9 Aug 2011

‘Music that matters’ as riots grip the UK

Rapper Guvna B pleads for young people to stop rioting but says he understands how deprivation can lead to violent depravity.

Guvna B

As the embers smouldered from a third consecutive night of rioting in London, rapper Guvna B did what came naturally to him: he wrote a piece that could be a soundtrack for his generation.

The 22-year-old Mobo award-winner’s socially conscious music has provided him with a credible platform from which to promote positive messages – and denounce the chaos of recent days.

“The way I can contribute is communicate with the youth. I really don’t think the people we see on the news are people that the youth can relate to. They are not listening to the politicians, to the commentators, so I hope they will listen to this.”

Guvna B, an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, met with David Cameron three months ago to warn him about the frustrations of young people in Britain’s deprived communities. Since then he has tried to contact Mr Cameron again, but has had no response.

His manager said that the prime minister may have become more receptive to a meeting, given the events of the last three nights.

But Guvna B’s new track, Hometown Riots, sidesteps the political establishment. It is a passionate condemnation of the “evil rising up” in London.

“Young people stop rioting, stop looting. Innocent people are suffering. This ain’t the way for your voice to be heard, it’s gone way too far,” Guvna B, whose real name is Isaac Borquaye, concludes at the end of the song.

Despite him denouncing the disturbances, he provides a different view to that of Home Secretary Theresa May, who says the rioters are the embodiment of “sheer criminality”.

“I think the behaviour is unacceptable, but it’s very naive to say it’s just based on just sheer criminality,” Guvna B said.

“This is about a lack of investment in youth and mistrust between authority and the youth. The Government have to start taking the youth seriously and relate to them, if we’re to avoid this chaos in the future.”

Guvna B meeting David Cameron

“These kids are looting because they are bombarded with consumerism on MTV – for example, flash cars, flash girls. There are no jobs in London so they see something for momentary pleasure and they grab it. Some people have no work ethic after years of hopelessness.”

The artist condemns the violence but believes it is essential to understand the factors that make a young person commit such violent and destructive acts.

“Added to the poverty, they don’t believe the authorities care about them, and their parents don’t seem to be caring too much either. They also have a lot to answer for. These kids need to be properly guided.”

Guvna B believes it is structural economic conditions and mistrust of authorities that create a hopeless environment, and it is a lack of ambition to overcome these circumstances that can turn deprivation into violent depravity.

“These kids have no ambitions – sometimes it has been knocked out of them. Then the Government tell them they have to give nine grand to go to university.”

“We need positive role models, positive people on television, telling young kids they can do something great with their lives.”

That great thing, for Guvna B, is music that matters.