s about finding a medium.”
You recently became a father with partner actress Karima McAdams, how would you like to raise your son?
“I’ve seen other people put so much pressure on their children to be all of the things they themselves wanted to be. Pressuring them is the worst thing you can do, I think.
“If I was to want anything for my child, based upon my upbringing, it’s not to be anxious – so I’m well happy to project that onto him. I just want to provide security for him to express himself and be open; a safe space where we can discuss absolutely everything and anything.”
Professor Green has created a unique floral bouquet specifically for men, in partnership with Urban Flower Company to support Funnyhowflowersdothat.co.uk campaign You B’OKquet mate? Available from urbanflowercompany.co.uk.