written by layla gibbons for jigsaw #8, summer '03
Musical Youth; Resistance is Retro?
66% of the population do not trust the present government. (Headline in today's daily Mirror)
during the war school children organized protest walk outs from schools all over London, meeting in Parliament Square at 2pm. according to most of the press the walk outs were mere affectation, kids trying to scam the day off school for a noble cause, which ultimately they did not know much about or care much about. a cover up.
before the war I went to a garage rave where one of the teenage crews performing, the More Fire Crew, did a song about kids they knew who had joined the army to escape ghetto life, and were now going to have to fight and maybe die for a cause they believed to be a cover up.
UK garage is a new-ish urban youth movement and sound, which combines the aesthetics of hip hop with skittish drum and bass beats and the lo fi Jamaican dance hall sound. The MCs and vocalists styles veer between hip hop and ragga/dancehall, reflecting the influence of hip hop on urban youth worldwide, and also their Jamaican roots.
it is truly underground, kids mostly get the music by taping pirate radio shows and trading these tapes, or buying tapes of raves from independent garage record shops. these places, like
http://www.independance.co.uk/ (which is in south London) also sell 12"s, which are mostly pressed up by the people that are on the records, one example being Wiley, of the roll deep crew, who presses all their records, and has sold something like 400,000 white labels out of the boot of his and his friends carsā refusing to use traditional distributors for fear of getting ripped off I guess?
most of the people involved in the scene are teenagers, some are in their early 20s, but it is a youth subculture that no media outlet has been able to infiltrate successfully.
some dance magazines have written articles on the more famous crews and MCs, but it seems to be a similar case to the days of early punk, when old style NME
writers would attempt to write about a music they had no understanding of at all.
it is based in the poorer parts of urban areas, in London the east end and south London, places like Hackney and Clapham and Battersea are where most of
the radio stations and crews reside, in tower blocks and housing estates.
the internet has also aided this explosion, one of my friends works at a youth centre in Battersea and says that kids come in to use the computers (which are there so they can make resumes and other such sensible things, ) to chat on garage websites and to listen to new tunes and new producers. There is one site that was up for a while where kids would post the music they had made in their bedrooms, and respected garage producers would offer them technical advice, and MCs would link up with them if they liked the track.
most kids seem to be into being both producer and MC and like dancehall, the music is really basic and fucked up, sounds like old keyboards and sony playstations are being used in bedrooms rather than elaborate 48 track studio lush dance remixes. it is raw and nasty sounding.
'grimy' is the keyword for these sounds, kids call music from 2 years ago like Boooo by Ms dynamite and sticky 'old school' , that is not a 'grimy' track, whereas I Luv U by Dizee rascall from last summer is.
most of the press about garage has pitted Ms Dynamite (who came from the scene, but put out an album, a little bit deeper, with no garage cuts on it, I think the American version has some of her old garage 12"s on the end of the last side, but it is pretty much r'n'b.) against crews like So Solid Crew and Roll Deep
Crew (who are the most popular), because she is outspoken against street violence and misogyny, whereas the crews are seen as glorifying hate and rage.
I grew up on an estate in west London, and I remember going to see Reggae sound systems like the mighty Jah Shaka at free summer festivals, I remember
watching kids breakdance at the community centre, listening to scratchy beat boxes and exploring the city. adventure playgrounds and basketball courts under the westway and free youth clubs with musical equipment and skate ramps.
crime and hate sell more papers than secret teenage underground movements. people don't see kids making their own scene, coming to their own conclusions, they see them skipping school, pretending they are against the war, they don't see a bedroom sound revolution, they see gangsters.
I grew up in a street with three different drug dealers, crack houses where most kids don't actually ever leave the estate, their entire social infrastructure is based here. I think I am one of two people who went to college. the yardie gun culture that permeates life here is despicable but it is reality. kids get shot and knifed and dragged
under, the world seems really small when your horizons don't expand beyond the area you grew up in, the garage scene gives kids a way to make their own horizons.
it is a macho scene but there are lots of cool girl MCs, like stush, who has a rad song called dollar sign.
it is a violent scene but kids know that and don't like it. if you talk to people involved in garage most of them wish the violence would cease, they see garage as a window out of the everyday brutality. plus if you actually listen to the lyrics they aren't exactly Dre and Snoop circa 92, most of them are more like battle raps, kind of old school more than gangsta. the media and government only focus on soundbites, they don't see kids setting up their own activities, like magazines and dance schools and applying for funding and grants.
kids here are connected to what's going on.
the only real apathetic scene is the whole New Rock Revolution thing that the NME has been endorsing, which is conservative and basically just about aping sounds, like listening to a stooges cover band playing over the sound system in a shopping centre somewhere.
the NME refused to get behind that anti war coalition,
which I thought was a pretty amazing development for shitty white indie music.
the youth that are resisting are the dispossessed, the disconnected.
the people of Britain do not support Bush and Blair, and vice versa.
layla's makes a fanzine called chimps, plays in a group with the Yaos called the shady ladies and is currently living in london, england.