Culture minister Kim "The
Conscience" Howells has
recently been branded racist
and ignorant due to comments he
made regarding "idiots" of rap culture.
These "idiots", according to Mr
Howells, are responsible for "glorifying
gun culture and violence," citing
garage outfit So Solid Crew as a
prime example. While these outbursts
arenít exactly racist, branding
them ignorant is almost a compliment
to Kim Howellsí obviously
thoughtless rant. These statements
are insulting to the studentship of
Great Britain who embraces rap/hiphop
every day of their lives, from
Nelly and KRS One to Jay-Z and Ms.
The law of averages would agree
that some gun crime idiots should exist
among rap fans, but relating such a relatively
extreme and abnormal incident
to a popular medium like rap is to
abandon all faculty of thought. He
claims his children have listened to rap
for the past 10 years, yet there have
been no reports of the Howells progeny
riding shotgun in daddyís Passat,
leaving shell casings at the leafy suburban
murder scene. It doesnít take
genius to realise the murders of
Charlene Ellis and Latisha Shakespeare
Birmingham on New Yearís Eve were
socio-economic issue rather than an
issue of musical preference.
If violent rap lyrics as an art form
are being made a scapegoat, then
surely this reflects badly on all the arts
that have slightly provocative messages.
Itís a surprise the thriving porn
industry hasnít been singled out for
blame where rising teenage pregnancy
and STDs are concerned. The
Sopranos hasnít been pulled from
our screens for shamelessly glamourising
organised crime. One only
needs to stare briefly out of their windows
to notice that reality is often
stranger than fiction, man bites dog
and all. The bottom line is that the
people of Great Britain have experienced
enough of this kind of art to be
able to tell the difference between
real-life and fiction. This includes listeners
of rap music.
Statistics are widely available showing
how popular rap is in white suburbia,
and equally so in inner city estates.
What black people face is a serious
image crisis. If black people are more
likely to live in deprived areas, more
likely to be victims and perpetrators of
crime, it is due to economics, not skin
colour. People would move out of
these areas if they could, except that
economics, once again serve as a barrier.
More so, black people are more likely
to be associated in the media to
these disconcerting elements of life.
Turkish and Albanian gangs in London
commit gun crime, rest assured they
will not be sponsoring your next hiphop
gig. None of this makes Kim
Howells a racist, just a man who
speaks before thinking.
The saddest thing is that the recent
shootings prompted a debate which
started years ago in the United States.
That Great Britain has actually arrived
at a stage where it has to debate the
relationship between music and violence
shows a decline in society.
might have been hoped that after the
Dunblane massacre gun crime would
dissipate, or at least not reach proportions
where New York and London are
being compared for violent crime.
Hopefully the events of New Yearís Eve
will mark a defining moment, signaling
the beginning of an end to this sad
episode in British history.