Political rap: a new genre or an excuse to attack politicians?

‘Rest in Peace Jack Merritt, you’re my brother in arms’, Merritt, a rehabilitation officer who lost his life following the London Bridge Attack in November, was one of a few names given tribute at the Brit Awards this year.

Rap, took centre stage at the music awards where British rapper Dave, used his performance to call out Prime Minister Boris Johnson, branding him a ‘real racist’, highlighted the disparity between Kate and Meghan’s representation in the British media and honoured Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, the two victims of the London Bridge terror attacks. 

“In the case of the Prime Minister, he is not a racist at all”

A culture that has birthed popular genres such as hip-hop and grime and known infamously for its misuse of drugs, and degrading of women is now at the heart of spreading a political message. Whilst the British rapper’s performance has been commended for bringing attention to the reality that Grenfell victims are still out of accommodation, despite losing their homes to a fire in 2017, and has called attention to the neglect of the Windrush generation, Home Secretary Priti Patel criticised Dave’s performance, stating in an interview with Sky News: 

“I don’t know what those comments are based on. It’s wrong to make judgements about individuals when you don’t know a particular individual as in the case of the Prime Minister. He is not a racist at all and I just think those comments are highly inappropriate.”

Despite Dave delivering a powerful performance, it was Stormzy’s domination of the same stage in 2018 that may have set a precedent for the former’s performance, calling out the former Prime Minister, Stormzy said: “Theresa May, where’s the money for Grenfell” and unapologetically called out the Daily Mail. Both rapper’s performances were praised for drawing attention to social issues, but do musical artists have a right to be political? 

In a society where we have the liberty of freedom of speech, it could be argued that people and musicians alike are free to express their views; and despite the negative connotations often associated with rap music, political speech in music is not a contemporary movement. American hip-hop group NWA’s song, ‘F*** tha Police’ protested against racial profiling and police brutality, in 1988.

Whilst Dave’s performance may have ruffled some political feathers, his acknowledgement of social issues through music, may have paved the way for a new genre of rap.

[Photo by Thibault Dandré from Pexels]

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