Friday, 27 February 2015

Why there weren't any blacks at the Brits + Kanye thing a bad look?

I wasn't even gonna address this but I had a vibes to so here it is.

Everybody's been asking why there weren't any blacks at the Brits, so I thought I'd give a few answers based on what I see happening out there today. Most of the people asking the questions will happily admit they don't follow what's happening in the national charts. How does that even make sense then? In an ideal world, you should have a little bit of knowledge before speaking on things you don't know. Otherwise, you're just spouting ignorance.

First things first, the Brits is there to celebrate the best of what's happening in the charts for a particular year. How they measure that, I don't know, but that's what it's meant to do. I also don't know the criteria for nominations, but whatever. Black artists accounted for a grand total of two nominations. George The Poet for Brits' Critics Choice and FKA Twigs in the Best Female category. Neither won.

The better question is where are the black Brits in the charts? As I said, Brits, like most awards are (at least meant to be) a reflection not dictator. We've all got opinions, let's bring some facts: Fuse ODG was the only black act to score more than two entries in the top 40 for the whole of 2014 with his three top 10s "Million Pound Girl" (#5), "Dangerous Love" (#3) and "TINA" (#9). That's it. (I did tell you he was the best black Brit from May last year, I swear? Oh yeah, click here)

Lethal Bizzle had a great year for an independent artist with "The Drop" and "Rari Workout" hitting top twenty. It's a struggle to name black artists with notable chart achievements last year outside of those two. Labrinth's also had two entries, but even he would probably agree that both songs underachieved.

Those were the most successful in singles artists last year. What in the above do you see as "black artists have done enough to be there?" "Dangerous Love" by Fuse ODG featuring Sean Paul (produced by Stephen "Di Genius McGregor and Killbeatz) was 56th best-seller last year. That's the best black and urban music achieved. His dancehall song "Million Pound Girl" was 82nd. Those are the only two entries for black Brits. And Fuse ODG didn't even have his award presented on TV at the MOBO Awards so what does that say?

Wanna know how many black Brits made the best selling albums of 2014? A grand total of 0. Zip. Zilch. Scored nil pois. I think FKA Twigs was probably best seller. But I wouldn't be surprised if Emeli Sande's two year old album outsold it.

So taking all of that into consideration, it could be argued that black Brits overachieved in the nomination stakes. While I'd say Fuse deserved a nomination (Best Single or Best Breakthrough), I know I'm saying that from a subjective standpoint because I like his songs and believe in what he represents.

And this is what we need to understand, these people are massive to us from where we stand, because of the fight it takes to reach a certain level of popularity, however we need to get some perspective. These people on the panel don't take that into consideration and why should they?

Which leads me on to my next point; we're living in some dark times (no pun intended) where black people want inclusion in mainstream awards just because its black. That, to me, is supporting tokenism. Either put me there on merit or not at all. Don't put me there because it looks good for you/meeting ethnic minority quotas. What kinda something is that?

People give awards power not the other way. If we decide it's worthless, don't tune in and don't even talk about it, they mean nothing. We should know, look at most of our awards shows. We don't support them, they don't exist. How about we change the convo and work with our ones? How about we support our artists fiscally and physically instead of chatting about them when it comes to awards time? That means more than awards.

And a next thing re: Kanye's performance. Is it a good look for the scene? Potentially, it depends on how it develops. I tell you who it is great for - Skepta. He's had so much free promotion these two weeks from Drake and Kanye that his album will smash it if it is released next week as planned. The industry loves a co-sign. If it opens doors for him, it can open doors for the rest as a result. We all know grime is on the cusp, this could be exactly what it needs. The credible exposure in the industry's eyes. It's good to see BBK headlining the Radio 1 stage at Reading and Leeds festival this summer. I don't care about charts, just as long as they get festivals, shows and eat nicely, it ain't a bad thing. Big up Red Bull cos them winning the Culture Clash did a lot. (If it takes Kanye and Drake co-sign for you as a regular person from London to rate Skepta and your culture in London, then you're a grade-A speng.)

