News 13 May 2017

#GRMElection: 7 times grime & politics went head-to-head

13 May 2017

Since Theresa May announced the snap election due to take place on the eighth June, there has been a surge in interest in the topic of politics.

Numerous celebrities and public figures have used their platforms to engage the public in political discussions and the world of grime has been heavily involved in these conversations.

For example, the likes of Akala, Jme, Professor Green and many more have taken to social media to interact with their fans and supporters to express their views towards the upcoming election. To some, the political sphere and the grime scene may seem worlds apart but since grime’s emergence in the early noughties, the two worlds have crossed paths on a number of occasions.

Below are seven times when grime culture has gone head-to-head with politics and socio-political issues.

1. Dizzee Rascal on News Night

Following Barack Obama’s first presidential win in 2008, Dizzee Rascal appeared on BBC’s Newsnight to share his views on the historical moment. Although the focus of the interview was Barack Obama and the USA, the conversation also looked at the possibility of seeing a black prime minister on Downing Street in the future. When asked about his reaction to the win, Dizzee Rascal stressed the importance of the hip-hop community in Obama’s campaign and its ability to engage young voters.

As well as highlighting the power of the people as a vehicle for change, the interview also sees Dizzee Rascal jokingly announce plans to run for prime minister. However, his light-hearted spirits alongside Paxman’s controversial question “do you feel yourself to be British” caused quite a bit of controversy in the aftermath of the interview. Despite this, the interview still makes for an interesting watch.

2. Stop Killing the Mandem

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In recent years, the various cases of police brutality against black Americans has shocked the world and countries across the globe have held protests to show solidarity for victims of police brutality.

In the summer of 2016, one of these protests were held in London in the form of a Black Lives Matter march and in attendance was none other than grime’s very own Novelist. While many images of the march took social media by storm, it was a photograph of Novelist holding a banner which read “Stop killing the mandem” that became the most significant symbol of British support. The phrase is a direct appeal to police forces to stop murdering black men and its simple and blunt tone highlight just how infuriating the topic is.

Novelist’s attendance at the march came as no surprise as the artist has released tracks such as “Street Politician” and “David Cameron Riddim” in the past. Since the snap election was announced, Novelist has taken to Twitter to share his views so it wouldn’t be far-fetched to expect more politically charged tracks from the MC in the near future.

3. David Cameron  – Hug a Hoodie

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Just over a decade ago, when most grime artists were sporting Akademiks tracksuits, there was a moral panic centred around young people wearing hoodies and their association with anti-social behaviour. Shopping centres, such as Bluewater in Kent, banned people from wearing hoodies on their premises and these actions were supported by many MPs.

However, David Cameron was sympathetic to youths in hoodies and began what is now referred to as the “Hug a Hoodie” campaign to challenge the negative press youngsters in tracksuits had been receiving.

In a speech made in 2006, Cameron said, “We need to show a lot more love… hoodies are more defensive than offensive.” As well as declaring his support for hoodies in his speech, he also referred to Kidulthood as being a film that wasn’t about bad kids. Despite Cameron’s attempts, the public and many politicians continued to stigmatise the item of clothing which grime artists and young working class kids wore, and still do wear, to express their identity.

4. Lethal Bizzle – “David Cameron is a donut”

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Although David Cameron didn’t blame youngsters in hoodies for the prevalence of anti-social behaviour, he once did condemn grime and rap for influencing violent crimes in inner cities. As expected, his comments received a great amount of backlash and among those who criticised Cameron was Lethal Bizzle.

In 2006, the “Pow” rapper wrote an opinion piece for the Guardian titled “David Cameron is a donut” in which he knocked David Cameron’s lack of understanding towards people from working-class backgrounds. In the article, Lethal Bizzle focused on the opportunities grime provides for people from disadvantaged backgrounds and explained how it gives young artists “a goal in life to work towards”. Lethal B also presented some useful suggestions for politicians, such as using UK rappers as “street MPs” to build a bridge between young people and politics. The article may be over a decade old but many of Lethal Bizzle’s arguments are still relevant today.

5. Form 696

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Form 696 is a highly controversial risk assessment that needs to be handed to the police by club promoters before club nights and events. When the form was first launched back in 2005, it asked for the ethnic group likely to attend events which was seen by many as a means to shut down gigs and discriminate against grime and rap artists.

Although this part of the form was taken away from the form in 2008, it is believed that many police forces in the UK are still asking for the general ethnic background of the audience. Form 969 also requires promoters to outline the style of music to be played on the night, as well as providing the police with the personal details of the acts set to perform. The Metropolitan Police have denied that the form is discriminatory but P Money begs to differ. The artist has claimed that the cancellation of his and many of his peers’ gigs is “a race thing” and also stated that police “target grime a lot”.

6. Ghetts – “Rebel”

Ghetts is undoubtedly one of the most diverse grime artists and he proved this when he released “Rebel”, the lead single from his 2014 release “Rebel With A Cause”.

Similarly to the rest of his catalogue, “Rebel” is a hype-filled track, but unlike most of his other records, Ghetts channels his raw energy into addressing a few political issues. As well as giving his views on the riots which occurred in the summer of 2011, Ghetts also uses the track to detail what it’s like it to grow up in a disadvantaged area. The political nature of the track is highlighted in the bridge in which Ghetts raps “Black everything, you can ask David/Cameron if we’re living in the dark ages”.

“Rebel” is thought-provoking, engaging and a reminder of how grime provides artists with a platform to directly challenge politicians.

7. Sadiq Khan at the NME Awards

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Some of the events and incidents above suggest grime and politics have had a rocky relationship in the past but the pair have also shared a few good moments too.

For example, earlier this year the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, presented Skepta with the Best British Male award and described the “Shutdown” rapper as being “a role model”. While at the NME Awards, Skepta expressed his support for Khan in an interview in which he said, “We do the same thing, we go against the grain.”

The NME Awards also saw the Mayor of London praise Stormzy, pose for a picture alongside some of grime’s biggest names and boldly declare that grime is “here to stay”.