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Free Speech - When music gets political

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James Emtage James Emtage | 14:40 UK time, Friday, 22 June 2012

Politics. Music. Music. Politics.

No, we’re not talking about the karaoke clubs of Westminster, we’re talking about the underlying political messaging that is seen all across the music industry. From Plan B to Riz Ahmed to back in the day of Public Enemy, it seems that politics really does sell when dropped to a beat and put on a mix tape.

In the wake of Ill Manors, Free Speech shot a debate asking how politics has influenced rap:

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What do you think? Do rappers have a political and social responsibility?

Meanwhile we’ve asked Robbie Wojciechowski, Music Editor of Live Magazine, to give
us his take on the politics of music.



The lines of poet Kate Tempest, offer up some of the best metaphors to describe the political state we live in as young people, “we’re the tokens of the broken generation,” being my favourite. With the global revolution being the topic on everyone's lips, how is the climate for political music changing to match?

It’s easy to blame the protest, but that's a naïve perspective. So instead of offering a simplified conclusion, let's look at the voices of today's poets - the grime artists, and the musicians that set alight Britain's musical landscape.

For grime artist, P Money, it’s a question of battling against control: “Our generation is being born into an attitude where they’re told they’re never going to make it, because ‘grime’ is their voice. So there’s a natural anger.”

There’s an attitude amongst our generation that society sees youth expression as aggressive and unwelcome. So is it any surprise that aggression feeds into the passion of ‘grime’ as a genre? Grime may very well be the genre of the young and angry, but it’s not the only politicised music being written at the moment.

Take the music that fills our airwaves on radio and through television - pop music. Is that political? Jazz trumpeter and hip-hop artist Soweto Kinch seems to think so: “The most dangerous fiction is saying music is de-politicised. Pop music is intensely political; it’s exhorting people to see the world in a particular way."

If pop music is the metaphor for an idealistic society, then surely we’re all accepting political music constantly, in whatever landscape, class, or lifestyle we set ourselves.

Music is political, and always will be. Although it’s not something we’d directly relate to our everyday lives, it’s something that affects and controls us all. Maybe it’s a case that today’s artists are getting better at talking about politics?

So what do you think – is music getting more political, or has it always been politicised?

As always, we want to know what you think, so hop on to our Facebook and Twitter now to let us know, or leave us a comment in the space below. And on that rhyme, it’s over to you.





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