Viewpoint: Blame it on Grime!

Viewpoint: Blame it on Grime!

Chadwick Jackson

Our sincerest apologies to the British electorate and political establishment for the recent election surge in interest from the inner city young people whose musical and political interest has been co-opted to give #Grime4Corbyn. It’s a movement which, for all its good intentions, has at the best of times been inspiring, but also equally condescending. The way Grime is spoken of is almost as if it is a fraternity with a headquarters somewhere being led and coordinated by the Grime equivalent of The Establishment, where, not in suits but track suits, they meet and discuss which way we are going to swing the mythical, yet new and shiny, Grime Vote.

Grime is a musical genre born out of dancehall, sound system culture and rooted inner city life. It first gained prominence in the early 2000s, with a love of music and a unique style of British Rap, but it was rarely looked at by the British mainstream music industry. Though pockets of talents from the original contingent broke through, from the likes of Mercury prize winner Dizzee Rascal, to Boy Better Know including Wiley, D Double E, Skepta, and his brother, JME.

The inner city consisted of both African and Caribbean families, with varying musical and cultural influences. Whereas in an African household Fela Kuti is an known figure by the age of 7, the same can been said of Bob Marley in a Caribbean household, or any household for that matter with a deep appreciation for “Good Music”. These were artists that were deeply political in their nature, always speaking out for the disadvantaged.

Fast forward to 2008 when the world suffered the worst economic meltdown since The Great Depression, there would be no prizes for guessing where the families were hardest hit – people living in the inner city, where jobs and opportunity were already scarce, youth clubs that have been closed and a generation that has come of age under a Conservative Coalition with the Liberal Democrats which saw University fees rise to £9,000 from £3,000.

We witnessed an illegal war in Iraq that has given birth to deep instability in the Middle East, and the rise of Daesh. Rising house prices and the automation of jobs and social media are a few of the other factors that have given rise to this political generation of Millennials, that no longer has the privilege of apathy that previous generations could afford.

Our lives has been redefined before our eyes – we are no more than 5 seconds away from any information that we want to know, and though at times it may seem that our society is deeply lacking in values, our generation is scrutinising everything, asking questions, demanding change. As much as we are exposed to information, we are also exposed to misinformation that serves no purpose but to mislead and sway people’s judgement. As patient as we have been for what seems like a political watershed moment, it has taken years of unforeseen events. Where keen and sharp minds, with the use of social media, are driving political discourse and engaging in broader dialogue around the news, it is also a place where we are being introduced to new music that is being promoted via the same channels or “experts” who cynically call them echo chambers, at times my wondering mind ponders … “How exactly is this any different to reading the same newspaper for the last 20 years or drinking in the same pub with the same amount of people for a similar period?”

It leads to my concluding point, nothing seen or done in this generation through alternative sources of media, communication or organisation will be appreciated until the old systems of gatekeeping of knowledge and information will be done away with. Last but no means least, Grime did not win it for Corbyn. He gained massively on seats in the houses of parliament, the main source of his power was his honesty and being a man of his word, even when members of his party were trying to oust him. A layer of society that is often ignored, marginalised and forgotten is not only enjoying a wave of success musically, but is also being the guiding light towards truth for a more fairer and equal society.

There comes a point when you almost stop looking for the biased nature in the media and it actually becomes a small joke within itself. Right wing political voices, as soon as any light is shone on wrong doings, will be quick to point out that there is a left wing media bias, whilst throwing all their toys out of the pram. This left wing media bias is nowhere to be seen, amongst political commentators on the exit polls, coverage of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign and scrutinising of other parties. At the best of times, major broadcasters and newspapers were looking like professional trolls, with very little credibility to their smear campaigns.

With each passing day, as newspaper readership declines, and young, more media savvy, generations come to grips with the world around them, the old guard is going to need a more future proof way to capture audiences than propaganda. As the era of Corbyn’s Labour party swiftly relinquishes anything to do with Tony Blair’s New Labour ideology, a new party will be formed thinking and operating in a new political dawn for the left of British politics.

‘Grime’s’ role in recent political discourses was the easy part, but will it move to longer lasting political engagement? It goes without saying that the new school of Grime acts – most notably Stormzy – have a social influence unlike anything previously afforded to a young man of Ghanaian heritage, and his mild endorsement of Corbyn was milked for all that it was worth. Recent events, such as Saskilla’s appearance on the Victoria Derbyshire show, could almost draw comparison to KanYe West’s off key speech during the Hurricane Katrina appeal, but this time it was intentional. This was an endorsement of Corbyn coming from one of the original figure heads in Grime music on a prime time morning TV slot, a piece of footage that has since gone viral on Twitter and Facebook. People are no longer hoping that people are saying something that they can relate to, they are seeing people who look and sound like them, voicing concerns in a voice and tone that they understand. Need I say more?

At first, I was one of the many critics of Jeremy Corbyn wondering why he had not associated himself with a spin doctor to generate positive press. But then I realised that spin doctors tend to make unscrupulous politicians look good, and that Corbyn is not unscrupulous. From being a veteran back bencher, to becoming leader of the Labour Party, Corbyn, with a group of tight allies that share his vision and values, has rewritten the rules of political engagement from the grassroots. This could be Jeremy’s equivalent of running in a field of wheat … especially after this weekend’s Glastonbury appearance, and glowing ovations from both the highly respected festival organiser Michael Eavis CBE and numerous headline acts, especially the golden boy of Grime, Stormzy, who wore his political heart on his sleeve this weekend.


Chadwick Jackson is a writer and producer based in the Midlands and works in London. He enjoys collecting art, good memories and has a deep appreciation for live music.