It's been a crazy time in London, the city of my birth, the place where I lay my head. In fact it's been a crazy time in the UK. It's been surreal. Seeing everything happening around me has been upsetting. It's been a wake up call. The way I've been in prayer has been serious. It's sad that it takes tragedy to do that. In one way you kinda knew this could happen. All that was needed was a trigger, a detonator and the whole shooting of Mark Duggan was just that and now everyone for better or for worse is trying to hijack this bandwagon for their own agenda. Everyone.
When times like this happen it really exposes our hearts. Pressure and distress does that. Now that we have twitter and facebook which really is snitching on yourself and thinking out loud in public, the whole world can have a glimpse into your mind to see what you're thinking. Of course it only gives a glimpse unless you are able to truly articulate your feelings and thoughts in 140 characters. It's not as easy as it sounds because not many can be true like that, although being behind a keyboard or blackberry or iphone or whatever does give people some kind of false courage to say what they would never dare say in person.
Now that things are beginning to quiet down, the question of why this happened is being asked. There's no easy explanation. Please christians just throwing around the word "end times" doesn't cut it. You do that everytime something that causes fear and distress happens. Also just offering the doctrine of "total depravity" doesn't totally explain it either because if it did then how come the rich and well off weren't out looting as well? (well there was apparently a 19 year daughter of a millionaire who joined in and looted £5,000 worth of goods from Curry's) This will need going beneath the surface to fully understand all the factors but the fact is this riot is wrong even if there is some justified anger in there somewhere. Another fact is it is complex. They're many ingredients that went into this bitter and destructive meal we're all being forced to eat, some even to the point of death. How sad.
It's really strange that this whole situation is happening when "Swagger jagger" by Cher Lloyd has gone number one in this country. Cher Lloyd, the x-factor finalist who thinks she's a hip hop artist and ironically does a song which really is supposed to be called "swagger jacker" which is about stealing someone's style. Jacking, stealing, looting. How ironic. She's trying to slip in using "urban" music styles she's been trying to mimic and can't even spell the term she's borrowing properly and she still went number one but the main point is it is more than just music. The young kids of England will eat that up because they see one of their own living the urban fantasy without having to deal with the reality of where the music came from which if you switch from all the bland music channels where her video is playing to BBC News it's all there in it's shocking and quite scary reality.
This whole riot reminds me why grime music finds it hard to blow. Grime in it's "purest" form is just too grimey, too angry and too gritty. It's like the harsh news reports that are so shocking that you want to just ignore it but never can totally turn a blind eye. Basically this riot is what Dizzee Rascal's first album "boy in the corner" looks like if it could be visually represented even down to the shocking sounds he used that just arrest your attention. Maybe there's a connection here. Grime isn't really heard nationally like that right now and most of the top grime artists like Dizzee don't make grime albums anymore that expresses the voice and feelings of the voiceless and marginalized in the UK especially London where he comes from and since "a riot is the language of the unheard" (c) MLK maybe this is the option folks are using to be seen, heard and feel that rush and euphoria that grime music gave when it first blew nationally through the aforementioned Dizzee. Some felt that finally their story was being told and recognized on a wider scale. Of course some just jumped on the bandwagon too without fully understanding it because they didn't live the reality of the streets grime came from. This all might sound a bit far fetched and even sound like I am condoning these riots which I am not doing. Folks need to understand that someone trying to give an explanation is not the same as someone giving an excuse.
It's quite ironic that at this time Guvna B is about to drop his "Next ting 140" compilation album which is a "gospel grime" project and it actually recaptures that authentic grime musical vibe and energy that most of the top known grime artists have abandoned and due to it being labelled "gospel grime" it will probably be limited to the christian audience and laughed at by secular grime enthusiasts as inauthentic or rather grime music for young church folks even though it will be more authentic in the grime sound than the last albums of Dizzee, Kano, Devlin, Tinchy Stryder and Tinie Tempah but it's more than just music, it's about the lifestyle and message it promotes right? The message they carry is what this generations NEEDS.
I do wonder sometimes because gospel music is the only genre defined by it's lyrics not it's sound so it can jump on whatever hot sound is happening and not have a distinct sound of it's own. That's why the terms "gospel grime" or "christian hip hop" don't go down well with me personally even though I understand them and they're not necessarily wrong. I just can't rock with those labels though I back the intention, message and movement 100% regardless. Let's just keep it real and say it is hip hop for christians and grime for christians or maybe I'm being too harsh? You tell me. With all that is happening now, the message the gospel brings is needed more than ever but we need to listen to what this lost generation is saying to meet them where they are. We're from the same backgrounds and neighbourhoods. Well most of us are.
I'm rambling too much but I'll end with the "watch the throne" album which has dropped at the time that London was burning. Many others have reviewed it and talked about it better than I can or care to but I only comment on it because in the UK lots of folks idolise and vicariously live through Jay Z and Kanye. It's amazing. You can see Jay Z's hand movements and stage presentation in the top UK urban artists. It's pretty blatant when I watch them cloning his moves and put their own variations on their best jay z impression.
I've listened to the album and musically it falls short of the hype. Short like a midget in a basketball game trying to go for a 360 slam dunk. It's not that it is wack, it just fails to deliver what the hype promised. It is also out of touch with the people (even though in a few lines Jay Z reaches back to his Marcy Projects origins but those moments are few) Most people over here might not admit that it isn't that great because they live vicariously through these artists so much, they occupy that spot in the heart and minds of their fans and they can do no wrong. It's all escapism, since you don't have the money, power, success, popularity and adulation they have you can easily get caught up in the image because it reflects what you deeply desire. Yep it sure is more than just music that is important because the music on this album isn't that great like the hype would want you to believe, it's all about what the music represents. It's all about the image and idea being projected.
It's more than just music and that's a fact. It's about having a voice. It's about being heard. It's a soundtrack to your choice of lifestyle nowadays. It's a disposable accessory. Since music has to be visually represented and image is actually becoming more important than the music which to most is secondary, it's about being SEEN and heard. That's not necessarily a bad thing because if you have an important message then it's all about the message you want to communicate right? Well not really because if the music sucks it affects how your message is received and if the image and idea it projects is not what the people want then it's even worse because coupled with bad art the message you have doesn't even stand a chance of being given a fair hearing except by those who have ALREADY bought into the image and brand you project. They'll swear your album or song is the greatest thing ever, even if the music isn't REALLY great because you're validating their lifestyle. You're validating their very identity. People want to be seen, heard and not ignored and If you reflect the lifestyle, feelings, image, aspirations, goals, beliefs, values they'll be loyal, because it's more than just music to them.
Is this right or wrong? You tell me.