News 1 May 2018

How the Windrush Scandal reminded us of these important British Caribbean legends

1 May 2018

For many, the recent Windrush scandal is one that has left a severe bitter taste. Not only for the outrageous scandal that has unfolded with thousands of legal Caribbean migrants now facing the threat of deportation, but for the utter audacity, disrespect and cheek at how easily and quickly the British government can turn its back on the same people that helped make this country what it is today.

Back in 1948 the British Government reached out and asked for help from its fellow Commonwealth countries, sending out official invitations and job advertisements to people all over the Caribbean from Jamaica to St Kitts, asking them to come over to Britain in an aid to help fix the UK’s post-war labour shortage and rebuild the war-ridden country. So it seems bitterly ironic that exactly 70 years later the same government have not only destroyed official paperwork denying these migrants of any legal proof and documentation of a right to live in the UK, but have also denied access to NHS treatment, refused benefits and pensions and in some cases stripped people of their jobs.

As a granddaughter of the Windrush generation, I know personally how hard my grandparents worked when they came to this country, giving their devout time, energy and hard work in contributing to the reconstruction of a war-torn Britain and improving this country’s national transport systems and National Health Service (my grandmother a nurse and my grandfather a British Rail signal operator). So frankly this scandal is a blatant slap in the face from the government to a generation of people that not only helped this country get back on its feet and allowed it to once again thrive economically, but also enriched Britain’s culture, food, music and history. Without the arrival of this Windrush generation, the UK wouldn’t be half the country that it is today.

So in light of this recent scandal, we thought we’d take a look at and shine a light on some influential British artists of Caribbean descent that have not only played a key role over the years in enriching British music and culture and but also continue to shape the UK’s music scene today.


Without a doubt one of the most influential MCs the UK has ever seen and a notable pioneer of the UK grime and rap scene, there’s not many who can name their top five British MCs of all time without mentioning Kano. Descending from a Caribbean background, the East London MC has always made his West Indian heritage known in his music, often drawing from influences of reggae, dub and jungle in his songs and delivering his characteristic patois driven lyrics. Kano’s monumental impact on British music and his role in bringing grime to a wider audience and stage has opened the doors for so many after him. To this day Kano remains an imperative figure in the British music and entertainment industry.


The whole genre of jungle and what now has evolved into drum n bass wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for the influence from the Caribbean. The jungle sound took the deep bass and dub from reggae and the energy from dancehall and infused it into British rave culture to make one of the most distinctive forms of British music to date. There are many significant figures within this genre that drew their musical artistry from their Caribbean heritage, including the likes of Shy FX, A Guy Called Gerald, General Levy and of course the legend that is Goldie.


Ashley Thomas aka Bashy is a legend in many ways. Firstly for being one of the first black British MCs to achieve commercial success but also for being an artist that always openly challenged the negative image painted by the UK media of young black males in Britain in his music. Moreover, Bashy was an important figure in bridging the gap between music, tv and film and opening the doors for many young aspiring black British actors. Coming from a Jamaican and Dominican background, Bashy’s work as an actor, featuring in countless TV series and breaking onto the big screen both in the UK and now the US has helped break down a lot of barriers for many young people from ethnic minorities who had the same aspirations of pursuing a career in acting.

Ms Dynamite

Still regarded as the originator when it comes to UK female MCs, Ms Dynamite is still considered as one of the most talented and confident female artists to come out of the UK today.  The impact Ms Dynamite made on the UK music industry is one that can scarcely be matched by any UK female MC or rapper to date. Ms Dynamite paved the way for so many British female artists of colour and was massively influential in bridging the gap between the underground urban music scene and the mainstream. Her album A Little Deeper won the Mercury Music Prize in 2002, beating The Streets and David Bowie, and made her the first and youngest-ever black British Caribbean female to win the esteemed award. Without Ms Dynamite, artists like Ms Banks, Lioness, Stefflon Don and IAMDDB would have had a much bigger battle to fight in this music industry.


So often overlooked and not recognised enough for their impact and role in bringing roots and lovers rock reggae music to the UK, Aswad are one of the most significant UK reggae bands that emerged during the 70s. Aswad were part of only a handful of British reggae groups at the time that were among the first to bring the sound of roots music distinct from Jamaican reggae to this country. Aswad’s music allowed reggae to achieve massive commercial success whilst at the same time the group used their lyrics to tackle issues surrounding black youth in Britain. Aswad paved the way for more contemporary British reggae artists such Smiley Culture, Janet Kay, Tippa Irie, Maxi Priest and today the likes of Melissa Steel and Stylo G.

Wretch 32

Arguably one of the best lyricists to come out of the UK, Wretch has been a staple part of the UK rap scene for years and continues to raise the bar with his seamless poeticism, intricate word play and his ability to make music that is both well respected in the scene and is able to reach mainstream audiences too. The Tottenham rapper’s roots in Caribbean culture often come to the forefront in his music whether it’s him rapping in patios or referencing his strongly Jamaican upbringing. Wretch’s work in music has earned British rap it’s well-deserved respect both within the UK and overseas.

Rodney P

Often cited as one of the first people to really bring hip hop to the UK for the first time during the 80s and give it a British stamp, Rodney P was massively influential in British music and the development of the hip hop genre in Britain. Before Rodney P, hip hop remained a heavily American-dominated genre in that hip hop music was only really being made by and listened to by people in the US, with only a few Brits doing it big then (namely Slick Rick). Starting out as a member of the London Posse, one of the first British hip hop groups, Rodney P was essential in making hip hop music popular in the UK. Rodney often cites his Caribbean upbringing and influence from the reggae music he heard growing up as an influence on his music.


The godfather of grime, Wiley’s undisputed role in the British music industry is one that has been well respected by peers and fans alike for decades and earlier this year even Prince William acknowledged this and awarded the grime veteran an MBE for his services to music. Being of Caribbean ancestry, Wiley opened up a whole scene and gave the youth a whole platform upon which to express themselves musically and so many that Wiley brought through have gone on to do major things. He birthed a new genre of British music that today is dominating both the UK charts and British culture, a contribution to British urban music and culture that is almost unmatched.


Rapper, poet, activist, Akala has been a prominent voice in British politics over the years, always speaking up and raising awareness on important socio-political and race issues in this country. He remains an important voice for ethnic minorities and those underrepresented in Britain, Akala has played such an important role in challenging social injustices, pushing for social change and challenging the racist patriarchal structures that continue to shape and dominate our society today. From doing university tours, to appearing on TV debate panels, to campaigning hard for just action to be taken by the government for the Grenfell tragedy. Akala continues to be an important artist and figure both in the creative arts and in politics in the UK.