Monday, June 12, 2006


You'll remember back last week David Cameron had a moan about how these young rap stars go around encouraging people to carry knives and stab each other.

Lethal Bizzle, the rapper-cum-entrepreneur, thought this was a little unfair and sent Call-me-dave a letter, inviting him to meet and talk about how to get young people interested in the political system again. (Bizzle was part of a coalition attempting to get the black youth vote out during the last election.)

Now, in the olden days of the Tory party, when Dave was merely a senior figure in the party, rather than it's pretty public face, a letter arriving from a black person would cause a certain degree of panic at Central Office, with people running around screeching "it's a letter from a knife-wielding criminal."

How things have changed under Cameron's smartly-suited New Tory.

Now, The party leader merely responds by writing a thinkpiece for the Mail on Sunday screeching "it's a letter from a knife-weilding criminal."

Following my comments last week criticising some of the music played on Radio 1, one UK rap artist, Lethal Bizzle, wrote an article for The Guardian criticising what I had said, telling me: "By making comments like this you're taking yourself further from the young British society."

I think that's rubbish. I was helping a media studies class at a college in my Oxfordshire constituency on Friday and the issue was a hot topic of debate.

As soon as I pointed out that I'm not calling for a ban or telling people what to listen to, but just asking for an intelligent debate about taking and sharing responsibility, heads began to nod agreement. (Checking on the internet, I found one of Lethal Bizzle's lyrics: 'I will b cocking back my steel strait, bullets bullets, run run, fire fire, bun bun, if u don't like killa killa?' so I can see why he might feel a bit defensive.)

Aha, but David Cameron seems to have fallen victim to that age-old problem of believing things just because they appear on the internet - for example, earlier on in this piece I posted to the internet a suggestion that the Tory Party used to be a bastion of reactionary old-school racism and mistrust of people who weren't white, which clearly isn't true at all. Likewise, those, erm, aren't Lethal Bizzle lyrics.

It's also bemusing that Cameron feels happy to reject Bizzle's take on what matters to young people because, while Bizzle has worked with young people and listened to them for a long time, Dave popped in to a media studies class was talking about something their guest had recently said about the media.

Here's a hint to David Cameron: if you pour a load of farmyard slurry over your head, and sit in a railway carriage for the afternoon, you'll come away convinced the entire nation talks of nothing other than the stench of manure in Britain today. But your findings might be slightly skewed.


Anonymous said...

as you know, i love to be glib about things.. but the simple facts here are that cameron is right (for once) and lethal b is wrong..

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

I tend to disagree, Aaron (as you'd have guessed)

Cameron is wrong both on the specifics - suggesting that Bizzle is solely interested in these matters because he writes songs about knives and wants to keep them on the radio - and also the broader point.

Sure, there are rappers who sing about knives and guns and make them sound sexy, that's undeniable. But Cameron's unexpected rant against rap music seems to be less about the specifics of certain songs and more about a blanket condemnation of a sub-genre.

I wouldn't want to push this too far, but someone who's comfortable with Morrissey's "ooh, lorks, mister, they've got shooters" romanticising of people with guns (apparently) but calls for Westwood to be thrown off the air because of some of the songs he plays... it does start to sound a little bit like "white people's rock music is harmless fun, while black people's rap music is dangerous and distorting."

At best, Cameron has waded into an area he knows nothing about and, rather than shutting up, he's blundering forward trying to condemn someone prepared to offer him a debate rather than engaging with his ideas.

On the other hand, Lethal Bizzle might have chosen something slightly less intemperate than the headline for his original piece:

Anonymous said...

i still don't understand the donut thing..

i was defending cameron on the grounds of the broader point - i don't know very much about Lord Bizzle.

I don't neccessarily think that camernon understands what he's talking about, but sometimes two wrongs can make a right..

there's a broader point here about whether art imitates life or life reflects art.. but leaving that to one side for now, gangsta rap cynically preaches violence and avarice to the benefit of the music execs and to the detriment of society. obviously we live in a world where the social conditions don't help.. but the lack of civic responsibility in the entertainment industry is shocking.

there's more to hiphop than gangsta rap (someone send David a Common MP3), but it's the nastier side of hiphop that seems to have taken hold amongst the darker elements of society.

and as to the morrisey/radiohead thing - the difference is surely that those bands tend to use the references figuratively, not literally. well, maybe not morrisey, but i've never approved of him either.

Anonymous said...

> it's the nastier side of hiphop that seems to have taken hold amongst the darker elements of society.

bit of a freudian slip there perhaps?

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