This is our riot: POW!
(sorry about my crap phone pics - this is the 'dancefloor' in parl sq)
Newsnight is very lucky to have Paul Mason: he’s consistently departed from what seems to be the news media's modus operandi, by actually bothering to find out what’s going on; rather than making smug, reactionary assumptions grounded in total ignorance (hi/byebye James MacIntyre), or being entirely fixated on fripperies like some posh nob's car being scuffed – when across central London young people trying to defend their rights to an affordable education are being bludgeoned by truncheon-wielding riot police. I saw a lot of blood yesterday, and a lot of defiance. I also spent seven hours in a police kettle, 90 minutes of which was on Westminster Bridge, after cops repeatedly lied to us that we were finally about to be let go (Alex Macpherson, who I was with, did a write-up here.) Here's what Paul Mason wrote about yesterday's Parliament Square rebellion:
The man in charge of the sound system was from an eco-farm, he told me, and had been trying to play "politically right on reggae"; however a crowd in which the oldest person was maybe seventeen took over the crucial jack plug, inserted it into a Blackberry, (iPhones are out for this demographic) and pumped out the dubstep.
Young men, mainly black, grabbed each other around the head and formed a surging dance to the digital beat lit, as the light failed, by the distinctly analog light of a bench they had set on fire. Any idea that you are dealing with Lacan-reading hipsters from Spitalfields on this demo is mistaken
While a good half of the march was undergraduates from the most militant college occupations - UCL, SOAS, Leeds, Sussex - the really stunning phenomenon, politically, was the presence of youth: bainlieue-style youth from Croydon, Peckam, the council estates of Islington.
We were with this crowd for hours yesterday, just as we had been the week before. Paul Mason is sadly one of the few journalists to have noticed that this isn't a movement exclusively spearheaded by undergraduate students, but by 'the EMA kids' from the poorer parts of London. And as a pedantic music hack who cares about these things, I've got to correct the one area where he is (forgivably) wrong. Specifically: this ain't dubstep. As fellow Parliament Sqaure kettle-ee @rougesfoam points out, the word ‘dubstep’ has become the musical equivalent of British politicians' notion of ‘fairness’ – in that it’s become utterly denuded of meaning by repeated misuse. Unlike fairness, I am quite sure I know dubstep when I see it – and it is not the definitive sound of this movement. With the caveat that various other things were playing yesterday in parts of Parliament Square (lover's rock, trance, samba, even ambient techno apparently) - this was the protest's main soundsytem, and it only played one dubstep tune. This is what we can recall between me and @lexpretend (cheers Alex!), a 2010 Riot Playlist, if you like:
Giggs - ??? (all Giggs tunes sound the same to me)
A.N.Other UK road rap MC... - Hold Yuh riddim
Gyptian ft Nicki Minaj - Hold Yuh
Benga and Coki - Night
JME - Serious
Tinie Tempah - Pass Out
Rihanna - Rude Boy
Elephant Man - Bun Bad Mind
Vybz Kartel ft Spice - Ramping Shop
Major Lazer - Pon Di Floor (twice)
Nicki Minaj ft. Eminem - Roman's Revenge (they only played Nicki's bit though)
50 Cent - Just A Lil Bit
Princess Nyah - Frontline
Donae'o - Party Hard
Sean Paul - Like Glue/Get Busy
Rihanna ft. Drake - What's My Name?
Lethal B - POW (Forward) (x3 reloads)
After I tweeted something admittedly flippant about dubstep being too middle-class and undergraduate (key age and class gap here, again) to be the sound of this moment, Dan Trilling wrote to me:
a plea: don't write anything saying dubstep is "middle class"! it's not that simple, no music genre is ever that easily linked to class. and even more so, London class/taste relationships do not map onto the rest of the country... i guarantee you that working-class kids in places like derby who are into dance music will be listening to dubstep. in smaller towns and cities music scenes are often too small to have such fine distinctions between genres (which, as it happens is why they have traditionally been musically very creative places).And Dan knows Derby - and nuance. I wrote back, agreeing with his caution, but saying:
the london ema kids who were brucking out at the soundsystems yesterday are not on dubstep, trust me - they know what it is, they will and indeed did dance to benga and coki's night, but that was literally the only dubstep tune i heard all day - it was rnb, bashment, road rap, american hiphop and - albeit only once or twice - grime they were going off to... if you're 14, you're not going to clubs anyway - and tbh you're as likely to be into US stuff as UK stuff - pon di floor, sean paul 'like glue' and tinie tempah got the biggest responses.Well, not quite the biggest responses. Because then there was 'POW'. This tune deserves an essay to itself, but suffice it to say that a track that was BANNED from clubs in London and Essex earlier this decade for being too rowdy, which is the perfect exemplar of grime's incendiary energy - an energy snuffed out by racist, youth- and class- phobic authorities via Form 696 - well.. to see several hundred young people gleefully raving to this in the dark, in an occupied Parliament Square, outside the Treasury, was pretty damn special. Here's my so-crap-as-to-be-almost-pointless phone-video-clip of the event, followed by the original.
Pow. See you at the next one.