Novelist’s “Tax the MPs” is highlighting a growing anti-establishment sentiment in today’s Grime scene.
Yesterday, UK grime poster-boy Novelist uploaded another heated instrumental to his soundcloud page – this one titled ‘Tax the MPs’. The track starts off with an all too recognisable sample of David Cameron spewing some nonsense about schools and the NHS; layered with a clip of someone screaming “Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!” behind it. From here on the beat kicks in, and novelist’s skills as a producer take centre stage.
While resentment of the establishment is never far in grime culture, be it political or musical establishment, the lack of context this latest example displays just how pervasive a resentment it is; all that is necessary for the tune to ‘make sense’ is a short sample of David Cameron talking about something completely unrelated to the titled intentions behind the track.
Does this title even make sense? No. Does it need to for its message to be conveyed? Absolutely not. The beat follows on from the sample’s desired interpretation – dark, aggressive grime beats with a melody that sounds like crisis.
This isn’t the first time Novelist has parred the UK government to artistic effect. In January, he released a tune called ‘street politician’, again sampling Mr Cameron’s rhetoric; here with more overt context to the message being sprayed over the track by Nov. He’s even made an instrumental simply titled ‘David Cameron’ – give it a listen and take a guess at the feelings harboured by the young grime artist towards the current PM. It doesn’t need to be spelt – or even written – out.
The important point here is that while he has form addressing the current government and parliament – Novelist doesn’t have, nor should He have, a reputation as a ‘political’ artist. His vocalised and synthesised dissatisfaction with current governance is a single dimension to his work, and is in no way his defining element. The use of such politicised concepts then should be in great contrast to his work more focused on street culture, surely?
The fact that this is not the case is one of the most interesting features that can be seen in grime’s recent re-invigoration. That status-quo critique is no longer restricted to the occasional ‘open your eyes the whole world is a lie’ style tune from your favourite strictly underground lyricist is a phenomenon worth taking note of. More and more of the message in grime today takes from a pervasive and well-founded disillusion with those power structures that can best be described as ‘the establishment’.
This isn’t to say that all of a sudden every rapper and MC has gone all revolutionary on us; again, this resentment isn’t a defining aspect of grime culture, but it is still very much visible. A good example of this is from Skepta’s recent anthem ‘Shutdown’
“Me and My G’s ain’t scared of police and don’t listen to no politician-
Everybody on the same mission and we don’t care about your Ism- and Schisms”
You might not remember this bar from the end of the first verse immediately; it’s not supposed to be an obvious cry of disgust against the ruling class. However, the mind-set behind it is far more than simple ‘F**k the police’ attitude adopted by MC’s past, it is a declaration of contempt for the establishment (whatever that really means) in all its forms, as well as a declaration of intent to exist outside of the lines drawn by this same establishment. A message pretty far removed from the bars of Terminator’s season 1 F64, I’m sure you’ll agree.
So to what do we owe this new, subversive dimension of grime? Unsurprisingly enough, 2 consecutive terms of Conservative austerity agenda has had a particularly damaging effect on the wellbeing of the communities where grime breeds (largely low income, ethnically diverse communities). As a result of this, cultural backlash is ever-increasing, and it becomes harder and harder for cultural expression within these communities not to take form as outcry against Tory rule. It is no longer ‘controversial’ or distinctly ‘rebellious’ to criticise the establishment in such communities, it is accepted as a given. This means that you do not have to have an image as a ‘rebellious’ grime artist to discuss political issues, a rebellious approach to ‘the establishment’ is now harder to avoid than to find. They are now, more than ever before, fundamental reference points to the culture of grime, and now accepted as an integral part of the genre’s ever changing landscape.
And that is the reason why Novelist can build an instrumental titled ‘tax the MP’s’, with no more context than a sample of David Cameron talking about the NHS and schools for 7 seconds, and not get slapped with a label as a ‘political artist’. His political standpoint is so common within his fan base, and the grime community as a whole, that making music with such politicised aspects is no longer a rebellious approach – grime has become a sound of rebellion to its very core.
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