The relationship that Grime and politics share
Words by Tayler Prince-Fraser
Photos by Luke Baker
Last night, we were invited down to ‘Grime4Corbyn’ to talk on the relationship between politics and grime. The discussion started looking at grime’s origins within a particular socio-economic environment, and it’s journey to finding mainstream success. I had concluded that the appeal to a ‘middle-class’ demographic can be found by looking at similar musical movements, specifically the punk movement within London during the late 60’s and early 70’s. Both movements were born out of the frustration and anger, often of young people, with the social, economic and political realties they faced, giving both movements a distinct anarchic and anti-establishment sound. Whilst the specific issues within the origins of both movements tend to be more relevant within the working class, a lot of young people across all demographics seem to share a similar attitude towards ‘the system’ we have in place. While a young person from a middle-class background might not experience the struggles of a young person from a working class background, it does not mean that collectively, as young people, they both aren’t feeling oppressed.
Image by Hyperfrank
“I represent for the homeless
Let down by a nation
More interested in war and invasion
When children are sleeping at railway stations” – Devlin, Community Outcast
When seen in context alongside the mainstream celebrity endorsements from the likes of Kanye West, it makes sense as to why grime has received such popularity within the mainstream music scene; these young people can relate to the struggle, being angry, feeling disenfranchised and downtrodden. Whether the issue be the price of a university tuition fee, the inordinately high price of housing, or the lack of political representation, young people feel a lot of frustration towards the current system. The lack of effort on behalf of the government to engage young people has left a lot of us often feeling quite disenfranchised from the whole process; when we hear a voice that is venting and representing this anger, it’s quite clearly going to resonate with us.
“I never came from a broken home, the system came and broke my home
And now my bro’s are sitting in cells like chromosomes.” – Dave, Blackbox Cypher
The second half of the discussion focused on how grime reflects and encourages political awareness among young people. As I mentioned above, grime has been a voice for the marginalised who feel ignored and disenfranchised from a system that is meant to be there to support them. It’s representative of a life centred on struggle, born on the estates, playgrounds and street corners often of London’s poorest areas. The forerunners of the sound, people like Wiley & Kano, have often depicted the struggles of their lives and upbringings to raise awareness of issues within their community. Whether they knew at the time or not, these messages were highly politicised, and acted almost as regular news broadcast for their peers. It was the start of a movement that said ‘fuck you, this is our world too’. This same attitude can be seen and heard now from a variety of backgrounds concerning issues that affect all young people; issues such as tuition fees, the prices of housing, leaving the European Union.
What grime does is raise awareness about the inequality within our current system; the last time I checked, inequality is an issue that affects all people, from all backgrounds and walks of life; people like you and I. It just so happens that it’s mainstream success seems to have come during one of the most important political moments in my lifetime, the upcoming snap general election. With that mainstream success, grime has managed to encourage political awareness and transcend class, race and locality, soundtracking the anger of young people en masse.
After the Grime4Corbyn panel discussion, a twelve year old by the name of Tofi gave us a spoken word performance. Written by him, the piece was hugely motivating and inspiring. It’s not often that such a young person is as aware of the current political and social situation we face, but Tofi may well be symptomatic of an increasingly connected and educated upcoming generation, clued up and switched on to the world around them. Shout out Tofi for getting more laughs than anyone else, and also for having some nice Jordan 12’s on.
The night then proceeded with a line-up of artists and DJ’s including Saskilla playing all night, going on until the very early hours of the morning. I’d like to say a huge thank you to the guys who organised the event – more needs to be done to engage young people with politics, so events like this are very much appreciated.
Whoever you vote for this Thursday, I’d be happy just to know that more young people have voted than in previous general elections. After all, its our future and our vote.