Author Archive

Some thoughts on MTV, Lowkey, Ghetts, hip-hop, grime and unity

You almost certainly know the story, so I’ll keep this brief.

Just over a week ago, MTV Base UK aired a show about the UK’s top ten MCs, a list picked by a panel of industry heads including Logan Sama, Ras Kwame, Charlie Sloth and Stanza.

Here’s the list:

  1. Tinie Tempah
  2. Dizzee Rascal
  3. Skepta
  4. Pro Green
  5. Wiley
  6. Giggs
  7. Devlin
  8. P Money
  9. D Double E
  10. Chipmunk & Lowkey

A fairly predictable list, given that it’s focused at the more commercial end of the ‘urban’ market. A couple of things that were unexpected:

a) Lowkey is included, in spite of being an unsigned and outspoken hip-hop artist, and in spite of having received zero support so far from the ‘industry’.

b) Ghetts isn’t included, in spite of being widely recognised as one of the best (and maybe *the* best) lyricists in the scene.

Anyway, it’s just MTV, so who cares, right?

Well… Ghetts cared. He took the thing personally, and maybe, just maybe, saw the opportunity for a bit of free promotion. In a world where internet hype is everything, why not put out a new track about how pissed off you are, shoot a video, upload it to Grime Daily, and release the single on iTunes?

In case you didn’t already hear Ghetts’s complaint:

Ghetts turns his rage towards a few people:

  • P Money: “If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t know who P Money was.” [Kinda true, although P has got skills]
  • D Double E: “As for D Double E, he ain’t done shit but light up a set” [Streetfighter was big still, although not very original for those of us that grew up listening to Skibadee lyrics]
  • Professor Green: “I like Pro Green, but when I paid for his album, two words: daylight robbery” [I agree]
  • Lowkey: “Lowkey must have had someone on the inside. Yeah that’s it, obviously.” [Umm… not really]

Personally I think the line about Lowkey is just a throwaway comment; Ghetts was probably just genuinely surprised to see Lowkey on the list and probably didn’t know much about him. I’m guessing the lyric had more to do with the fact that ‘obviously’ rhymes with ‘robbery’ than any real disdain Ghetts has for Lowkey (and by no stretch of the imagination is it a ‘send’). But anyway, Lowkey clearly took offence. A week later, after a good deal of egging on from his fans on Facebook, he releases this:

It’s an interesting track. Using Ghetts’s classic ‘Top 3 Selected’ beat, Lowkey keeps focused mainly on his own role within the music industry and the fact that he has earned wide popularity with no support whatsoever from MTV, BBC, Kiss or any other major media outlet.

Of course there are a few jibes directed at Ghetts:

“Never would I side with Lockheed Martin… I don’t make tracks for David Cameron.” [This is a reference to Ghetts’s ‘Invisible’ track encouraging ethnic minorities to fill in the 2011 census – a big topic for another time]

“Top 3 Selected, yeah you was hot then, but what about now when you can’t make top 10.”

It feels like Lowkey isn’t sure if he’s directing the track at Ghetts or at MTV. He should have just rolled with the MTV option in my opinion, but there you go. Lowkey takes a conciliatory tone towards Ghetts in the outro, and makes his point strongly:

Don’t get it twisted; I didn’t make this track to prove Ghetts wrong, cos he was right – he *is* one of the best MCs that this country has ever seen. But I did this track to prove myself, cos so am I. Understand this: MTV put me tied with Chipmunk in that list for one reason and one reason only: friction. And listen carefully to the next thing I’m about to say. As far as I’m concerned, MTV Base never has to mention my name again. I don’t need your support. Yeah? Recognise. Existence is resistance.

I think Lowkey’s response is decent (and no doubt the flows are sick – if he did it to prove himself as an MC, well, mission accomplished), but a much better response to the whole thing would have been to do a collaboration track with Ghetts about this ridiculous music industry that doesn’t work for any of us. That would have been a much more positive outcome; it would have inspired, motivated and educated people, and would have helped a lot to build unity between different subcultures within our wider youth culture.

Ghetts is a major figurehead of the grime scene, and Lowkey is a massive part of the political hip-hop movement that is a growing force within UK underground music. What better pair to lead the unity?

Although there’s plenty of overlap, these two subcultures have some obvious differences and there is a clear lack of unity as it stands. Grime arose from the estates, from the pirate radio scene, from young working class (and primarily black) teenagers expressing themselves and developing a fresh new culture and the businesses to go with it (labels, gigs, websites etc). The audience for political hip-hop has tended to be a bit more student-y, a bit more white, Arab and Asian, a bit more politicised, and often focused around anti-war sentiment.

The differences between the scenes have led to a quite serious division, which the state and media obviously understand very well and are eager to exploit (this is clear from MTV’s decision to put Lowkey and Chipmunk in joint tenth place). We all have to be careful not to allow ourselves to be manipulated by people whose only interests are to silence positivity, disrupt unity and get rich off the back of other people’s talent.

The lyrical narrative of the two scenes is different, no doubt, but both are putting forward valid ideas that need to be heard. Radical hip-hop pushes important political and social concepts in a very innovative way, and inspires people to reflect deeply on the world they live in and to act to improve it. Grime focuses on the harsh realities of life for people who are constantly trodden on by society but who refuse to be ground down.