Couldn't give a damn about the whole "glorifying gang crime" comments on Twitter by some ignorant people. Saying that though, Kanye's new art direction is inspired by the London riots. Also, it did show the levels that our artists are only

We all saw what Kanye did for afrobeats which was another movement on the cusp. People who didn't have a clue about afrobeats started writing in national press/mainstream sites and tweeting about it after he signed D'Banj. He gave it the stamp of approval it needed for people in offices who don't actually know what's happening in the world outside of their bubbles. And indirectly from that, we got our 2014 best-seller, Fuse ODG, who shifted a million records last year.

And let's not get it twisted, none of those guys deserved to be on the Brits stage based on merit. Skepta had to blag his way into the MOBO Awards when he won Best Video. Or do we want a return of the Best Urban award for the likes of Jessie J and Rita Ora to dominate? 'Cos there aren't any other genre-specific awards. There weren't any cutting edge artists up there. None from any of the various forward thinking electronic scenes, no rebellious rock acts, no genre-benders, nothing.

I'm more concerned with the MOBO's. It is their duty to promote and recognise talents within black and urban genres. Instead, they reward those who have already ascended to the highest of heights. MOBO's need to take ownership. Have a panel that decides, not open to people so its a popularity contest. None of the big, credible awards shows are voted for by the public. Charts are there for that. If people disagree, guess what? They disagree. Can't please everyone. Either that or don't nominate those extremely big pop stars.

The industry is a problem not awards shows. Many talented artists don't get the opportunity to learn the tricks you need to chart. But then, many in the industry don't believe in our movements because they don't see the money to be made from it. Why? Because the artists aren't exactly doing big shows or selling records. Twitter, YouTube and Facebook is cool but until you do what Krept & Konan did with their album charting, all that other stuff is interest not fans or supporters. But we live in a world where you can eat without being in the industry, so…

You can be Martin Luther on a "Please judge us the same way you judge yourselves" vibe or you can be Marcus Garvey with an "Emancipate your mind from mental slavery" state of mind. I prefer the latter. That whole world is irrelevant to me. Nobody will care next week. We don't care that Tinie and Dizzee won it, be honest. Dizzee winning the Mercury was much more of a moment.

As I said, perspective, innit. Look beyond YouTube figures and our channels. And remember, nobody judges based on where you came from, its about how high you reach.

Bless up and keep striving for better.

p.s. George Ezra walked away empty handed after four nominations despite having the third best-selling album last year. We made a big deal when Craig David lost to Coldplay, Robbie Williams x2, Fatboy Slim and best breakthrough to A1 (how?) in a year where he was 6th best-seller (albeit 2nd best alive English).

p.p.s. them Royal Blood fellas no one knew had the 22nd best-selling album in 2014

p.p.p.s. I would show you the vid but it isn't available on YouTube. Not sure why the Brits page didn't post it yesterday. Are we in 2015? I swear we are. Song's banging though

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Reggae Valentines Showcase (Freddie McGregor, Romain Virgo, Johnny Osbourne + more) was so live

So I went to the Reggae Valentine's show on Sunday night (15th February). First thing's first; big up the organisers - solid line up and nice change of venue. Too often these shows are just heritage acts at the Brixton Academy. The Academy is a big venue so it seems like promotors are limited with artists. Well, giving them benefit of the doubt.

Show started promptly at 7:30. Anybody that's been to a reggae show in the past will know how much of a big deal this is. Too often, Sunday night shows don't really pay attention to the fact tube finishes early, meaning a long journey back for people, who in some cases either miss the last half hour of the show or go across London on a mission. Leave's a bad vibe and people will eventually say they aren't going to Sunday shows as a result. Thankfully, this ended at 11pm on the dot!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

I spent Bob Marley's 70th at couple (free!) events in Kingston, Jamaica

So, as you should know 6th February is the day both Bunny Rugs from Third World and Bob Marley were born. Neither are with us in physical, however they're both strong in the world of music.

