Scrolling through Twitter you will find that #Grime4Corbyn is trending. #Grime4Corbyn is brilliant for the memes alone and may seem just a fun online frenzy but actually it has a deeper significance and can teach us a lot about Britain today and the current state of politics in the UK.
Earlier this week Jeremy Corbyn snapchatted a meet up with Boy Better Know’s JME to talk politics and in the latest display of support for the Labour leader from the grime world. Indeed, JME is not the first grime artist to publicly throw his support behind Corbyn, with Stormzy and Skepta also backing the lefty.
Although initially it may seem an unexpected alliance, particularly given the apolitical, or even anti-political, stance that most of these artists have tended to take, in fact it makes a lot of sense when you consider the message each is trying to spread and what they represent.
Jeremy Corbyn has presented himself as the voice of those whose own voices have been drowned out under a Conservative government; those who lose out in a society which is designed to favour the rich, notably the working class and ethnic minorities. If Jeremy Corbyn is the political voice for the concerns of marginalised people then grime is the musical counterpart, channelling the discontent felt by working class and minority people. Both are connecting with young people and addressing the issues they care about. These grime artists come from humble beginnings and although now enjoying a position of relative privilege and power have not lost sight of the pressing problems facing those who continue to struggle in a society which does not appear to notice or cater to them. For example, taking the issue of the housing crisis, rapper Stormzy says, “Now that I’m at a certain financial situation, I’m able to buy a house. But if I never became this, how the fuck was I gonna buy a house? How is my bredren from the ends ever gonna buy a house? It’s mad out here.”
Listen to Skepta’s ‘Shutdown’ and you hear a man who does not have time for politics: “we don’t listen to no politician.” The self-proclaimed activist has previously viewed the government with great scepticism (no pun intended!), proclaiming that “the government is a gang and they’re bullying us.” Speaking about the riots which happened in and which many perceived to be the reaction of an oppressed sub-section of society, the Mercury Award winner said: "They could happen again, you know. I think about this every day. I wonder: “Is today the day where everybody stops lying to themselves and realises that the government is the enemy?” But I hope that instead of riots, we have controlled gatherings, like my Shoreditch car-park gig, where we can say our message as a movement.”
Indeed, much of grime takes an anti-establishment position. So what is it about Jeremy Corbyn that some grime artists, and young people generally, can identify with and believe sets him apart from other politicians?
Stormzy has cited Corbyn’s commitment to dealing with issues facing those often overlooked and not properly served by government as his reason for engaging with the Labour leader’s politics. “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,” said the south London rapper. “Have you seen that footage of House of Commons? They’re all neeky dons! The way they all laugh and cheer. Is this fucking Game Of Thrones? You lot have got real issues to talk about and deal with. That’s why I like Jeremy: I feel like he gets what the ethnic minorities are going through and the homeless and the working class.”
In a piece he has written for The Guardian titled ‘By choice, I have never voted before. But Jeremy Corbyn has changed my mind’ MC and activist Akala details why Corbyn has struck a chord with him. “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 has a chance of being elected,” explains Akala. Admitting that Corbyn is not perfect, the south London rapper continues:
“We do not need perfect politicians, because we are not perfect people ourselves. As well as his historical stances on apartheid and other issues, Corbyn has consistently voted against the UK’s worst acts of foreign aggression, including being one of only 13 MPs to vote against Nato’s horrific intervention in Libya in 2011 – an intervention that has played no small part in the subsequent refugee crisis and the direct spreading of terrorism.
We keep being told Corbyn is unelectable. Yet we were also told that he would not win the Labour leadership. He may not have the “electric” personality that electorates are concerned about in these days of celebrity culture, but politics should not – primarily – be about personalities; it should be about policies – and Theresea May hardly exudes charisma.”
Peckham’s Novelist has tweeted his support for Corbyn and the Labour party. Novelist’s work has reflected his political views in the past, most notably in the track ‘Street Politician’ in which David Cameron’s voice repeatedly issues the message: “keeping people safe is the first duty of government,” which is then torn apart and mocked as the rapper highlights those who the government has failed.
It seems then that Corbyn’s overriding message that he is ‘For the many, not the few’ which is really resonating with a lot of young people, many of whom are directly feeling the punishing effects of a government which caters primarily to the middle and upper classes, including massively expensive tuition fees and a lack of affordable housing.
Grime4Corbyn (which has a website – www.grime4corbyn.com) should be welcomed as a refreshing move to get young people fired up and involved in politics, which for a long time so many have been largely disengaged from. If grime – the sound of young British people – can help do that then great. As the Grime4Corbyn website states, its aim is to encourage young people to register to vote, which is crucial since the decisions made by politicians today will be effecting young people the most in the long-term.
If you haven’t done so already, register to vote (and if you do it through the Grime4Corybn website you might win yourself tickets for a secret grime party as a thank you!).