Yes, the story grime tells might be ugly at times, and may offend people’s moral frameworks (guerilla capitalism isn’t everyone’s cup of tea!), but nonetheless it’s a representation of real life, and is a form of loud cultural expression for people that the mainstream would absolutely love to ignore. Meanwhile there are issues such as police brutality, government cuts, racism and the exploitative music industry, which are shared ground between the two scenes and which are an important basis for bridging the gap between them.

Are there real problems with some of the lyrical themes in grime? Sure. There is no shortage of misogyny, of glorified black-on-black violence and more. But how can people address those problems except by reaching out and developing a context in which real discussion and progress can take place? A collaboration track would be a great step towards that; a Youtube diss is not.

Young people from working class and non-white backgrounds are rightly very sensitive to criticism, given that the media, the education system and the ‘justice’ system are highly prejudiced against them. P Money says it well: “Now I can blend with the wealthiest guys / My life’s a sin but look what I made of it / See you won’t understand / Only the guys on road can hear what I’m sayin, innit”. His message is clear: don’t judge me, cos you’re not from where I’m from; you don’t know what it feels like to be poor in a world that constantly dehumanises poor people and puts rich people on a pedestal, so don’t hate me for doing whatever I need to do to not be poor any more.

So the barrage of anti-grime criticism that’s been fired off since Ghetts released ‘Who’s on the Panel’ is extremely unhelpful. We need to learn not to judge but to relate to people and to lead by example. The fact is that the mainstream, the government, the corporations hate *all* our culture. If it was up to them, you’d have never heard of Lowkey *or* Ghetts. The two scenes have a lot to gain from each other and a lot to learn from each other.

In terms of creating the unity we need, Lowkey and Ghetts are uniquely well positioned to take the lead and set the right example. The mini-beef between the two has already led to some despicable racist anti-black slurs against Ghetts from some of Lowkey’s ‘supporters’ (and a fair few anti-Arab and anti-Asian retorts). This could easily have been avoided if Lowkey and Ghetts had just done a track together instead of getting bogged down in childish verbal warfare on the internet.

Hopefully that collaboration can happen soon. Better late than never.

Logic, Agent of Change, Jody McIntyre – For My People [with lyrics]

Brand new! Logic comes hard with an anthem for the growing resistance against British imperialism in the belly of the beast. Intro/outro speeches provided by Jody McIntyre and Lowkey, and blues guitar and production provided by, erm, me.

Please leave a comment on Youtube if you like it! And if you reaaaally like it, you can get the full quality mastered version on iTunes for just 79 of your pence.


[Jody intro]
I think we all have a duty to stand up and make our voices heard and to fight against what the government are doing

I get down for my people
Down for my people
Down with the government until we’re all equal
Down with the media
And the corporations
I am not down with invading these nations
Stand up for my people
Up for my people
Fist in the sky until we’re all equal
We need more meetings, more demonstrations
Occupy parliament
This is our nation

[Logic verse 1]
See I’m down for equality
Down to abolish the lottery
Down with all the government’s policies
Silly me to believe no more tuition fees
Nine grand when there’s still soldiers in the Helmland
Lines of division in Palestine and Kashmir
But who put the lines there?
See we created that
Civil war wasn’t born and we made it a fact
The news releases pictures saying that we’re violent
But it we’re not violent, the media is silent
We’ve still got British soldiers occupying Ireland
And they wonder why we’re still fighting
We’re fighting for the third world and everyone who lives there
Fighting the feds who pulled Jody out his wheelchair
We’re fighting for justice, I’m fighting for unity
Bottom line is I’m fighting for you and me

I get down for my people
Down for my people
Down with the government until we’re all equal
Down with the media
And the corporations
I am not down with invading these nations
Stand up for my people
Up for my people
Fist in the sky until we’re all equal
We need more meetings, more demonstrations
Occupy parliament
This is our nation

[Logic verse 2]
Cos these are my people and this is our nation
Too many people have died in fed stations
The US, they have got too many military bases
In places, where they’re not welcome faces
It’s gone past racism
It’s imperialism, capitalism and straight hatred
How can we change this?
Ideally we’d take the whole concept of money and erase it
But this is not feasible
But at the bare minimum
All of our people are equal
The rich man’s the same as the poor
But the poor man still gets ignored
And we’re not the same as the law
But the real criminals are the ones that are making the wars
The companies that are funding the wars
Are the ones we are targettng for
Let’s get ’em

I get down for my people
Down for my people
Down with the government until we’re all equal
Down with the media
And the corporations
I am not down with invading these nations
Stand up for my people
Up for my people
Fist in the sky until we’re all equal
We need more meetings, more demonstrations
Occupy parliament
This is our nation

We should be fighting for equality of all people, irrespective of race, religion, gender, wealth or physical ability.

We must also be 100% clear that while they are talking about cutting spending here, cutting jobs there, cutting benefits here, cutting EMA there, we also have to realise that this country is involved in the occupation of Afghanistan and the full-fledged support of Israel

And this is the central issue at the core of every conflict that is happening. You could not justify killing billions of people in wars around the world unless you considered those people inferior to yourself.

