Ten years ago it wasn’t planes hitting buildings that made it hard to separate Islam from terrorism. It was the deliberate formulation by politicians and an obedient corporate media following the doctrine of shock that told us Muslims equal terror. Those that opposed the cries for war and sought to layer a dialogue for non-violence were easily dismissed and side-lined; in some cases alternative voices were never even considered let alone heard. Since then some journalists have reconsidered their earlier work and backtracked but most of the mob have sought to maintain the cross-party line; subtly and explicitly Muslims equal terror. Today there are token column inches noting contributions from Islamic people and cultures, but as with the business of sexualising girls-women, and increasingly boys-men, such tokenism serves only to maintain an illusion of fairness.
In such a context it is often hard to see the stars for the clouds, to know where fresh and meaningful voices will arise from.
As is normal the strongest voices come from the oppressed, not from elite journalistic mediators or their government bosses. The most articulate voices are not from the confines of an academic page or within the walls of parliamentary aristocracy; meaningful voices rise up from an oppressed people using a magical combination of art, performance and politics. Step forward Logic, step forward Lowkey. The beats, the lyrics and the crowd all played their part in accomplishing more in a single night than most lecturers-students or corporate media-consumers achieve over years. There was a sense of purpose and direction, of strength in diversity; combinations not permitted in the mainstream rush to fit into a middle class bubble. Some might say that at the end of the day this was a hip hop gig complete with screaming groupies and moody hip hop heads… Bullshit was it. Although it indeed contained industry elements of cool and hard-hitting, conversations were being brought up in a central Southampton nightclub that are near impossible to have in other contexts.
Logic and Lowkey didn’t bang on out Israel/Palestine all night, it was all in context, but for this writing the subject simply highlights a shift in dialogue more easily. When I was regularly going to hip hop nights Israel/Palestine was a subject that would never have come up, a simple as-salaam alaikum might’ve got you slap as easily as it would’ve been ignored. Now cats are rapping about jinn and the crowd are joining in like freedom of speech actually exists! One of the most poignant moments came when Logic performed a remix of ‘Begging You’ and the crowd were singing ‘put your loving arms around Palestine’. Doesn’t sound quite right does it? Check the link below to hear what I mean. The songs aren’t simply a collection of rants but thoughtout polemicals, as is suggested by the subtle mention of the Chicago School of thought in Lowkey’s ‘Obama-Nation’.
This wasn’t crap protest music; this was a serious hip hop night for serious hip hop heads. Some great sampling, fantastic beats, timely lyrics, with on-point free-styling to boot. There was respect to the forebearers of UK hip hop and on the day that Heavy D passed it is good to know how far the artistry has come… And that hip hop isn’t just alive but growing stronger. Rest assured that the night can be remembered for the music and atmosphere or the political content, but should be remembered for both. More than this, as I find with all the best things it leaves you wanting to get more involved. Like a nostalgic reminiscing of a drum’n’bass rave the night reverberated in the chest in more ways than one. Check out Logic and Lowkey on tour if you get a chance.
It’s not hard to see why people have said in the past that hip and reggae artists are the people’s journalists. Clearly Islam does not equate to violence. Clearly there is strength in diversity.
Times are changing. This is the UK. This is hip hop.
Logic – ‘Begging You’ (remix):
Logic was the highlight for me: