The U.K. music scene has gone full circle this past week, from the good, to the bad and to the plain ugly. We have seen Kano’s album “Made In The Manor” receive great reviews and has ultimately been rewarded with a top 10 position in the Official UK charts. To add to the positives, Chris Price (Head of music at BBC Radio 1 ) in a recent interview with ‘The Guardian’ made the claim that “Grime could become Britain’s next big cultural export.” The obvious conclusion should be one of pride and optimism. However, other events over the last week point towards a different conclusion. To many, the scene as a collective suffered a blow this week and has in fact taken a “massive step backwards.”
One of the events that attracted grave attention was the situation between the rappers Nines (of Church Road) and C-Biz (of South Kilburn.) It all started on the 9th of March when Nines uploaded an Instagram video of him claiming to have allegedly taken several jewellery items that belonged to the rapper C-Biz. The consequence of the show and tell clip was that it spread like wildfire and social media ate it up. By the end of the day the fatal shooting of a young man on Church Road ultimately heightened the social media interest in the on-going feud between the two rappers. Consequently many commentators pointed the fingers towards retaliation and C-Biz.
The other event that prompted many to comment on the more ugly side of social media was the revelation that the rapper Bonkaz was a convicted sex offender. Although, the rapper issued several written explanations through his Twitter account, his reputation had inevitably come into question. The jury was out. To add insult to injury the Daily Mirror published an article that was anything but forgiving towards him with the title (BBC Radio 1 invites paedophile rapper onto Annie Mac show….)
The combined events rightfully alerted many to comment on the detrimental effects social media could potentially have on the livelihoods of those who become its victim. Many made the comments that the events lead a number of observers to become “chatty patties” and “twitter fingers.” They had very little knowledge of the facts behind the events but still chose to make precarious statements as if they were informed insiders. For example, the truth behind the death of the young man who was shot on that tragic Wednesday night still remains unknown. Moreover, the truth behind the arrest of C-Biz later that week, also remains unknown. I have no real comments to make on the reasons behind the events because I don’t know all the facts. My only comment would of course be that the death of the young man is a sad reality; a sad reality that a mother and family now have to deal with and to that I have a great deal of sympathy.
My thoughts are mainly directed towards the comments that were made about how people chose to react to the mentioned situations on social media. To a number of people the events were just something to laugh at or read about in passing. They would have paid very little attention to them and even if they did they were probably not impressed or moved by it. Moreover, they may have chosen not to comment on the events because they were sympathetic and understood how complicated these situations are. It would have been wrong for them to comment without all the facts.
On the other hand, there are those who do not view these events in the same way. For example, situations like the Nines and C-Biz “beef” are their source of entertainment. It offers them an insight into the “road life” that gives a purpose to the raps they love to enjoy and could only fantasise about. These are people who are far removed from the reality of the street life. They are unaware of the often harsh and unfair realities that come with dealing with the stigmas that are attached to the streets. These situations are interacted with purely on the basis entertainment and the consequences of the situations being commented upon very rarely affect them. With this being the case, the questions then remains “should artists have a reasonable expectation that fans and observers will take care when commenting on their affairs on social media?”
My answer would be of course not! It’s not reasonable to expect the social media world to tailor its views and comments to protect anyone. It does not owe anybody anything. I’ve always taken the position that once a private matter is given the platform to play itself out in the public eye. It is inevitable that the public will comment and have an opinion on it. Furthermore, the comments and opinions will tend to find their basis in things that aren’t necessarily factual or true. However, that does not reduce their relevance or potential influence. The consequence of Nines’ video upload was that it set-off a chain reaction and ended up being a public spectacle with a consequence. It would have been naïve for both Nines, C-Biz (and Bonkaz with the revelations of him being a convicted sexual offender) to not expect this to be the case. Social media perhaps doomed them.
I was of course disappointed to notice that a number of mainstream tabloid papers chose to adopt a stance of “lazy journalism” and “trash reporting” regarding the events. They did very little to investigate and ask the right questions. They simply stalked twitter and tailored their reports based on the twitter rumour cycle. In all honesty this wasn’t surprising to me; this was not the first time it had happened and it won’t be the last. This new episode of lazy and lousy journalism only reiterated a point I have become accustomed to. Mainstream media is aware that news often reaches social media quicker that it reaches them. The implication of this is that mainstream media stalks social media for news that is still raw and lacks factual evidence. However, this information is twisted and tailored to fit a particular narrative. That narrative can of course be extremely damaging. In this instance a negative inference may be drawn from the mainstream coverage of the weeks events.
It may be true that this weeks events did take the scene backwards because it did very little to shower the scene in glory. To add to that it may further heighten the fear and stigma that’s long been levelled at artist who stem from an urban or street backgrounds. Creating more unfair obstacles and barriers for them to overcome. However, this will only become evident in the weeks and months to come. My understanding of the media is that it has never been one to shy away from controversy or subtly denouncing the scene for the right or wrong reasons. They have often jumped at opportunities to scapegoat individuals and use isolated events as reasons for being sceptical about the continued growth of the emerging urban scene. The media in my opinion will continue to do this and will always be in search of controversy. We should be constantly aware that the media does not care to play nice.
For me the events of the week served as a warning and a lesson to those who have an interest in the scene and want to see it thrive. Artists who lay claim to still being active on the streets should now be aware of the consequences of social media. There is of course a level of responsibility that comes with being relative public figures. They should now be very aware that the minute their street affairs spill onto social media they will very little control of how the information is portrayed or interacted with. Do not be the architect of your own downfall by uploading the smoking gun to your potential career.