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TikTok star and Rainham Mark head boy James Okulaja describes The Voice journey with Will.I.Am


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A TikTok sensation has spoken about his time working with Will.I.Am following his powerful introduction on The Voice.

James Okulaja, from Gillingham, stunned the judges with his bold rendition of Billie Eilish's 'Everything I Wanted' on last Saturday's episode, securing him a spot in the second round of ITV's signing competition.

James spoke to KMTV

The 17-year-old began his performance with the words "this is my dream" – a nod to Martin Luther King's iconic 'I have a dream speech.'

After rapping his heart out about equality, anti-bullying and togetherness the Rainham Mark head boy couldn't quite believe who turned around.

He said: "When Will.I.Am turned around my eyes were closed - when I opened them and saw he had turned and I was in disbelief, I was gassed.

"Working with him was one of the greatest things ever - he is so kind, so humble, so fun-loving and we have so much banter. I'm not sure how much they'll show on the show but I loved every minute."

James is also an anti-bullying ambassador for the charity The Diana Award, which was one of the main messages he shared in his performance.

The 17-year-old rapped about a message close to his heart. Picture: ITV Studios
The 17-year-old rapped about a message close to his heart. Picture: ITV Studios

He added: "It was so much fun. My performance was definitely risky, as it wasn't something that has ever been done before on the show.

"I was nervous to perform, but I was more nervous about the message I was carrying and articulating to the four judges, and the whole of England.

"It makes me feel so so great that I got to share this message, because, I said stuff, I said things, and I told a story that everyone needed to hear.

"The fact that I could do that through the way I knew best, through music, was so amazing.

"I'm just so grateful, I am so grateful that ITV and The Voice gave me the platform to be able to do that and supported me.

Coach Will.I.Am turned his chair for James Okulaja on The Voice. Pictures: ITV
Coach Will.I.Am turned his chair for James Okulaja on The Voice. Pictures: ITV

James has built a following on the global social media platform, TikTok, with his inspirational raps and personal messages of guidance to the younger generations.

Before the show he had 500,000 followers and over 14 million likes on his account.

He continued: "Every single day I get messages from young people about how my raps inspire them so I wanted to use the show to broaden that audience, and hopefully inspire more people.

"I'm sure my performance, hopefully, taught so many more people about the importance of anti-bullying, the importance of equality, and the importance of standing together, so I am so proud.

"For the first time, seeing myself on the Voice actually made me really proud of myself.

"I told a story that everyone needed to hear."

"I felt like crying at the end. Honestly I've never been that emotional seeing myself on TV, but this time I genuinely felt like crying once my performance was over. It meant so much to me."

The rap included the Martin Luther King quote "I had a dream," and the lines "Float like a butterfly, watch it grow like a tree, the youth can't be what the youth can't see."

But James's strong words about racism, young dreams and poverty alongside his black power salute has made him the target of online trolls.

Speaking to the Sunday Times about the abuse, James said: "There has been some racist backlash but I try not to look at it. I am focussing on the positive."

He now awaits the next round of the competition, where each coach will cut their times in half by setting their artists against one another in a series of music duels.

Read more: All the latest news from Medway

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