Why Putting Roadblocks in the Way of Rappers Like Giggs and 67 Won’t Solve Any Problems

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Rappers with lyrics centred around crime or a criminal lifestyle are often met with resistance from the police. Constant attempts are made to slow down artists who occupy this space as if to say the people who consume their music immediately get in touch with their local drug dealer after hearing the first mixtape and introduce themselves by saying “the music sent me”.

Take Giggs for example, who is arguably the best ever rapper from the UK. Literally, one of the best to ever do it. Since taking over pretty much from the word go in 2007 with ‘Talkin’ Da Hardest’, he’s been (at least) a top-three rapper for close to ten years now, so you’d think we’d all have countless shows to reminisce about years later.

Whilst there have been some shows, the police have made regular shows problematic, with numerous live performances being shut down or not allowed to be put on in the first place. Giggs was remanded in prison for gun charges in 2012 for six months and later proven to be completely innocent and has witnessed the police trying to scare off XL Recordings from signing him in 2009 (but they still signed him anyway). Things have been needlessly difficult for one of the most talented UK rappers (i.e. one with a non-grime sound), which back then more than ever, were in scarce supply.

K Koke was another who did a lot for UK rap around 2009-10, delivering an iconic mixtape, setting the precedent for one of the best Fire in the Booth’s to date and signing a deal with Roc Nation in 2011. Around this time, he found himself in a similar predicament to Giggs, as he was remanded for seven months before being acquitted of all charges.

The attempted murder incident he was found to be innocent in, seemed to explain his sudden removal from the Wireless 2013 line-up, despite being scheduled to perform, and troubles with the police also hindered his career somewhat, as he was also dropped from Roc Nation but has now signed with Universal Music in Poland.

More recently, 67’s ‘Let’s Lurk’ tour was presented with a similar roadblock from the authorities, perhaps for ‘risk assessment’ reasons, perhaps not. Objectively, it would seem odd to ban probably the biggest artists of their genre (trap-rap/drill) right now, but there you go.

In terms of a live show, 67’s hard-hitting beats and recitable lyrics suggest regular shows would be crazy in terms of energy and crowd engagement. People would scream their lyrics and lose vocal chords often if 67 were allowed to do shows at a rate their music demands, which is basically a lot. Despite bringing a new twist and hence a much bigger audience to drill music/trap-rap, as explained in detail here, there aren’t too many 67 shows.

So Solid Crew would often see their shows prevented as police refused to grant a licence if they performed and this was around 2002, almost 14 years ago, and “unforeseen circumstances” have been known to stop Section Boyz, a group who have done big things for UK hip-hop, from putting on shows as well. There are also plenty of other instances involving different rappers being faced with obstacles from the authorities.

So the issue still very much exists, but what is at the root of the problem?

There seems to be a fear that the music these artists produce, ‘promotes’, a culture of this that or the other. But the reality is, the majority of listeners are people who appreciate this as music for exactly that – music. If people take it in another way, there’s a good chance they were already that way inclined towards a criminal lifestyle. To directly link an artist’s music to all sort’s of crime doesn’t add up, because those criminal motivations were probably in place before people began taking in UK rap music.

Were the people who bought Giggs’ Landlord album by the droves, not music fans interested in good music? Because that album charted at number two, which is a lot of album sales, from a wide variety of people. K Koke’s Pure Koke Volume 1 brought serious attention to UK rap, and 67 have got to a point where it would be weird to a new song not reach a million views pretty easily on YouTube. A few years ago that would unthinkable for the sound they make, plus, all three of their mixtapes set levels too. These are just a few examples of many instances of successful rappers being shut down in some way by the police.

People can take in Eminem’s dark raps for his honesty and frankness and appreciate Adele’s beautiful voice even if they haven’t necessarily been through heartbreak, but when it comes to certain forms of rap, it can’t be appreciated as just music.

Take in Giggs’ old raps in properly, I mean ones from way back, like ‘Pain is the Essence’, when he drops bars like “thinking that only the Lord knows, how I used to struggle for tenner and score notes, mum said hurry up, put on your school clothes, nothing weren’t poppin in Hollowman’s wardrobe”.

For a lot of people that’s real life – struggling for basic things and having the deadest clothes to wear all the time. Real life to the point where things like university and long-term careers aren’t really realistic thoughts, because when you’re young (e.g. aged 8-16), some people are forced to deal with obstacles many other people their age wouldn’t even consider to be issues.

So if some people are lead into a life of crime because they are flat-out broke, have very few genuine career prospects and have only an empty carton of the smallest milk in their fridge, that’s not a pain created by 67 feat Giggs or Giggs feat Blade and Dubz. That’s a pain that would still exist even if they banned every single rap song.

For people in similar situations, as well as people who have no idea what that kind of life is like, but still appreciate the song’s honesty and rawness, ‘Pain is the Essence’ and similar tracks are important pieces of music. In instances when the lyrics might be more violent, if a young person is motivated by dangerous situations etc, then is it really the music that got them there, or something else? Because lots of people listen to said lyrics and aren’t directly lead to this or that madness, they just hear music.

Teaching people to challenge different chains of thought and make their own decisions, and not be influenced majorly by forms of media or societal demands, is one answer. But actually achieving that is quite difficult.

Improvements aimed at helping people from deprived areas, which is where a lot of artists making the music which gets frowned-upon come from,  requires a lot of money and time. But anything aimed at stopping boredom in these areas will cost the government money they don’t really want to spend. Even things as cheap as someone organising a weekly football match with goalposts, cones and bibs, or a youth club for people to socialise go a long way, go a long way, but don’t exist as much as they should as their funding has been majorly cut.

As of 2015, 411 of 811 ‘youth centres’ in the UK, have disappeared under David Cameron’s reign as Prime Minister, which is more than half. Youth clubs aren’t the only things to take a hit in recent years, and services like this aren’t the deciding factor in people’s lives, but they are worth their weight in gold, and like a lot of other services of its kind, are becoming increasingly extinct.

If lots of young people are broke to the point of not being able to afford dinner and bored with few local opportunities, from very young ages, then… you do the math as to what might be really influencing young people to go into crime. Not K Koke’s first mixtape or a verse from Dimzy, but mainly people being broke and without many positive things to channel their energy into.

Music is a way of ending that cycle of brokeness and boredom.

As for people like Giggs and 67, they’re just trying to make a legitimate living, which is objectively the same as an aspiring rockstar or singer doing the same thing. Giggs is the best example of someone at the very top of his sound, who isn’t ban-worthy but rather, stadium-worthy, and 67 are following suit making serious waves in trap-rap/drill music.

If these were two acts in another genre – one occupying legendary status and the other making serious noise whilst also staying true to an original sound… would their talents be less scrutinised? Who knows, but regardless, the positive thing is progress is still being made, even with roadblocks in place. Giggs is unanimously seen as one of the best in the UK and 67’s movements have been recognised with millions of views, nominations at the Rated Awards and MOBO Awards, and an ever-growing fan-base.

Artists like Giggs and 67 should be appreciated for trying to leave behind a struggle, doing ‘impossible’ things, whilst paving a way for others to follow suit. If someone said ‘would things be better off if these people didn’t make this music?’ the answer would be a resounding no.