Sisters of Resistance are huge fans of Lowkey. Soundtrack to the Struggle is, in our opinion, easily the best UK hiphop album of 2011 and we were honoured to host a night of his album tour. Whether you get the album via download or hardcopy, you will definitely not regret it. Lowkey’s big boy bars, well produced beats, moral integrity, political consciousness and dedication to fighting for equality and justice are inspiring and uplifting. He stays close to the original objective of hiphop employing it to “empower the powerless” and to provide a vehicle of expression for the voiceless. Lowkey has taken an active stand against British imperialism and the war machine, criticising the so-called “war on terror” in Terrorist?, exposing and condemning the UK military industrial complex in Hand on Your Gun. He recently wrote a Guardian article speaking out about police racism and the criminalisation of hiphop.
In sharp contrast, Westwood lacks even the most basic understand of the history of hiphop and he has actively promoted the military occupation of Afghanistan. His insensitive and unsuccessful attempts to imitate, steal or misappropriate a mainstream version of hiphop culture, despite his evidently rich, white and privileged background, are cringeworthy.
Below, we have cross posted an excerpt from Lowkey’s article in the brilliant Ceasefire magazine (@ceasefire_mag) explaining why he refused to appear on Westwood’s show.
Lowkey rightly focuses on Westwood’s involvement in war propaganda but Sisters of Resistance would like to briefly share an anecdote which confirms that artists with moral integrity such as Lowkey have no place in the company of such morally bankrupt careerists as Westwood. Many years ago, I attended a Westwood event at a club in East London. Westwood spent the night screaming “b*tch” and “wh*re” down the microphone in a desperate and unsuccessful attempt to create an image of street credibility and gain acceptance from the predominately black crowd. The “joke” began when Westwood offered free champagne to the first woman to present herself to the stage. When no one responded to his request, Westwood repeatedly begged for a woman to come to the stage simply to pick up some giveaway champagne. When a young black woman did eventually approach the DJ booth, Westwood played the then popular (I said that this was a long time ago) Ludacris song “Ho.”For the rest of the evening Westwood spewed racist and sexist hatred on the mic creating a strong atmosphere of misogyny in the nightclub. Westwood is only interesting in promoting himself. Many have never forgiven him for his delayed response to grime music and homegrown UK talent, refusing to play or promote it for many years. And as Lowkey makes clear, Westwood’s promotion of the military occupation of Afghanistan is inexcusable and a further reason for true hiphop heads to completely ignore the increasingly irrelevant, politically offensive BBC DJ.
Earlier this month, Lowkey, one of the UK’s leading hip hop artists turned down an invitation to appear on TimWestwoodTV, the influential YouTube channel hosted by Tim Westwood, arguably UK Hip Hop’s biggest name. In an exclusive piece [for Ceasefire] , he explains why.
Being not only a Hip Hop artist but a life-long fan of the genre, I have, like many others, been very familiar with Tim Westwood. As a young boy, I remember listening to his show on Capital FM and have since spent the majority of my almost decade-long musical career trying to get a spot on his BBC Radio1/BBC 1xtra show. For a long time, an appearance on the show was – and, to some extent, remains – the benchmark for any aspiring Hip Hop or Grime MCs. For many rising artists, you were only considered relevant if you had been acknowledged by Westwood. Moreover, whenever Westwood chose to champion a particular artist, throwing his weight behind their career, big success was almost guaranteed.
Yes, his clout as the self-described “gatekeeper” has declined over the past three years, due to the rise of independent media like SBTV and Grime Daily and, more recently, the progression of Radio 1’s Hip Hop DJ Charlie Sloth. Nonetheless, turning down an invitation to appear on Tim Westwood TV, as I have done this month, was not a decision I could take lightly.
As far as I am aware, Tim Westwood’s first visit to the occupying military base ‘Camp Bastion’, in Afghanistan, was in early February 2011. In contrast to his later trip in May 2011, this one seemed to be in a more personal capacity, he had remarked of the British troops stationed there that they were “really making a difference to the world” and that he felt he had a “moral duty to come out”. He also vowed to “come back with Radio 1”. And come back he did. […] Why should BBC Radio 1Xtra listeners be subjected to this propaganda? […] The reality is that the MOD and the BBC need to sell an increasingly unpopular military adventure to the youth of this nation, so they use a character of dwindling relevance by getting him to broadcast his live show from the heart of the occupation itself.
A small group of Sisters of Resistance recently spent an evening talking about OG Niki, real name Nikesha, and listening to her interviews, ‘spit your game’ and her tunes. Here we reflect on this discussion and offer our support to her and other young women who’ve had similar experiences. We also look at some of the underlying issues raised by her lyrics and peoples responses to them.
This is the first in a regular column featuring – who else? – women we admire. Today we feature Erykah Badu, one of the foremost musical artists of our time and one of SoR’s favourite singer/songwriters. Attending her concert in London July 2010 was one of the founding experiences of SoR. She gave us the conviction that we too could speak truth to power. Vegan, pro-woman, spiritually enlightening and politically empowering, Ms Badu is a massive inspiration to us all.
What she has accomplished: While her discography so far is already a life time achievement, with her last two albums Badu manages to surpass herself. New Amerykah Part 1 (4th World War) and Part 2 (Return of the Ankh) take the listener on an incredible auditory journey; the lack of wider success can only be explained with the notion that Badu is before her time. Through her genre-shattering combination of hip-hop and neo-soul she delivers subtle political messages that are never imposing or moralising. You could listen to her song “Soldier” and miss the anti-war message; but the one-line is enough to convey the sentiment: “to my boys in Iraqi fields, this aint no time to kill.” In the same song, Badu also briefly refers to women’s sexual and mental health issues, expresses her support for industrial action “to my folks on the picket line, don’t stop til you change they mind” and repeatedly condemns police brutality and corruption. The mantra that begins “The Healer” poetically envokes numerous deities before asserting that hiphop is bigger than religion and “bigger than the government.” Badu suggests that, as a vehicle through which the oppressed can articulate and organise against their oppression, hiphop has the potential to heal the wounds inflicted by the system; wounds which historical forms of governance and traditional religion have both failed to address. Rejecting the materialism and commercialism endorsed by other more mainstream female artists, Badu instead speaks out for her people.