Thursday, February 17, 2011

Riot Grime and the Kettled Generation

Two features here following up - to a greater or lesser extent - on the extraordinary rave/riot in Parliament Square on 9 December. I will be speaking on these issues at UeL's Centre for Cultural Studies Research on 2 March 2011, separate blog post coming on that.

1) Pow! anthem for kettled youth, a Guardian Film&Music cover story on the extraordinary, exceptional history of Pow! (Forward) by Lethal Bizzle, and an interview with Lethal himself about why grime is the perfect riotous music. Bizzle used the opportunity to praise the use of grime in the protests as "beautiful" and spoke directly to David "still a donut" Cameron:
"We've got more power than you have on the youth. You're a millionaire guy in a suit, your life is good – you can't relate. These kids can relate to people like myself, Wiley, Dizzee, Tinie Tempah, Tinchy: we're from the council estates, we lived in these places where they live, we know what it's like. We're the real prime ministers of this country."

2) Government Grime and the EMA Kids for Mute Magazine, a 2000 word wide-ranging piece on media characterisations of multi-cultural British youth, misunderstandings of urban music, and bizarre government attempts to 'reach out' to disenfranchised young people.
The real problem is that serious attempts to engage with this demographic are extremely rare, and more often, they are dismissed with Britain's unique, unapologetic 21st century minstrelsy, which takes the form of media characterisations that revel in a vernacular they neither understand, nor wish to understand. There are few more revolting experiences in modern Britain than turning on Radio 4 to hear a middle-aged, middle-class, white comedy actor playing a generic urban yoof: ‘bruv', ‘blud', ‘innit', ‘yagetme', ‘brrap' and most of all, the fictitious patois construction ‘I is well... [happy/sad/angry]'. Sasha Baron Cohen has a hell of a lot to answer for.

The popular myth constructed around this generation takes the form of an unholy trinity: first, impressionable, pitiable urban youth; second, aggressive urban music, which might be called grime, rap, dubstep, garage... at the level the myth is constructed, the terminology doesn't matter one jot; third, violence, bloodshed and moral degeneracy. In this characterisation, the three are inextricably linked, and propel each another forwards into a dystopian horizon.


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