Bob Marley's birthday was celebrated with events across the island. I was fortunate to go to two. Maddest thing is I didn't even plan to be there for his 70th, I noticed the week before. Great coincidence. Must've been a blessing from the above.

February is reggae month in Jamaica, it begins with Dennis Brown celebrations as its his birthday on the 1st (I went down to Dubwise Wednesday for a tribute session. Big up Yardcoore) and there's loads of other events (including wicked ones for free) going on.

However, we're here to talk about Bob Marley's birthday celebrations. On the day itself, I went down to the Bob Marley museum at 56 Hope Road for the 'Legacy Continues' show. Very surreal experience. Like, I'm really at Bob Marley's house on what would've been his 70th birthday. And we were all there for the same reason, so it was a big community - Rasta's and baldhead's alike. Bob's a prophet. In years to come, there could be a religion after him. I mean, Rasta globally is more down to a love and raspect for Bob Marley than anything else if we're totally honest.

I walked in as percussionist Bongo Herman was on stage playing some songs - mainly covers and that of songs such as Sugar Minott "Oh Mr DC" and others. He was followed by the Uprising Roots band. Both delivered good enough performances for the slots.

Bob's famous blue Land Rover had been taken off display in the museum for a couple years as it was being restored. I know it's at least a couple of years because they mentioned it when I was there in 2013. I didn't even realise they would be unveiling the restored version on the day. It was only when I was told to get off a platform I stood on, I looked to my right and saw the Land Rover sign and they announced they'd be revealing it.

Friday, 6 February 2015

"We'll be forever loving Bob" Marley, the greatest, 70th hail up post

Title is a spin of "Forever Loving Jah", the penultimate track on Bob Marley's album, Uprising! It sits between "Could You Be Loved" and "Redemption Song". Interesting when you check it was to be his final album before his physical left the green garden known as earth.

Bob Marley is the greatest person to make music in history. His impact and legacy say everything you need to know. Yeah, The 70th best-selling album in USA last year. It was in the top 200 the year before. "Legend" spends more time in the UK top-selling 100 albums than out of it, nearing on Abba's 4th spot for longest reign in the top 75 ever. And you can find him on Spotify top 100 albums too. And the 5th richest dead celebrity.

But I'm just using those stats as an example of his pulling power today. He's able to outperform most artists making music today, let alone people who made it then. Bob died aged 36, thirty-four years ago. He's been gone for almost as long as he was here. And when you check he scored his first international hit, "No Woman, No Cry", a mere six years before his passing, the music has lasted almost six times longer.

But where Bob shines is the bits you can't take to the tills. The fact his words still have as great, if not greater impact today. The fact uni students still hang posters on the wall. The fact mural's are still painted on walls across the globe. The fact you can go to anywhere in the world with a Jamaica flag and they say Bob Marley (and Usain Bolt). The fact people non-black people grow dreadlocks even though it doesn't really fit their hair and criticised by peers. The fact Rasta is a strong form of hippy culture for non-blacks. The fact reggae is listened to, practiced and played by people all over the world.

Not to say he did it single-handedly, but he's by far the most powerful individual to spread it. We're talking a man who holds the record for most attendees at a show in Italy in one night - attracting over 100k. Stadium's across the world. The main reason he isn't shouted about loudly is because (the sometimes backwards) Americans didn't get him while he was alive. And you know they control media.

Bob's legacy is far greater than just a musician - that's what he did. Bob put his thoughts, philosophies, beliefs and observations into music. Music was the vehicle that drove all of that to the hearts, minds and souls of the people. 'Cos that's exactly who Bob is - the people's champion. Really, he said what most of us believe, hence why it resonates. The ability to talk about stuff average people call boring in a pop-friendly way without compromising on the message. I mean, how many others had a moment like when he performed "Zimbabwe" at the Zimbabwean independence? How many could? For the right reasons, not commercial.

