I am proud to have written this piece originally for the Youth Violence Commission which can be found here.
“All the suit wearing guys in cities can’t stand us. They don’t understand us.” – P Money
Top down approaches make young people feel they are the problem when they are often the solution. The commission will give us back our voices. I know I am not alone (especially if you are a Londoner) in thinking that every time we open the paper or read the news there is a mention of a stabbing or fatality. What I find even more depressing is that often the victim is younger than me.
Youth violence is an issue that affects communities across the U.K. The systemic failings of government policy, cuts and lack of funding to community services have contributed. It is naïve to label violence and knife crime synonymously with gang-violence. It is an issue of multiple complexities and we must change the narrative.
Deprivation and poverty can lead to a lack of aspiration. Alternatives to the lifestyle that goes hand in hand with youth violence should be presented. Success stories and role models exist, from family members and youth workers to footballers and musicians. The media portrayal of young people needs to change, the discrimination against figures such as grime MC’s and rappers fuels resentment.
A caller on LBC accused Stormzy and grime music of being one of the main reasons behind the knife crime epidemic in the UK. In a classic move, Stormzy called out LBC on the first track of his new album Gang Signs and Prayer, ‘First Things First’ saying: “ LBC’s tryna’ black ball me and tryna’ blame your boy for knife crime, I don’t use a shank, I got money in the bank man, I’d rather do a drive by”.
Big Mike was invited onto LBC to respond to the initial remarks in an interview with Shelagh Fogarty. He explained that Grime is an expression of circumstances. MC’s are social commentators reporting on their reality. As Stormzy put it, “for someone to say that grime music is the reason for the country’s knife crime epidemic – that is wild.”
Anyone who listens to Grime knows that MC’s cover the realest of topics that bear relevance to their communities. The nuances of discussing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, bereavement, violence, deprivation and angst through Grime is not lost on its fans. Grime is powered by determination; this determination is what is needed to end youth violence and the needless loss of life.
Harnessing the message and energy of grime music is at the crux of combatting youth violence. By understanding the key messaging of police brutality, institutionalised racism and a resignation to life in a system that is not balanced in their favour; we can seek to engage and make meaningful change. All these lessons can be learnt from this genre.
Grime is pure, unadulterated, raw truth at 140bpm. It reflects anti-establishment and anti-corruption. Grime encapsulates and articulates life for many people across the U.K. Grime’s success and growth in popularity in the last couple of years has only reinforced its cultural importance as a social and political movement. It is the voice of the unrepresented in society, those that are frustrated with their situation and who are motivated to better themselves.
Profiling people based on their taste in music is discriminatory and laughable and Stormzy was right to defend the genre and his journey. The Commission is here to ensure that policy is created at a grassroots levels involving communities. I am keen to give Grime and its MC’s the platform they deserve and the Youth Violence Commission offers this opportunity. Their insights are a necessity to this process and it’s important to eradicate all preconceived notions that authorities have of the culture.