Something that has the potential to be seismic is in the middle of happening. For the first time in any of our lives and possibly the last, there is a leader of a mainstream political party who is directly and not cynically standing up for US. Before making a call on the likelihood of whether he might actually win, it’s worth thinking about just how unlikely it should seem that he is in the position he’s in right now at all. Before Corbyn, how likely would anyone have thought it was that emerging from our political climate we might find the first honest political leader any of us have ever seen beat 100-1 odds to become the leader of the opposition party in 2015?
How likely beyond that, would it have seemed that someone that actively opposes the corrupt relationship between government, the super wealthy and the media would survive the whole quote unquote establishment (and the right-wing half of his own party) trying to unseat him, and still be here at the point an election is called? And still the best that his critics can come up with to level at him is that he’s soft. Apparently sucking Rupert Murdoch’s old wrinkly cock, giving tax breaks to your rich chums and throwing any morality to the wind to cosy up to Donald Trump is ‘strong and stable’. Taking on everything that we’ve always understood to be corrupt about political and economic power in our country clearly makes you a bit of a pussy.
Whether you agree with the specifics of all his policies or believe he’d be able to make every one of them a reality or not, Jeremy Corbyn is someone who acts on genuine beliefs and conviction. This is a man who before the likes of Cameron and Boris Johnson were burning their first fivers in front of homeless people or fucking pigs’ heads to gain access to the Bullingdon Club, was arrested outside the South African embassy in London for protesting Apartheid.
“My man, Jeremy! Young Jeremy, my guy. I dig what he says. I saw some sick picture of him from back in the day when he was campaigning about anti-apartheid and I thought: yeah, I like your energy … I feel like he gets what the ethnic minorities are going through and the homeless and the working class.” – Stormzy
This is a man who defied his party to rally against the Iraq war and intervention in Libya and accurately predicted that the state of the Middle East we see today would be the legacy of such actions. Putting his record of being on the right side of history aside, this is a man who right now is fighting to tax the rich to help the rest of us and protect the poorest. This is a man who wants to charge VAT on private schools so less privileged kids can have free meals, to halt the rising control that the economically ‘strong and stable’ have on everything from housing, to the NHS, to education, to railways and energy and put all of it back into our hands. When you break down what Corbyn is about at his core, his anti-establishment ethic, his history of protest and activism, his distaste for the rich and opposition to corruption, militarism and oppression, Corbyn is pretty fucking hip-hop. In fact, in his ethic and actions to date Corbyn shares more in common with the dissidence of figures like Public Enemy, Lowkey, Dead Prez and Akala than he does with any political leader that has ever had the chance of running this country.
This said, it’s not surprising that prominent figures in the grime and UK hip-hop scene (many of which might have previously been opposed to any candidate) have stepped into the fray to show support for him. Influential names including Rodney P, Micall Parknsun, Stig of the Dump, Stormzy, Akala, Genesis Elijah, JME, Si Phili, Potent Whisper and Novelist have all voiced their support. Celebrity endorsement in the UK isn’t a new phenomenon. Rock n Roll royalty and A-list actors came out in force to support Tony Blair’s campaign and even Ed Miliband had Russell Brand pull a bizarre U-turn and back him just before the election to try and get the kids involved. Corbyn isn’t without any celebrity supporters but there is something telling about the recent surge of counter-cultural support he has received from artists whose music, ethic and fanbase are fiercely opposed to the rich, corrupt and powerful who a lot of us feel have fucked our generation right over.
Hip-hop at its root and at its best is born out of protest and often disgust and aggression towards the establishment. It’s role has always been both a voice for and a gospel to the people most marginalised by society. This creates an interesting choice for politically minded, dissident rappers when for the first time there is a chance that by standing with someone within a system that they are supposed to stand completely against, they might actually change that system for the better. The people that Corbyn is standing up for are the same that hip-hop is supposed to. In a better world, our political leaders would feel responsibility for the best interests of the people they are supposed to represent. We’ve come not to expect that from them. The same responsibility should also apply to those who lead and speak for a culture that has always represented the struggle. We’re witnessing a rare moment when the interests of two normally opposed leaderships have aligned. Fortunately, it seems that a number of hip-hop and grimes’ most prominent figures have noticed this, put their rejection of the political process aside and begun to rally behind Corbyn for the greater good.