But honestly, at the end of the day, we must always take it back to this, and it’s a quote from someone called Frederick Douglass. He said: “power concedes nothing without demand”. So we must demand, demand, demand, demand, demand. Thank you very much.

Follow Logic on Twitter
Follow Agent of Change on Twitter
Follow Jody McIntyre on Twitter
Follow Lowkey on Twitter
Buy the track on iTunes

Album review: Saigon – The Greatest Story Never Told

Buy the album on Amazon UK
Buy the album on iTunes UK
Buy the album on iTunes US

I tried very hard not to get too excited about this album. It almost seemed too good to be true – one of the best rappers in the game alongside one of the best producers in the game, on an album that has been in the works for several years and which really seemed like it was never going to see the light of day. Once it finally got a release date, I prepared myself for the probability that it wasn’t going to match its promise.

Turns out I didn’t have to do that.

Accuse me of hyperbole if you want, but here’s my assessment: The Greatest Story Never Told is the best, most consistent, most heart-felt, most radical, most banging hip-hop album since Let’s Get Free. Yup, I said it. You can disagree, and that’s fine, but to me this is a phenomenal piece of music.

For one thing, the beats are *amazing*. Just Blaze never fails to bring the heat. The sampling is impeccable and the drums are banging; the soulful instrumentals provide the perfect platform for Saigon’s penetrating lyrics and emotional delivery.

With the beats out of the way (hey, I’m a producer!), let’s talk about Saigon. To me, Sai is a lot like 2pac in terms of his passion and what he represents. Saigon is most definitely a ‘conscious’ MC in the sense that he talks about stuff that matters and makes an important, radical analysis. However, like ‘Pac, he represents the kids on the corners rather than the intellectuals and the university-educated radicals. He is a voice within the ghetto, encouraging his peers to understand the situation they’re in and to rise above it.

This type of consciousness, so common in reggae, is really only represented by a handful of rappers in the US hip-hop scene (Nas, 2pac, Dead Prez and KRS-One come to mind). Saigon is a very welcome addition to this group.

Saigon talks about ghetto life, about the drugs and the violence that are designed to keep black people down, about the easy route from the projects to the system of modern-day slavery they call prison; he talks about the preacher that exploits his congregation; he talks about the single mothers struggling to feed their children; he talks about the dangers of a life of crime. Essentially, he tells his life story – the story of a kid from the gutter who fell into selling drugs at a young age and who served several years in prison. Unlike many others, Sai doesn’t glorify his life story in order to sell lots of records; he places his life in the context of the brutal racism and exploitation that characterise US society. In doing that, he starts to carve out a path away from the violent nihilism of street life – once you understand the forces acting on you, you gain the ability to act against them.

A few standout moments of the album:

The Invitation. At the moment, this is my favourite track of the album, talking about how the underground economy is society’s invitation for young black men to join the “party in the penitentiary”. Sai’s lyrics are clever and hard-hitting, and the beat is just plain banging – classic noisy soulful blues-sampling Just Blaze (reminding me a bit of ‘Public Service Announcement’).

The party is in the pen and the government is promoting it
That’s the reason I don’t be believing in all this voting shit
They bring the coke in this bitch, ain’t no poppy seeds in the Ps
Please, nuttin but a whole lot of hopelessness
That’s where all the focus is
Making sure the blacks stay in the back
It’s a damn shame, we placed in a no-win situation
The party’s in the pen and the blow is the invitation

Q-Tip on the chorus is a nice touch!

Enemies is a deep, wistful track about Sai’s relationship with street life – the attractiveness and destructiveness of a life of crime. Addressing himself to the street, Saigon says:

Don’t flatter yourself, it don’t take a genius to spell Thug
Convince a kid at the mere age of 12 to sell drugs
If you really had cheek you’d have them white kids like you had me
It was their great-granddaddies that created you
They was the ones that flooded you with gats and liquor stores
Match pimps with the whores to trade cash in for intercourse
And of course these young ni**as stay sucking you off
But I know the truth, so pooooff, I’m cutting you off

The title track, The Greatest Story Never Told, sets the tone for the whole album with some amazing lyricism, thought-provoking ideas and fresh production:

I rap about politicians, how money’s their acquisition
To get it they gotta keep us without a pot to piss in
Strugglin’ to survive, 9-to-5, ain’t making it
Turn on the TV, all I see is celebs taking it
Feeling like they got all the bread but they ain’t breaking it
I’m taking it as soon as I find the oven where they baking it

We was brought here to pick the cotton
Now we picking the music for massa to listen to
The clothes in which he rockin’
We don’t drive a hard bargain
All we want back is crack, some more gats
And some more of that bullshit rap
The crime rhyme is still black on black
We need a leader like me to get us back on track
When y’all make them dis records do you know what you’re doing to black community?
Market and promote the fact that we lack unity
Them white people look at you and laugh
You look like a porch monkey boy dancing for cash
Wanna get on a record and talk trash
See him at the awards and don’t do shit but walk past

If I bust a gun in the hood I get Attica or the Cat
I bang a gat in Iraq I get a pat on the back
Best believe I know better than that
This a lesson for all my listeners Ð shit ain’t just regular rap
It’s the greatest story that ever been spat
It’s gonna teach the hood and at the same time make my pockets elephant fat
Go ahead with all the irrelevant rap
Me and my ni**a Just Blaze bring the true element back

Clap, featuring the considerable vocal talents of Faith Evans, is probably the most feel-good track of the album, and has Saigon in optimistic mood:

We gotta start helping each other, quit hurting each other
Money’ll have a ni**a start thinking about merking his mother
How does it feel being slaves to a dollar bill?
I’m giving you something you can feel, are y’all for real?

