The Hip Hop police have existed within the music industry for decades almost being part of the furniture. The term itself refers to a group of policeman who target a certain demographic of rappers, which they refer to as street or gangster rappers. Unfortunately, this type of policing which originated in the United States, has managed to manifest itself into the UK Urban music scene, or for a lack of a better word UK Street Hip Hop. Many artists have fell casualty to this type of policing, from the days of The So Solid crew to current rappers Giggs and Sneakbo.
The presence of this type of policing to an artist restricts their movement and progression. From sudden show cancellations, to being banned from certain venues and limiting their radio plays throughout mainstream airways, and also lack of displayed physical copies of albums on shelves. Being labelled as a gangster or street rapper systematically works against you, the negative connotations and perceptions make you an institutional target.
In an interview on Not For The Radio, London gangster rapper Giggs spoke about his battles with the ‘Hip Hop police’. Speaking openly about the racial bias and prejudice he has encountered since his inception into the music industry. Giggs spoke about being told by music insiders that nationally syndicated radio stations such as BBC 1xtra were refusing to play his music, and club DJ’s across London were not being allowed to play his music. The politics did not stop there, he revealed at that stage he had yet to be allowed to perform in his home town of London since he started rapping. Until recently the rapper had to perform secret gigs in London (Carefully planned unadvertised gigs) and perform outside of London, but to everyone’s surprise and excitement the rapper finally announced his tour dates for his LandLord Album which includes a London date, for the 11th of November. Finally, his London fans can celebrate with the LandLord himself!
We can all agree that ‘they’ as DJ Khaled would say, have been trying to supress the man’s growth and stop him from having a successfully smooth journey within the music industry. The truth within his lyrical content and storytelling is what the police and the non-hip hop lovers search for when trying to incriminate and stereotype him and other rappers. Often ignorantly without understanding the man behind the message, not caring enough to understand one’s journey through hardship, struggles and perseverance, they convict you without knowledge.
As law enforcement, the police have a job to serve and protect those who they believe are a potential danger to society and are capable of polluting the minds of those who are easily influenced. Unfortunately, some of the language and lyrics that certain rappers use to glamourize the gang lifestyle justifies their actions and concerns. In every situation there are a minority of ignorant people who choose to use their platform to encourage negativity and ignorance, and Hip Hop often falls casualty to that.
There is a big difference between biographically depicting your lifes journey through lyrical content to empower, encourage and uplift your audience and spewing venomous lyrics that hype and encourage impressionable people to go out and commit criminal activities against one another. Young people these days can be extremely impressionable and believe everything they hear. I believe that a rapper like Giggs represents the first example, but he is treated like someone who is doing the latter, which is unfortunate.
There’s a huge elephant in the room when it comes to inequality within the music industry as a whole. Other genres of music that are typically associated with Caucasians, such as Heavy Metal/ Rock/ Punk and satanic music focuses and glamorises negative notions of death, rioting, killing and suicide etc. The artists are rarely individually held accountable, but Hip Hop artists seem to be singled out and personally targeted.
Can one question whether institutional racism has a lot to do with this type of treatment towards black rappers? Just to elaborate on Institutional or systematic racism (They are forms of restrictions that were put in place deliberately or indirectly into political and social institutions, limiting certain ethnic groups’ human rights). To the naked eye the restriction and prejudice is not seen but it takes into effect within organisations, institutions and within government.
For those artists who clearly have a much more decorated past than other artists, it is unfair and unfortunate that they are continuously judged and treated like a criminal when it is clearly a thing of the past. There is a saying ‘The choices you make in life, predict and shape your future’ but that narrative should be retracted if growth has been shown and they no longer choose to live that life. Just because one has had a disruptive start in life, does not mean that another should continue to disrupt their future.
Surely as a person of the law, you’d encourage change and progression amongst people. In light of the police brutality towards young black men in the United States of America, there was mention of police departments having targets in which they have to arrest a certain number of individuals daily, to make up systematic targets. Is it wrong to insinuate that in order to reach those targets, there needs to be a few black men being involved in illegal activities, therefore helping eliminate gang related crimes and uplifting those already involved or trying to get out would defeat the purpose and would affect targets? There is no certainty whether it relates to the police in the UK, but systematic racism is exactly that. Not obvious, but effects certain groups whom are unaware.
There are a lot of changes that need to incur in order for equality to be present amongst all genres and groups within music. The challenge is to tackle a system which in its core isn’t set up to benefit minorities especially those with a past that the government is aware of. It is up to us as a genre to change the narrative. We should all be held accountable for the information and the message that is delivered to the young generation, to those impressionable and most importantly the media, who in the end will not have any ammunition to assassinate the characters of our black brothers. To end on a positive note, there are plenty of positive influential rappers who have chosen to use their platform for greatness and they are the ones that should be celebrated and championed!