“For once in my life I can’t say “they’re all the same”, apathy is no longer an option, to be apathetic is to be complicit in the dismantling of OUR public services, to stand idly by as millions die from demonic benefit sanctions & health cuts. Even if fuck all changes, I don’t want those stains on my conscious. There have been more millionaires created & more profit made during times of austerity than at any other point in our lifetimes. Fuck these devils. One last chance to vote for change, if it’s unsuccessful, or Labour wins & fail to keep its pledges we burn it down & start again, or it’s dead in the water & the overlords have won. Don’t fuck about now.” – Stig of the Dump
Essentially, whether you are poor, young, disabled, ill or a minority in this country at present, you have every right to feel angry at the way the state is continuing to stack the odds against you. Put all the people who fit into those categories together and they outnumber the rest of the electorate overwhelmingly. If it wasn’t for decades of feeling detached from the lives and motives of politicians to the point that under-represented people feel there is no point engaging, this election might be a simple US versus THEM decision resulting in a landslide for Corbyn. Apathy routed in a sense of powerlessness however, has become normal.
“I’ve come to the realisation that apathy is what they want. Apathy keeps them in control, the middle & working classes either don’t turn out or are split over the 3 main opposition parties, while the rich & racist unite behind the Conservatives without fail.” – Stig of the Dump
This is most true among young people. Less than half of under 25s, didn’t vote in the 2010 general election, and only 6 out of 10 did in 2015. So it’s handy when someone such as Akala steps into the debate. While arguably being the most overtly and intelligently political voice on the UK hip-hop scene today, Akala also professes to never have voted. This position gives his latest statement a unique resonance. His decision to vote now and reasons for doing so should be a rallying call to the young, poor and disenfranchised that now is the time to stand up.
“We do not need perfect politicians, because we are not perfect people ourselves. However for the first time in my adult life and perhaps for the first time in British history someone I would consider to be a fundamentally decent human being – that is, someone who does not want to kill the poor and does not routinely make a habit of rationalizing the bombing and invasion of other peoples countries under the rubric of humanitarianism – has a chance of being elected.” – Akala
In a characteristically objective manner, Akala doesn’t romanticise the socialist heritage of the Labour Party or pull punches on outlining the ways he believes Jeremy Corbyn has been flawed. Most notably he dismisses Corbyn’s efforts before the Brexit referendum as abysmal. He also doesn’t shy away from the fact that electing one decent man will not completely change everything that’s wrong with the county or the fact that as that man isn’t perfect he will inevitably make mistakes (if he wins) that we in the future will have to hold him to account for. If anything though, by qualifying his appeal to vote aimed at the disillusioned with a level headedness that doesn’t make Corbyn into a folk hero, it makes his reasoning for voting for him even more powerful.
Akala bases his argument on the logic that although a vote for Corbyn is still a vote that can’t be separated from a political system that is flawed, it is a choice that will make things better for millions of people. Whereas a vote for Theresa May or no vote will directly make things worse. The London based rapper, poet and activist draws focus, first and foremost, to Corbyn’s record for opposing foreign aggression. Beyond a moral and anti-imperialist argument against our history and potential future of war, Akala cites the impact that aggressive foreign policy has had on the refugee crisis and spread of terrorism. Going further, assuming May’s rhetoric and allegiance to America will sign us up to more of the same bullshit in the future, he calls attention to one of the central hypocrisies of the Tory campaign against Corbyn.
“It seems increasingly clear that America is preparing for war with Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (again; see Nick Turse Kill Anything That Moves) and make no mistake about it if the Tories get their mandate our taxes will be right there with them.” – Akala
One of the main arguments against Corbyn from the Tories is that his ideas are insane because there isn’t an extra £50 Billion pounds lying around to help people who are suffering. Even ignoring the fact that closing tax loopholes for the super-rich and raising taxes on corporations and the most wealthy would go a long way towards hitting that target. Here are some numbers that put the argument into perspective. According to an article in the telegraph in 2014, the cost to the UK taxpayer of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was over £29 Billion. Her voting record shows that our Prime Minister believes that is an acceptable amount of money to spend on wars which have left more than half a million people dead in Iraq alone, created ISIS, sent our troops to die and cost us billions more in counter terrorism measures resulting from the backlash. Voting for her is voting for the probability of doing all that again. In her mind spending billions of our taxes on genocide and global destabilisation is acceptable but spending rich peoples cash on helping US is out of the question. Akala, as always, is on point calling her out on this.