Do away with the hip-hop police force
Fuck the pigs, I was taught not to eat pork
Clap your hands if you ain’t forget where you came from
Clap again if you ready to see a change come

It’s Alright is another deep track, taking the form of a letter to god, asking why he doesn’t do more to relieve the suffering:

It’s alright, I write a letter dedicated to god
First I thank him, without him I’d never have made it this far
But it’s hard, trying to think of why he not getting involved
There’s a lady with a new born baby living in the car
The police is beating us up, the hurricane eating us up
Katrina floodwater was deep as a fuck
Dear lord, are we ever gonna receive a reward
For all the suffering and misery and pain we endured
It’s like the transatlantic slave trade, the AIDS, the crack
When are we ever gonna get paid back?

To all the ladies having babies on they own
These ni**as ain’t shit, ma, for real, you better off alone
If he ain’t smart enough to know why he should stay
Then what could he possibly teach a seed anyway?

Raise your kid, you don’t need no man
Especially one that need to be deprogrammed
Type of brother that think he righteous cos he don’t eat no ham
But he keep playin’ and fuckin’ wit some kilogram
Girlfriend, you know what you doing, the time is right
You tell your little one that it’s alriiiight.

The track ends with a shout to the political prisoners rotting away in US jails – each of them incarcerated on trumped up charges; each of them victims of, and fighters against, an unjust system. It’s a great touch that the prisoners get shouted out individually, including Mumia Abu Jamal, Herman Bell, the Cuban Five, Leonard Peltier, Sundiata Acoli and Dr Mutulu Shakur (Tupac’s godfather). Sai’s message to the prisoners: “Peace! Hold your head, soldiers.”

Promise offers some great insight into the hypocrisy of the music industry:

The rap figures throwing money in the air like it’s pizza dough
People in the hood ain’t eating, no
I try to help the label see the vision
But they lowered me to a subdivision, you gotta be fuckin kidding
They’d rather me pretend to be something I’m not
I’m the new Public Enemy, I’m different than Young Jock
And nah, I ain’t dissing, this ni**as’s up in the falls
Shit, I ain’t made a dollar tryna rap for the cause
But in these next four bars, I’ll tell you about malevolent laws
They enforcing off America’s shores
Dawg, if they can have rifles on their farm
Then I can’t see why they knock TI for trying to bear arms

There are a few off moments, I can’t deny. ‘Promise’ starts off in unexpectedly misogynistic fashion which definitely doesn’t match the pro-unity vibe of the album in general (“I caught a bad case of smack-a-bitch-yitis / I came home and my wife got my daughter in shitty diapers / The rice is still raw and the meat is in the freezer / I hate that I’m too close to her to leave her”). But a couple of cringe moments shouldn’t spoil the album. Part of Saigon’s appeal and effectiveness is that he is a victim of the same issues he exposes. He is not perfect and doesn’t claim to be perfect (again reminiscent of 2pac).

All in all, it’s a beautiful album. If an album of this quality came out every year, I’d be more than happy with the state of hip-hop. Buy it, listen to it five times over, and let me know what you think (leave a comment!).

Buy the album on Amazon UK
Buy the album on iTunes UK
Buy the album on iTunes US
Follow Saigon on Twitter

A few thoughts on the Wiley and Jay Sean beef



Twitterland seems to be full of people talking about Wiley and Jay Sean’s little online exchange, and a lot of people are accusing Wiley of racism.

I’ve no idea how the beef started, but the “racial banter” (as Wiley called it) started when some Asian Jay Sean fans sent Wiley abusive tweets. “Asian people tried it with me I’m allowed to talk back”.

Wiley’s retort to the Jay Sean fans unfortunately included some pretty silly playground taunts (which, as a half-Asian, I am all too familiar with).

– “i will throw Bombay potatoes on you”

– “your mum makes a dodgy korma”

– “Stop chewing beetle nut on the bus it smells”

Not exactly the kind of brilliant inventiveness that Wiley used to create the grime scene, but there you go. For the record, my house *does* smell of curry right now, cos I just made a very tasty aloo gobi.

In response to accusations that he was racist, Wiley explained that he had love for Asians and was just engaging in a bit of “racial banter”, which, he correctly pointed out, is not uncommon in London.

– “come on you know me i wouldnt wait 32 years to be racist”

– “lol at you idiots getting over excited instead of understanding the meaning of ethnic banter”

– “I love the Asian community minus Jay Sean trust me bug up Preeya she is so special”

Wiley finally pulled the plug on his 24-hour rant this evening, phoning into the Bobby Friction show, and later tweeting: “hold tight the jay sean fans you love me really lets get some unity going on im ready to chill out now its all love and banter racial banter”

It’s important not to blow Wiley’s rant out of proportion. People labelling him as a racist and likening him to the far right is unhelpful and only feeds into the lack of unity in our communities.