The narrative of Bob is marijuana and happy-go-lucky, feel-good music. As great a collection and success Legend has been, it doesn't reflect Bob's full spectrum. That's a lot of people's starting and end point of Bob. While you have "Get Up, Stand Up", there isn't a "Crazy Baldhead" or "The Heathens" proper militant, anti-establishment anthems. No "Jah Live" or "Thank You Lord" for his spirituality. No "So Much Trouble In The World" or "Rat Race" observations of the world. And those are the more popular ones. There are many album cuts worth digging into. Blame the corporates for the softening of his image.

When you consider Bob Marley moved from a struggling family in the countryside to a Kingston ghetto, then rose to be this world famous superhero prophet who sang from a perspective and informed by a faith that was alien to majority of his supporters, there is no greater. His black rights message crossed boundaries more than any black man before him. We need to be taught about him in black history month. Where do I start a petition?

Time alone has told. Happy 70th Earthstrong. Cos in our hearts, ears and minds, Bob will never die.

You can read a conversation I had about Bob Marley with the Queen of reggae and I-Threes member, Marcia Griffiths here

And my "hits on top of hits" post here where I put loads of songs that used Bob Marley riddims to make hits.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

I also went to the (better) second night at Rebel Salute in Jamaica

So yeah, I said I'd give you second date review in the first night review post. I realised reaching so early the previous night was a mistake, so went at 1am, fully sleeped up after a long nap. Smartest move possible. I wanted to see Exco Levi and Cali P but so it go more time.

If the first sight was about intriguing performances, second night was about the artists I'm a fan of but UK reggae promoters don't see fit to bring them over. It's better seeing them in their natural habitat anyway.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

That time I went to Jamaican reggae festival Rebel Salute [First Night Review]

I've always wanted to go to Rebel Salute. For those who don't know, Rebel Salute is an event created by roots artist Tony Rebel. The now two-night (and morning) event is held in Ocho Rios since moving from St Elizabeth where it moved from about two years ago. This year was the 22nd staging of the event.

[Photo credit: Rebel Salute website]
Rebel Salute is a straight conscious music event. Even when they've booked Lady Saw, Bounty Killer and Mavado, all had to perform strictly clean and conscious material to fit the movement (yes, they do have enough suitable songs). No alcohol or meat is served - alcohol is confiscated at the gate. Drugs aren't allowed either. Herbs are cool though. Strangely enough, Red Bull are a big sponsor. Wouldn't have said they fit the ital description, but hey, so it go. Food stalls sell fresh fruit and pescetarian-friendly food.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Sting 2014 thoughts

Just gonna re-post my tweets here cos they sum up everything about Sting 2014.

"Sting was worse than I thought it would be [and that was bad]. Its the lack of professionalism and man taking on the war ting too far that kills it

Sting could be a great show on paper. Make the up comers work, reggae artists, clash vibes, then end it with the top man doing hits

Instead Laing gives us reggae artists, Capleton > EDHM > Tarrus > nobodies > clashes > nobodies > Demarco > Gully Bop > dead clashes

Killer, Cobra, Spice, Lady Saw and Ninja Man should be at Sting every year. They have Sting-friendly catalogues. I-Octane should be there too

Sting's problem is it no longer books headline artists to compensate for lack of worthy newcomers. That was a (lack of) new talent showcase

Capleton should've closed the show. I-Wayne penultimate performer/after the clashes. Would've softened the nonsense that came before it

In the end, we waited for nothing. Clashes are too unpredictable to have as the last impression so make sure you go out with a bang. Simple

Dancehall night at Sumfest is the best place for performances. Sting just has clashes, history + more cultural importance so stronger name"

Big up Sashae in the clashes against two women, Don Maestro against Likke Dainjah, Capleton, Tarrus Riley and Gully Bop. He isn't an artist to be taken seriously, he's there for fun and make us feel good. A man man would walk passed on the street and look down on, up there on the stage representing himself. He's like if Susan Boyle was a Jamaican dancehall deejay.