“There are a great many other progressive policies … that make Corbyn a genuinely different candidate from what we have seen before but another very key area – of literally life and death – is the NHS.” – Akala
After discussing in detail the nature of the nature and impact of our established foreign policy as an argument for Corbyn’s rejection of it, Akala also attacks the direct effect of Tory austerity at home. Warning of the inevitable road that privatisation of the NHS will take us down, he sees a choice between us preserving a functioning health care system that looks after us all under Corbyn, or steps under May towards a more and more profit based model that eventually prices out the poor condemning them to death or debt.
“If you are so busy hating those pesky ‘immigrants’ (you know the same darkies and foreign nationals that overwhelmingly staff your NHS) that you can’t see that the Trump worshipping Tories are callous enough to condemn millions of ‘their own’ people to slow and early death because they are poor and because it’s profitable, (as the Republicans just have) then you are unlikely to be reading this anyway, but if you have such people in your family (as I do) please try and talk some sense into them, for their own good.” – Akala
The issues raised by Akala in his statement of support for Corbyn (read the full thing here) raise enough points, questions and research worthy topics to base a small book on. He is however just one of a number of UK Hip-hop artists lately who have made powerful declarations in support of the Labour leader. Stig of the Dump as seen in quotes above, while being well known for an aggressive and vulgar front to his lyricism, makes an incredibly eloquent and compassionate argument for voter engagement behind Jeremy against the Tories (Read the full thing here).
One of the founding fathers of UK hip-hop, Rodney P, has also waded in to fire some shots at another guilty group of elites who have been desperately trying to destroy Corbyn since the beginning. It’s no secret that media coverage from most newspapers to BBC coverage has been consistently biased against Corbyn to the point of slander. This is not at all surprising considering that while Theresa May gets private meetings to strategise and bargain with Murdoch, Jeremy Corbyn treats the media mogul and other billionaires who control the press with contempt. There is no doubt that the people who tell us what to think benefit from us voting Tory. It’d be hard to sum that up more effectively than with the information shared on social media by Rodney P. It’s just a short list of 5 billionaires and the media assets they own, adding up to a huge segment of our ‘free’ media. All 5 of these shady cunts are worth doing your research on. Even at a glance though it’s an unnerving reminder that the story of Jeremy Corbyn being unelectable is one that’s been fed to us by a very small group of people who stand to lose the most if he wins.
Amongst the wave of artists that have come out in support of Corbyn, those with probably the most chance to influence large numbers of young non-voters are the big name grime artists such as JME. As one of the pillars of today’s grime scene and member of the massive Boy Better Know, Jamie Adenuga has a reach amongst the youngest potential voters and the black community that realistically (maybe with the exception of Stormzy) outweighs all the other artists mentioned in this article. Unsurprisingly Corbyn has had the sense to reach out and associate himself with JME as a means of pulling those who view Jamie as a role model into the fight.
In the short film When JME Met Jeremy Corbyn, which hopefully is currently making its way across the Facebook feeds of every grime fan in the UK, JME comes out as yet another artist who has never voted. Talking frankly with a relaxed Corbyn, Adenuga explains the reasons that he and huge numbers of people like him who face serious challenges coming up from poverty, don’t see the point in voting.
“So sometimes we feel like “You don’t need to vote. ” It doesn’t matter. Whoever… No-one has our best interest at heart anyway. So whatever happens, we’re still going to struggle, we’re still going to grind … Whereas now, we start, we seem to be seeing someone that we can actually trust, someone that’s human.” – JME
Corbyn and JME see eye to eye discussing the ways that things that could finally be different under this Labour government. The focus between them is on the need for governments not to forget about the suffering of the poorest or the future of the youth and how important it is for us to actually vote if we want to see that.
