The Hackney Weekend’s lineup proved that hip-hop artists have little difficulty finding their mainstream flow. On Saturday night, Nicki Minaj spat her brand of hip-hop pop before Jay-Z took to the stage, while on Sunday Britain’s Plan B –back in the arms of his first love, hip-hop, having left the crooning and smart suits of his Strickland Banks era behind him–Professor Green and Tinie Tempah will warm the stage by the Olympic Park for headliner Rihanna. “This is hip-hop’s moment,” said 1Xtra DJ and hip-hop artist Charlie Sloth. “For the BBC to acknowledge that hip-hip is the dominant force in modern culture is huge.”This weekLast week, Ben Cooper, head of Radio 1, said of the Hackney Weekend: “We’re going into an area that I don’t think any commercial operator would have gone into after the unrest of last year. That is the job of the BBC.”
Sloth added that local boys Labrinth–born and raised with nine siblings in Hackney–and Tottenham rapper Wretch 32 playing alongside stars like Jay-Z would send a positive message to the crowd, many of them residents of one of London’s poorest boroughs, who were given priority in the ballot for free tickets. “Seeing these artists up there, coming from the same place as they come from–it gives them hope, it shows what they can achieve.”
But for youth worker turned government youth adviser Shaun Bailey, the gangster lifestyle vaunted by some rappers creates a lack of respect for the black community. “You’ve got a few people who do live a fug-life, a gangster life, and everybody else with their faces pressed up against the glass. They get to see it all, they get to hear it all but they don’t have to suffer any of the consequences, any of the danger,” he said, in a video trailing the debate. “It says to our young people, someone messes with you–blow their head off, literally. And you need to ask yourself: are we building massive hip-hop revenues on the backs of our young dead people?”
- From “Jay-Z at Hackney Weekend: but does hip-hop degrade or enhance?” by Alexandra Topping
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