Can we focus on British politics?
Lately we've seen so many artists in the U.S. become more political in their message delivery, whether you were watching Beyoncé dancing to YG's "FDT" (Fuck Donald Trump), listening to B's empowering "Formation" lyrics, or watching Kendrick at the Grammys, and not to mention Kanye’s constant speeches about capitalism and the unfair power structures in place. Politics and societal matters seem to be projected more often lately by pop artists, reminiscent of the past when we had Marvin Gaye's "What’s Going On" playing through the radio. Social media has seen an overwhelming support for causes like #BLACKLIVESMATTER, to the point where those who don't speak out are shunned. All this political discussion and unity left me feeling like Britain is missing something. I mean, we all are heavily affected by American culture, but at the end of the day we live in Britain and there are some huge political changes happening here. Seems like there is an apathy towards politics in Britain, or maybe a fear that David Cameron and Brexit are too dull to make for entertaining or powerful music. Maybe our conservative party isn’t nearly as extreme as TRUMP and our systematic oppressions are more subtle, but maybe that’s actually why us speaking about it is important. It passes through the undercurrent, there's a lot of fuckery happening under our noses. Art's always had a great influence to cause young generations to engage and debate - In the 80s, Punk was all about anarchy and empowering the masses that felt hopeless under the Thatcher Government. Well here we are again, under a Tory government, with our future in the EU uncertain (probably doomed) and MPs fleeing what they know is a sinking ship. I am feeling pretty hopeless myself, tbh. So now can we stop being so politically correct!
There is one genre that has continued to speak out in the UK and that is Grime. The Guardian wrote an article claiming "Grime defines the sound of protest in 2016" and I have to say the artists and music are both living up to that statement very well. Grime is political by nature. It's about the streets of London, rooted in the hood and many of the artists are unsigned or not influenced by ‘major’ labels. The artists therefore have more freedom, a raw passion and an unfiltered voice. This to outsiders can come across as aggressive, but when you’re voice is never heard you simply learn to shout. Artists like Novelist really allow their music to speak for them. His mixtape used audio clips from politicians, the most popular track being "Street Politician" which samples David Cameron’s speech during the London riots. Novelist songs literally and metaphorically hold a message of ‘fuck everyone in the world that doesn’t want me to be vocal’ and I love that about it. I want to see more of this type of message and rebellion in British music - the era of rebellious youth is back and we need it bigger than ever.
The lyrics in Grime songs aren’t the only thing sparking discussions. Social media has become a great place to start a bit of a debate. Stormzy stands out in this scenario. He was recently followed on twitter by labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, after low-key letting his followers know Conservative MP candidate Goldsmiths seemed like a "proper pussyhole". I’m kind of surprised Corbyn doesn’t feel threatened by Stormzy, after all there was 81,000 retweets on his #StormzyForPM post and the hashtag trended after the EU referendum results. The joke continued as Stormzy went on to train for his new potential role by googling "how to lie to the public". It seems all we have left, as disillusioned young Britons, is humour. With a sad powerlessness tone behind it all, this generation can only try make light of the situation. Which, can I say, Skepta’s perfected, simply tweeting a picture of David Camron captioned ‘LOL’ - I think we can all relate. Maybe the only way is anarchy, as his tattoo might suggest. However, there is a divide between those who believe that voting is a waste of time verses those that see voting as essential, for instance, Big Narstie made a video "Don’t Fuck my Future" encouraging young people to register to vote, he even went on a bus tour informing people about what their vote actually means. Still, 64% of young people didn’t vote on the Referendum, which ended up with ‘leave’ as the result, an outcome a majority of us didn't want. This percentage of non-voters could have made a huge difference, therefore we obviously need more artists like Big Narstie reminding people ‘If you don’t vote you’re just a silent noise in the corner. Wake up!’ Grime artists have probably seen and lived with the negative effects of decisions made by some far removed politician first hand; they’re relatable figures to loads of young men and women.
So weather it’s those sly posts from Skepta, hashtags from Stormzy, campaigns from Big Narstie or lyrics from Novelist, I am glad that some musicians are aware of and connect to the political realities of their fans. As you can see, when artists tweet or write about politics it acts as a conversation starter that can only lead to young people being more aware of the politics that effect their lives every day.