Wiley reveals the root of his grudge pretty clearly when he says: “im sorry but your race do act like they are above black people no lie”.

Frankly, he’s right about this. Many Asians *do* act like they are above people of African origin. I know from personal experience that there is deep-seated prejudice against black people in the Asian community, and this is a very real problem in terms of creating the unity that we need to move forward against oppression.

Wiley brings up another touchy subject when he says: “you all are starting to act blAck talk black fuck off tho cos I am black so I see who tries to be like us and ur haircuts are so swag and they way you wear ya hats deadout”

That is: not only do you look down on us, but you do it at the same time as biting our music and culture (and, in Jay Sean’s case, getting rich in the process).

Without necessarily meaning to do so, Wiley has brought out some very deep issues that need to be addressed. The fact is that the Asian community does pride itself on its economic success and the fact that Asian children tend to thrive in the education system. Many Asians see that African Caribbeans have not had the same economic and educational successes, and put this down to some kind of racial inferiority, without seeing the systematic racism, victimisation, criminalisation and prejudice that is designed to keep the descendants of slaves at the bottom of the heap.

The whole situation is strongly reminiscent of the media storm that happened in the US when legendary rapper Ice Cube (formerly of NWA) made the track ‘Black Korea’, in response to the brutalisation of black customers in Korean groceries.

Every time I want to go get a fucking brew
I gotta go down to the store with the two
Oriental one-penny-counting motherfuckers;
They make a nigger mad enough to cause a little ruckus.
Thinking every brother in the world’s out to take,
So they watch every damn move that I make.
They hope I don’t pull out a Gat, try to rob
Their funky little store but, bitch, I got a job.

So don’t follow me up and down your market
Or your little chop suey ass will be a target
Of a nationwide boycott.
Juice with the people, that’s what the boy got.
So pay respect to the black fist
Or we’ll burn your store right down to a crisp.
And then we’ll see ya
‘Cause you can’t turn the ghetto into black Korea.

The lyrics were obviously problematic and divisive; but nonetheless they brought out an issue that actually existed and needed talking about. Meanwhile, the reaction of mainstream US was to label Ice Cube as a murderous racist and to push for a ban of his music (thus conveniently avoiding the issue of racial disunity and how it can be overcome).

The best response to Wiley’s rant is not to chastise or alienate Wiley, or to label him as equivalent to the far right; it is to reflect seriously on the issues that have been raised and to move forward in the spirit of unity. While we fight amongst ourselves, the power structure of this country (which is overwhelmingly rich, white and male) laughs itself silly and enjoys the thought that nobody is going to seriously challenge it any time soon.

Jasiri X and M1 – We Shall All Be Free

Wooooiii! Check out the new banger from Jasiri X and the legendary M1 from Dead Prez. With the Middle Eastern masses rising up against brutal regimes and the even more brutal western regimes that back them, this track is as relevant as it gets: “Let our forming be a warning to every brutal regime”. Militant lyrics backed by a militant beat from Drum Gang Productions. Give me this over some pretend-gangsta-just-watched-Scarface corporate rap any day!

Lyrics (via Allhiphop):

Jasiri X

Revolution’s not an act it’s an actual fact
an idea that burns until it turns blacker than black
the truth bearer new era like the back of ya hat
the true terror who’ll scare ya without packing a gat
through the barrier one carrier then it spreads like malaria
bury us with no fear of oppression every tear is a weapon
When God hears it a blessin’
Every tyrant is destined to die that’s connected to violent aggression
if arrested remain silent when questioned the wisest lesson
Freedom’s the highest expression of life in the present
that’s why worldwide the riots are spreading
A righteous message like God set the fires from heaven
Uprising we done crying the young riding
when people get the power dictators go run hiding
we just trying to live like human beings
when we protest in peace police shoot up the scene
look at your computer screen you can see it right through the stream
Let our forming be a warning to every brutal regime


It’s a simple math equation it’s scientific OK
you put the power in the hands of the people its liberation
and even if you take it away its multiplication
repression breeds resistance and this is our situation
I’m an expert on exploitation master of ghetto misery
a miracle of modern enslavement given our history
the fire through the wire bullets bombs and the liars
the snitches the counterinsurgency mad vicious
they kill us the freedom fighters but can’t kill the revolution
they put crack in our community laughing like it’s amusing
but I don’t see nothing funny the crackers that’s on the money
they only wanna keep us mis-educated like Sonny
They see how we never give up and wonder just how we do it
f#ck a roach we’re the scarabs the beetle up out the ruins
you can hear it in our music is resilience part of our experience
you can call it the freedom experiment
you hear it but do you feel it
either join with it or fear it
but I want it in my lifetime period.

Follow Jasiri X on Twitter
Follow M1 on Twitter
Check out Jasiri’s Bandcamp page
Download Dead Prez’s latest mixtape, Revolutionary But Gangsta Grillz

Booming acappella from Nekz – must watch!

