Music

Listen to the lyrics before you point the finger at rap for street killings

Drill isn't to blame for London's crime wave. Artists like Novelist are just holding up a mirror to real life

With the moral panic that is currently swelling over London’s wave of violent crime, it was only a matter of time before the finger was pointed at rap music.

Earlier this month The Sunday Times, in a curious and sweeping piece, stated that “murders and stabbings plaguing London and other cities are directly linked to an ultra-violent new form of music sweeping Britain”, suggesting that the spike in fatal stabbings and shootings we are witnessing is directly linked to the UK rap genre drill.

Drill is a sub-genre of road rap that burst out of Brixton, south London, in 2014. The style of music is heavily influenced by Chicago drill and is similar in that the artists rap about the extreme violence they are actively involved in, reflecting the harsh realities of their environments. But some from the media don’t believe that drill is just reflecting the violence; they assert that it is driving it.

Blaming UK drill for the violence is the equivalent of marking the symptom of a disease as the cause. It has no statistical validity. Clearly, this is an older generation that are seeking to blame, rather than understand these marginalised youths.

Here is a prime example of a young black man crying out for help, but then putting on a hard exterior to conceal his pain

There is precedent. In the wake of the Columbine school shooting in 1999, the first major spree killing to grab the global consciousness, the killers were said to be influenced by the work of Marilyn Manson.

Appearing on Michael Moore’s documentary, Bowling For Columbine, Manson was asked what he would have said to the killers just before the massacre, Manson replied: “I wouldn’t say a thing. I would have just listened to them… and that’s what nobody did.”

Marilyn Manson dropped an absolute jewel there. In the same way, many media publications look to blame drill for the violence, instead of actually listening to what they are saying. Their “demonic” music could actually be a façade hiding a cry out for help.

Take for example, Macaroni, one of UK drill’s biggest songs, where AM raps that he is “active but inside I’m very lonely / Father, forgive me, ‘cause I ain’t holy / Losing my loved ones, they’re dying slowly / Touch them, I’ll bang-bang, get through your Stoney”.

Here is a prime example of a young black man crying out for help, but then putting on a hard exterior to conceal his pain.

We need people from our communities to listen and speak to these youths, in the hope that the senseless murders can be reduced, and last week grime MC Novelist became the voice we needed with the release of his debut album Novelist Guy.

These rappers are just talking about their life situations and attempting to use the music to get out of their extreme environments

As a former deputy young mayor of Lewisham, it is not surprising that his politically confrontational moments stand out on the album, finding itself most present on ‘Stop Killing the Mandem’, where he raps about how the police need to stop killing black people, namely young men from the “hood”, as well as imploring these “Young Gs” to stop killing each other and “put down the tools”.

This is a message that needs to be spread, as London has been shaken by a wave of violent crime, with more than 60 murder investigations launched by the Metropolitan Police so far this year.

I believe that these murders are being committed because of a lack of care, as if a person truly cares about life, they would not take the life of another in cold blood. I feel that promoting and implanting self-love into the disenfranchised youths of today will in turn stop them from going down the wrong path, and turn them into productive citizens.

My hope is that songs like ‘Stop Killing the Mandem’ are heralded, instead of the media going into moral panic and blaming other forms of rap music for the murders. Really and truly these rappers are just talking about their life situations and are often attempting to use the very music to get out of their extreme environments. Vilifying those rapping about their bleak truths will bring no change. But if we highlight those who are doing the right thing, this could work wonders on the minds of the impressionable youth.

Blaming UK drill for the surge in London’s youth violence is an absolute cop out, and will do nothing to solve this issue.

Only by listening to the youth and promoting positive solutions will we see a change in our urban communities across London, and this is what we as the media must focus on.

Denzil Bell blogs at artcollectiondot.wordpress.com
@akadiddz

Main image: Pat Tuson, Alamy Stock Photo / MC Novelist

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