The riots last summer were organised on smart phones, whilst trainers and TVs were the priority of brigands. These people were not famished peasants fighting for emancipation; the majority were teenagers who are incessantly surrounded by a materialistic consumer culture telling them apple products are survival of the fittest’s greatest necessity. If anything, perhaps in some sense they can most ironically be linked with the bourgeoisie, who were associated with materialism and hedonism.
Media in this country is unquestionably detrimental and the riots were wholly symbolic of this. As an eighteen year old myself I can tell you that it is not just young peoples impressionability to direct commercialism, it is their obsession with a music culture that explicitly advertises a superficial lifestyle lined with Rolex watches and ‘bitches’.
The purpose here however is not to uphold the existing arguments that rap music is a cause of youth violence, but instead I argue it should be used to have a positive influence rather than heavily glamorising shallow livelihoods. It is about time lyrics about ‘bread’ were replaced by a new breed of artists work which has successfully brought to the table a revolutionary way for young minds to connect with real issues. Plan B, Lowkey and Murkage are just a few of British artists to have produced an accessible medium for young people to understand their important messages on current affairs and tyrannical politics. Lowkey’s song Revolution for instance embodies this argument in his lyrics:
If all you rap about is the hoes and the doe,
It’s already too late, you sold ‘em your soul,
You jokers act like you know but you don’t,
‘Cause there’s little kids dying all over the globe.
After running a campaign called Where’s Our Vote? which focused on getting the voting age lowered to sixteen, the biggest challenge was combating the argument that it would be a wasted vote because young people simply are not interested in politics. Many youth are undeniably apathetic because of the lack of effective political education, or more often no political education at all.
Change however does not need to come from above, proven by Plan B who attended a pupil referral unit after being kicked out of school, but is now using his music to work towards helping individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. His most recent album Ill Manors explicitly demonstrates his will to improve the lives of these young people who are constantly subject to negative stereotypes, and through doing this Plan B has unquestionably become a chief example of how music should and can inspire change, admitting that ‘as an artist I’m trying to convey a message, really get under people’s skin’. Artists such as these are ingenious because rap music is a popular music genre amongst young people, and their work therefore is an extremely effective way of educating youth on subjects they may typically dismiss.
So I would like to send a message to current or potential rappers: quit rapping about money, weed and ladies’ genitals, because all of those things simply feed the vicious hood life cycle that you may have worked hard to escape. You need to start using your musical talent and success to help young people learn about things that really matter in the world. It is about time your kin unsubscribed from the hood, so start spitting bars for the greater good.
The time is now for more musicians to create influential positive music, not just for the benefit of young people but for everybody. Like Lowkey and Plan B, use your music to help revolutionise the troubles of today because after all, YOLO!