Did Hip Hop Fuel The London Riots? Well No, Actually.


Looking at the recent claims that Hip-Hop incited the UK riots, Rowan asks if this question has become tired yet.

Ah, the perennial ‘it was hip-hop/death metal/horror films/power rangers that fucked the kids’ argument has risen out of the smouldering ashes of London, it was only a matter of time. Honestly, this kind of logic is getting boring, but let’s suppose, just for one minute, that what we listen to does affect the way we behave.  Mr. Cameron is allegedly a fan of The Smiths, could some of Morrisey’s questionable remarks about immigrants be informing our Prime Ministers foreign policy? Surely not…

This charming übermensch

This problem of course is not limited to our shores; everyone’s favourite waxwork/dictator, Colonel Gadaffi requested the presence of Beyonce at his son’s NYE party… is ‘Survivor’ the cause of his decision to fight to the death rather than stand down?

My point is simple; violent lyrics are not the cause violent behaviour. This is without the mention that violent lyrics are not limited to hip-hop, and also that hip-hop is not limited to violent lyrics.

However, to prove my point, have a listen to this and see if you turn into a gun toting materialist gangster.

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Still able to string a coherent sentence together? Thought so.

One question we have to ask ourselves is whether or not music can be separated from behaviour in general?  I would argue it cannot. In the UK scene in particular, MCs find inspiration for their lyrics in their daily lives. Furthermore these are not outsiders attempting to understand and impose meaning upon the communities from their ivory towers, rather they are part of the community and thus are much better placed to comment.

No-one could dispute that there are issues with crime in inner city areas across the UK, though these are not a product of hip-hop, although as Phil commented earlier this week, paying attention to, rather than demonising, the UK hip-hop scene might actually help in understanding the real causes of problems faced in some of the most deprived areas of the country.

In this way it is possible to imagine that violent lyrics of some hip-hop and the rioting and looting that took place might be co-symptoms of the same problem, rather than as cause and effect as some of the media would have you believe.

In fact, the real elephant in the room is the presupposition that the looters actually listen to hip-hop. There is no real way of knowing.  I think its fairly easy to see through this thin veneer of respectability; ‘hip-hop’ is being (mis)used synonymously  for ‘black culture’ and by extension ‘black people’. But then what do you expect, the gutter press never could resist some good old fashioned racism.

To finish, a message from Ice Cube (credit goes to the illustrious Mr. Etches)

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