The reason for Corbyn’s election by the people as Labour leader and his strong grass roots support is exactly why he seems completely at home talking with JME. Having been MP for Islington North since 1983, he’s still more comfortable walking the streets of his area and talking to the people he represents than he is wearing a suit. Finding footage of Corbyn talking to ordinary people who love him is easy, whether it’s members of the public in his constituency or the large crowds that come to support him even in Tory strongholds like Leamington Spa. Compare that to the fact that it’s hard to find footage of Theresa May not getting booed or angrily questioned by the public when she tries to stage a campaign ‘talk to the people’ moment and the difference is laughable. While the media has done everything it can to hide that Corbyn is a man of the people and make it seem like May isn’t completely removed from them, the pictures below say it all really.
This same humbleness and realness comes across in a different setting in his conversation with JME. As its aimed at people who may not even normally bother to read papers or watch the news or feel like there is any point giving a shit about politics, with any luck it might create another last-minute surge of youths registering to vote.
Grime’s support for Corbyn including the #Grime4Corbyn campaign which aims to raise awareness and even incentivise registering to vote with chances to win tickets to a secret London party can’t do his numbers amongst young people any harm. Similarly, iconography such as the Corbyn range by hip-hop hemp clothing brand THTC lends to his credibility.
At present, it’s impossible to tell whether UK hip-hop and grime getting behind Corbyn will be enough to have an effect the outcome of the election on June the 8th. The kneejerk reaction of many who have felt like our vote doesn’t make a difference might be to question whether one cultural group standing up can make a difference. The answer is YES it 100% can. Recent history has taught us exactly this. Barrack Obama helped swing two elections by mobilising a section of the American population that traditionally didn’t vote. For the first time in history the young voter turn-out was higher proportionately among African Americans than it was amongst whites in the 2008 election. His second election saw a higher proportionate voter turnout for the whole population amongst African Americans than amongst whites. Public support from the U.S. hip-hop community played a big part in raising awareness and popularising the Obama campaign and effectively convinced people who viewed the government as the means of their oppression that by voting for the right person they could change it.
More terrifyingly the same phenomenon has happened with far darker consequences in more recent times. Racists vote. Militantly angry xenophobes who blame job stealing immigrants, terrorist Muslims and violent black youths for all the problems in our country don’t outnumber the rest of us who aren’t complete cunts. However, the vast majority of them do vote. Without exception, they vote for whichever party chats the harshest shit about immigration and nationalist values. Recently, many of us who pride ourselves on being progressive or count ourselves as marginalised didn’t get off our arses and sign a ballot while the racists all did. In 2009, in one of the lowest voter turn-outs of all time, the anti-European UKIP leader and all round racist twat Nigel Farage gained a seat representing our country in the European Parliament. Last year, by an incredibly thin margin, the UK voted to leave the EU leading to a new economic downturn, a spike in racism and consequences we will suffer forever. In America, the strategy of agitating racist hillbillies has made Donald Trump the most powerful man in the world.
Elections can be won by fully mobilising seemingly powerless groups of people. It’s one thing to decide not to vote when it’s one cunt versus another one and it’s all well and good to say we reject the whole corrupt system so we won’t support it by voting for anyone, but now of all times where will that attitude leave us? Are we ready to be the fucking mugs who stayed on the side lines judgementally but didn’t engage and let the racists, bigots and comfortably rich turn out in force and take the one election that might actually change everything and swing it against us. As importantly, in regards to those of us who consider ourselves part of a culture that fights our oppression, what kind of hypocrites does it make us if the one time we have someone who is genuinely fighting for US, we not only refuse to fight for them but don’t even spend a few minutes to vote for them.
In summary, if you still haven’t registered; listen to Akala, listen to JME, listen to Stig, Stormzy, Rodney P and the rest of them and go and register to vote. Whether you already have or not, persuade your friends to, talk to your parents, appeal to your grandparents if they’re still knocking about, knock on your neighbours doors, talk to people in the streets but don’t just fuck it off this time.
Or do fuck it off. But if that’s your choice and 2 more years into Conservative rule over us you find yourself chatting some revolutionary, socialist, human rights based, anti-government, pseudo-political moral argument at a party to let everyone know how deep/woke you are, please pause for a moment of reflection and then punch yourself in the genitals.