Check the inspiring lyrics, passion and sick flows from my brother MC Nekz. This 19-year-old West London rapper is destined for big things in 2011, without a shadow of a doubt.

Follow Nekz on Twitter
Free download: Who’s Nekz? (mixtape)
Add Nekz on Facebook

Tribute to Patrice Lumumba on the 50th anniversary of his assassination

Patrice Lumumba

Patrice Lumumba

Malcolm X, speaking at a rally of the Organisation of Afro-American Unity in 1964, described Patrice Emery Lumumba as “the greatest black man who ever walked the African continent. He didn’t fear anybody. He had those people [the colonialists] so scared they had to kill him. They couldn’t buy him, they couldn’t frighten him, they couldn’t reach him.”

This was three years after Lumumba was assassinated by Belgian mercenaries in the breakaway state of Katanga (southern Congo).

Why was Lumumba killed? Because he was a relentless, dedicated, intelligent, passionate anti-colonialist, Pan-Africanist and Congolese nationalist; because he had the unstinting support of the Congolese masses; because he stood in the way of Belgium’s plan to transform Congo from a colony into a neo-colony.

Until the mid-1950s, the nationalist movement had been dominated by the small Congolese middle class. It was not a radical movement; it was composed of clerical workers, mid-level army officers, supervisors and so on, who were getting a cut of the enormous profits Belgium was making out of Congo. They opposed direct colonialism in the sense that they disliked white rule and were sick of being second class citizens in their own country; however, the basic economic institutions of colonialism suited them quite well. They were scared by the Congolese masses – the peasants, the workers, who worked in slave-like conditions for a pittance, and who bore the brunt of the famines and the genocidal actions of the colonisers.

The masses wanted control. They wanted the Belgians out, not just moved from the front seat to the back seat. They didn’t want white oppressors to be replaced with black oppressors; they wanted freedom and justice; they wanted democracy; they wanted nationalisation; they wanted to be listened to; they wanted to rule.

Lumumba was the key figure in mobilising these masses. Joining the nationalist movement around 1955, he quickly grew disillusioned with the middle class elite and addressed himself to the most oppressed sections of society. The peasants and workers of Congo were constantly radicalising him. He developed a clear strategy for total decolonisation, to be brought about on the basis of broad political action by the masses.

In 1958, he and others formed the broad-based Mouvement National Congolais (MNC), which immediately established itself as the key organisation in the struggle against colonial rule.

The Belgians and their friends in the ‘international community’ were shocked by the pace of development of the nationalist movement. In the mid-1950s, Belgium – which had exercised the most vicious, murderous, plunderous rule over Congo – was confident that it would retain its African colony for at least another century. However, by 1959, the MNC had gained such popularity and credibility that the Belgians knew their time was up.

But they had a backup plan: to replace traditional colonialism (white rule, backed by a military occupation) with neo-colonialism (black rule in white interests, backed with Belgian money, advisers and mercenaries). That way, Belgium’s theft of Congo’s sumptuous natural wealth (including massive reserves of coltan, diamonds, copper, zinc and cobalt) would continue uninterrupted.

Reading the writing on the wall, the Belgians decided to grant independence much sooner than anybody was expecting, in the hope that they would prevent the further growth of the nationalist movement; that it would be denied the chance to develop a coherent organisational structure and would therefore be heavily reliant on Belgium’s assistance. However, Lumumba had rallied the best elements of the nationalist movement around him and clearly had no intention of capitulating.

At the independence day celebrations on 30 June 1960, Belgian King Baudouin made it perfectly clear that he expected Belgium to have a leading role in determining Congo’s future. In his speech, he chose not to mention such unpleasant moments in history as the murder by Belgian troops of 10 million Congolese in 20 years for failing to meet rubber collection quotas. Instead he advised the Congolese to stay close to their Belgian ‘friends’: “Don’t compromise the future with hasty reforms, and don’t replace the structures that Belgium hands over to you until you are sure you can do better… Don’t be afraid to come to us. We will remain by your side and give you advice.”

He and his cohort were therefore shocked when Lumumba, newly elected as Prime Minister, took the stage and told his countrymen that “no Congolese worthy of the name will ever be able to forget that it is by struggle that we have won [our independence], a struggle waged each and every day, a passionate idealistic struggle, a struggle in which no effort, privation, suffering, or drop of our blood was spared.”

Referring clearly to Belgium, Lumumba stated that “we will count not only on our enormous strength and immense riches but on the assistance of numerous foreign countries whose collaboration we will accept if it is offered freely and with no attempt to impose on us an alien culture of no matter what nature”.

Lumumba, caring nothing for being polite to the Belgian dignitaries in the audience, concluded: “Glory to the fighters for national liberation! Long live independence and African unity! Long live the independent and sovereign Congo!”

Ludo de Witte writes of this historic speech: “Lumumba [spoke] in a language the Congolese thought impossible in the presence of a European, and those few moments of truth feel like a reward for eighty years of domination. For the first time in the history of the country, a Congolese has addressed the nation and set the stage for the reconstruction of Congolese history. By this one act, Lumumba has reinforced the Congolese people’s sense of dignity and self confidence.” (The Assassination of Lumumba)

The Belgians, along with the other colonialist nations, were horrified at Lumumba’s stance. The western press was filled with words of venom aimed at this humble but brilliant man – a man who dared to tell Europe that Africa didn’t need it. The French newspaper ‘La Gauche’ noted that “the press probably did not treat Hitler with as much rage and virulence as they did Patrice Lumumba.”

