I know the similarities between Jeremy Corbyn’s political uprising and the recent surge of the Grime scene are blindingly obvious but I thought I’d put them down on paper.
One year ago, young white men in front-facing baseball caps were not sticking two fingers in the air and shouting “Tell my man shut up”. Now, thanks to Jeremy Bernard Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, the aforementioned is occurring.
As like every year, 2015 has seen a rise in popularity of a number of fields in our society. A slightly tangential political viewpoint is usually one, and a genre of music is usually another. As this year starts to wind down, we can look back and say that there has been no exception to this trend; a new, theoretically (not aesthetically) fresh Member of Parliament has risen to stardom, as has an older yet misunderstood genre of music. Both Jeremy Corbyn’s and Grime’s popularity has exponentially amplified, and I can, controversially, see some serious similarities between their ideologies.
I’ll start with fashion. If you type in ‘Jeremy Corbyn Interview’ into YouTube, amidst the more recent, campaign-plugging clips, you will find a video filmed in 1984, of a younger, rugged Corbyn responding to comments from a Tory MP saying “Labour scruffs like [Jeremy] Robin Corbyn should be barred from addressing the house unless they pull their socks up.” We then see his response: “It’s not a fashion parade; it’s not a gentleman’s club; it’s not a bankers’ institute; it’s a place where the people are represented.” An eloquent, grounded response from Corbyn shows us that he does not see his aesthetical image as an ingredient to be considered in the world of Politics, when his job is to express personal views and instil change.
When I first saw this, it was a blatant that this excerpt paralleled many issues in our country’s Grime scene. For years, the rap genre has been associated with crime-loving, threatening men who are probably wearing hoodies and joggers to match. Obviously this generalisation has not sprung from nowhere, with many incidents of violence being associated with Grime and the lyrics in Grime. But this view is predominantly expressed by snobbish, mundane Tories like the MP from 1984.
In a Noisey documentary entitled “The Police vs Grime Music”, JME expresses his distaste at a number of gigs having been shut down due to the risk of ‘increased levels of crime’. He begs for an explanation behind these cancellations, and says that “At school I was lead tenor in the choir. I performed at the Barbican, but obviously I went there in my school uniform and it was blessed. You know what I’m sayin. [sic]” He then states “Now that I want to go there in my hoodie and hat, it’s not blessed.”
Each field of art or science, whether it be music or politics, represents itself in different ways. Through words, through actions, through images. Grime artists wear tracksuits and hoodies because they are the clothes they grew up wearing. They are the clothes that they wore when they were experiencing what they rap about. It represents their origin, the streets and the local community, in the same way that Jeremy Corbyn’s knitted jumper represents his background and his ideology. Like Corbyn said, the house is ‘a place where the people are represented’ – this is the same for the stage. Grime MCs represent their people when they perform, and to consider what they’re wearing as not only a factor, but a negative factor in their progression, is tangential and ridiculous. After all, it was Stormzy that said “Went Jools Holland in my tracksuit, Rep for the scene like yeah man I had to.”
Another parallel that has been glaring at me is the young people of Britain. The unspoken youth. When Jeremy Corbyn first started gaining significant media coverage, it became apparent that, amongst his somewhat ‘radical’ ideology, there were a number of pledges that appealed to our younger people. Scrapping university tuition fees, lowering the voting age to 16, housing benefit for under 21s and offering fully-paid apprenticeships after schooling are just a few in his plethora of propositions. Much of the younger generation have expressed distaste at the ever-soaring price of education, and some have struggled to progress after schooling because University is not the next step for them. Corbyn is the voice of a young group of Britons, and it has become apparent that a large portion of the support he has received at meetings and in votes has been from the younger generation.
Again, Grime follows in quite the same vein. Since it began, the genre has always been about growing up as a British youth – the lyrics and the artists themselves all reflect the voicing of a juvenescence. The majority of Grime rappers rising to fame in the past year are of a young age: Novelist, a MOBO award-winner, is only 18. Stormzy, another MOBO winner who has risen to international recognition in 2015, is only 22.
Through this recent rising of media attention, we are seeing a stronger platform for young people to get their views across to a wider audience; two definite pedestals for the unspoken youth.
The final link between these two areas is their “extreme” ideologies, or moreover, how their ideologies have been misinterpreted as extreme since their recent publicity. Corbyn’s anti-austerity views have been centre of attention in our headlines of late, with oppositions branding this as an extremely left policy, and one that is outdated. However, this is yet another branding error. 41 leading economists, including the former adviser to the Bank of England, released a letter supporting Corbyn’s position. It reads “The accusation is widely made that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters have moved to the extreme left on economic policy. But this is not supported by the candidate’s statements or policies. His opposition to austerity is actually mainstream economics, even backed by the conservative IMF. He aims to boost growth and prosperity.” It becomes clear to me that these accusations come from those competing; those fundamentally against change.
In the same way, much of the contents of the Grime scene have been labelled negatively extreme in the past. Yes, the word ‘Gat’ and ‘Batty’ are frequented a few more times in grime tracks than in Beethoven’s 5th, but who gives a shit?
Skepta recently said [in reference to the Her Majesty the Queen]: “She’ll forever be putting out the message on these BBC networks that there’s no hood, it’s tea and red phoneboxes. Hip-hop is celebrated in the US; Obama talks about having Ludacris on his iPod. But in the UK, there are a lot of obstacles in our way.”
Music is a medium of expression, and if artists cannot say what they want and create the sound they enjoy, it defeats the point of it all. We can look back at punk rock artists – the likes of the Sex Pistols, swearing and smoking before the watershed – and we wouldn’t turn up our noses. We would probably laugh or start growing our hair again. This is because their views were noticeable. When muted ideas come to the forefront, it is exciting.
Thankfully, for both Corbyn and grime MCs, the lid has been taken of their probably boiling kettle of opinions.
So there you have it. A few similarities between Jeremy Corbyn’s political ideology and the movements of the UK Grime Scene. Some of you reading this may see this as a piece written in jest, and yes, it is amusing to picture Jeremy Corbyn in the same frame as man like Jammer. But there is a seriousness to this if you think the link is a tenuous one. The way people are portrayed in the public eye is crucial to the world’s development. We are excited by change, and are open to new points of view. If we want to move forward in this apparently damaging world, we need to ensure nobody is misrepresented.
As Ed Miliband said in response to allegations against his political persona: “That’s not me.”
words by Will McCartney