In the first few months of independence, Belgium and its western allies busied themselves whipping up all kinds of political and regional strife; this led to pro-Belgium armies being set up in the regions of Katanga and Kasai and declaring those regions to be independent states. This was of course a massive blow to the new Congolese state. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Belgians (along with their friends in France and the US, and with the active support of the UN leadership) developed plans for a coup d’etat that would remove Lumumba from power. This was effected on 14 September, not even three months after independence.

But even under house arrest, Lumumba was a dangerous threat to colonial interests. He was still providing leadership to the masses of Congolese people, and he still had the support of the majority of the army. Therefore the Belgians connived with the CIA and with their Uncle Tom stooges in Congo to murder Lumumba. That Belgium is most responsible for Lumumba’s death is amply proven in Ludo De Witte’s book, The Assassination of Lumumba. Furthermore, the UN leadership was complicit, in the sense that it could very easily have put a stop to this murderous act.

Lumumba, along with three other leading nationalists, was assassinated by firing squad (led by white Belgian officials in the Katangan police force), after several days of beatings and torture.

When the news of Lumumba’s murder broke, there was outrage around the world, especially in Africa and Asia. Demonstrations were organised in dozens of capital cities. In Cairo, thousands of protesters stormed the Belgian embassy, tore down King Baudouin’s portrait and put Lumumba’s up in its place, and then proceeded to burn down the building.

Sadly, with Lumumba and other leading nationalists out of the way, the struggle for Congo’s freedom suffered a severe setback which was not to be reversed for over three decades.

There are a lot of important lessons to learn from this key moment in the history of anti-colonial struggle; lessons that many people have not yet fully taken on board. As Che Guevara said: “We must move forward, striking out tirelessly against imperialism. From all over the world we have to learn lessons which events afford. Lumumba’s murder should be a lesson for all of us.”

To this day, western governments and media organisations use every trick in the book to divide and rule oppressed people, to stir up strife, to create smaller states that can be more easily controlled. To this day, they use character assassination as a means of ‘justifying’ their interventions against third world governments – just look at how they painted Aristide in Haiti, or how they paint Chavez, Castro and many others. To this day, ‘UN intervention’ often means intervention on the side of the oppressors. To this day, the intelligence services use every illegal and dishonest means to destabilise and cause confusion. We all fall for these tricks far too often.

On the bright side, the past decade has been one of historic advances; advances that point the way towards a different and much brighter future. The political, economic, military and cultural dominance of imperialism is starting to wane. As Seumas Milne pointed out at the recent Equality Movement meeting, the war on terror has exposed the limits of western military power. Meanwhile, the economic crisis has started to discredit the entire neoliberal model. The rise of China, the wave of progressive change in Latin America, the emergence of other important third world players – these all indicate a very different future.

In Congo itself, progress is being made, although it often seems frustratingly slow (principally because the west is still sponsoring armies in support of its economic interests). But, as De Witte writes, “the crushing weight of the [Mobutu] dictatorship has been shaken off”. We can’t overstate the importance of this step.

As we all move forward together against imperialism, colonialism and racism, we should keep Lumumba’s legacy in our hearts and minds.

“Neither brutal assaults, nor cruel mistreatment, nor torture have ever led me to beg for mercy, for I prefer to die with my head held high, unshakable faith and the greatest confidence in the destiny of my country rather than live in slavery and contempt for sacred principles. History will one day have its say; it will not be the history taught in the United Nations, Washington, Paris, or Brussels, however, but the history taught in the countries that have rid themselves of colonialism and its puppets. Africa will write its own history and both north and south of the Sahara it will be a history full of glory and dignity … I know that my country, now suffering so much, will be able to defend its independence and its freedom. Long live the Congo! Long live Africa!” (Lumumba’s last letter to his wife, Pauline).

If you’re in London, be sure to attend this event on Saturday:

Commemorate the death of Lumumba

Commemorate the death of Lumumba

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Patrice Lumumba
Towards a world without colonialism, imperialism and racism

Saturday 22 January 2011, 6-11pm
Inn On The Green, Ladbroke Grove
3-5 Thorpe Close, W10 5XL

Speakers include:

  • Dr Lez Henry (author, social anthropologist and community activist)
  • Marika Sherwood (author and historian).
  • Dan Glazebrook (radical journalist)

Performers include:

  • MC Logic
  • Trozion
  • Big Cakes
  • Nekz MC
  • Asheber
  • Sky Montique
  • Mangaliso Asi
  • Alaa Kassim
  • Sanasino Al-Yemen

More information can be found at the Facebook event page.

Album review: Mentalist – Make You Proud

Mentalist - Make You Proud

Mentalist - Make You Proud


Woaaaah, this album surprised me! Great vibes, endless positivity, consciousness, black pride, family responsibility, social responsibility, fresh flows and ‘golden era’-style beats overflowing with soul. And it’s a free download! Massive respect to Mentalist for this (and hats off to his producers – Mentalist has brought in some of the best in the game, including Loudmouth Melvin and Knite 13).

‘All Rise’ is definitely one of the standout tracks of the album – a heartfelt message from a conscious Afrikan man to his brothers and sisters to overcome 500 years of physical and psychological enslavement:

Growing up, I didn’t know enough
The school system never taught me what the f***ing world has owed to us
Slavery’s barely mentioned
Amazed me when I see mainly blacks up in detention
So I did my research
Heard King’s words
Apartheid made my heart cry, how the beast work
I’m filled with sadness that they hit us with the sickest lashes
They think we’re savages to take us through the middle passage
But we were kings once
We need to fix up
So I always keep my right arm fist up

On ‘Sacrifice’, Mentalist gives a refreshingly honest take on the life of an unsigned rapper who chooses to put his family first:

See I’m struggling to make it into work on time
Knowing that I’ve got to work, I’d rather work on rhymes
Cos rent’s going up and food prices is rising
To help out me doing my music, I be grinding
I’d rather work three jobs, keep my family living
Or they label me a slob and live off the handouts they giving
And for me, shotting would never ever be my decision
Could never pump this poison to these women and these children

This album is straight onto my playlist, and I’m definitely hoping to see videos to some of these tracks soon!

Download the whole album for free here
Follow Mentalist on Twitter
Follow Loudmouth Melvin on Twitter
Follow Knite 13 on Twitter

New Saigon leak: The Greatest Story Never Told (single)

Check this fresh new leak from Saigon’s forthcoming album, The Greatest Story Never Told. Some amazing lyricism and thought-provoking ideas on this one.

Excepts from the lyrics:

I rap about politicians, how money’s their acquisition
To get it they gotta keep us without a pot to piss in
Strugglin’ to survive, 9-to-5, ain’t making it
Turn on the TV, all I see is celebs taking it
Feeling like they got all the bread but they ain’t breaking it
I’m taking it as soon as I find the oven where they baking it

We was brought here to pick the cotton
Now we picking the music for massa to listen to
The clothes in which he rockin’
We don’t drive a hard bargain
All we want back is crack, some more gats
And some more of that bullshit rap
The crime rhyme is still black on black
We need a leader like me to get us back on track
When y’all make them dis records do you know what you’re doing to black community?
Market and promote the fact that we lack unity
Them white people look at you and laugh
You look like a porch monkey boy dancing for cash
Wanna get on a record and talk trash
See him at the awards and don’t do shit but walk past

If I bust a gun in the hood I get Attica or the Cat
I bang a gat in Iraq I get a pat on the back
Best believe I know better than that
This a lesson for all my listeners – shit ain’t just regular rap
It’s the greatest story that ever been spat
It’s gonna teach the hood and at the same time make my pockets elephant fat
Go ahead with all the irrelevant rap
Me and my ni**a Just Blaze bring the true element back

‘The Greatest Story Never Told’ drops on 15 February. I for one cannot wait!

Don’t give up, just rise up! Durrty Goodz – ‘Childhood’

Check this phenomenal track from Durrty Goodz (a brilliant and massively underrated rapper) about the trials and tribulations faced by many kids on the estates: friends getting shot, relatives addicted to hard drugs, schools teaching nothing but irrelevant facts, broken families, and lack of opportunities.

The concept is very innovative: you hear Durrty in conversation with various young people from his area, discussing their problems with them. Here’s an excerpt from the first verse (child’s voice is italicised).

So what d’you wanna be?
Mmm, I ain’t sure yet, but trust me you ain’t asking no fool
I just passed my SATs, soon be in the last year of school
Probably go college, go uni, do my masters and all

Gwaan blood, that’s what I like to hear
So what’s your school sayin’, does it teach you about life out here?
Does it teach you when you leave there will be strife out here?
With peeps breeding and conceiving off the white out here?
Ya laughing, but it’s not right out here
Every day’s another struggle and a fight out here
They’d better teach you how to stand up for your rights out here
Cos they don’t teach you how to go to sleep without nightmares
Do they teach you this?
No, they don’t talk about that
Or talk about crack, or talk about black,
Or how we can try and make our way out these flats
They give speeches on the death of Macbeth and that
(Oh my gosh) And I couldn’t care less cos that be wack
I’d rather listen to rap, then teachers should get the sack

Yeah, I feel you blood, but ‘ere wot, don’t get all flared up
I’m a give you a lickle advice to get prepared up
I see you got the hustle but for you to get the bread up
When you see the feds, duck, but walk with your head up

Towards the end of the track, you find out that instead of speaking to other young people, he is in fact speaking to himself, reflecting on his own childhood and how he made something of his life in spite of poverty and prejudice.

They don’t know that mathematics for me is a quick task
But to flow poetry I used to ditch class
But you can make a pretty future out of shit past
Do you believe me, kid? Kid?
Shit, I’ve been talking to myself again
Daydreaming as I been walking by myself again
Thinking what I came to be, cos that kid was me

Don’t give up; rise up!

You can download Durrty Goodz’s album ‘Born Blessed’ for free from his website

Return top