Grenfell Tower disaster, London rapper El Nino interviewed

This music video from London, England says about itself:

6 August 2017

Grenfell Tower’s Burning is the unrelenting new music video from Latimer/Ladbroke Grove rappers El Nino & CX4.

By Paul Bond in Britain:

Interview with rapper El Nino about “Grenfell Tower’s Burning”: “We had to watch that, so why shouldn’t they have to listen to us?”

28 August 2017

Following our recent review of some locally produced grime tracks about the Grenfell Tower fire the World Socialist Website spoke to one of the artists, El Nino. Our telephone conversation revealed in a small way how the horrors of Grenfell Tower have had an effect on certain witnesses and their art.

I noted in the original review that Grenfell Tower’s Burnin’ was the angriest of the tracks put out by artists from the area to date. The artist’s press release described the track as a “furious response” by eyewitnesses to the tragedy. This remains its greatest strength, and our discussion touched on this.

El Nino Cartel (centre)

This anger is not merely an individual response, and El Nino explained that he also aimed to bring people together around the track. The song was written “like an anthem,” with the aim that people could join in and share it: “The chorus is all there, so everyone can get shouting.”

This led to him being initially concerned that the video had appeared beneath a screenshot of a banner reading “Royal Murderers of Kensington and Chelsea”. That, he said, was only “one part of the message” of the track.

It may be only one part of the track’s message, I said, but it is an important one. He and Cx4 had performed the song in front of that banner at a protest on the steps of the town hall, which was a very powerful message. I asked if people had joined in the chorus then.

“It’s all in the video. Everything you see on the video, with the protest, is real and can’t be faked.” To my comment that the track focused popular anger, he insisted, “No one else is going to bring out a tune like that.”

For him the track is about bringing the community together around that anger, as “something that people want to stand up for… with a lot of meaning to it.”

Our conversation returned repeatedly to the distinction between the victims and the perpetrators, and their different class outlooks. Bringing the community together in the track was driven by the realisation that “Us as people, if we stand together, we can become stronger than the government, who’s at fault.”

Like other local residents, El Nino has seen how the survivors have been treated by the local authorities since the fire, for example, by making survivors bid against one another for properties:

“The survivors were there, and they had no support from the council or anyone. If it weren’t for the community, they would have just been left on the street like homeless people. So imagine if it happened to me, or to my family, after having to watch it happen.”

He is aware that there are limitations to an artistic response (“There’s only so much you can do”), but the song is “to bring people together and stand up for something they believe in.”

“The song’s not just about Grenfell Tower. It’s about what’s going on in the world. The rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer [a point made by Cx4 in the track]. Those type of people are from different backgrounds, they’re never going to understand. The person who’s in charge [Elizabeth Campbell, new head of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea], she’s never even been in a tower block! Completely different backgrounds!”

“We know that with a charge of corporate manslaughter, no one really goes to jail. But had that been any one of us, ordinary people who aren’t earning loads of money—where would we be?”

The track is also “expressing the anger” that complaints and warnings from Grenfell residents were ignored for so long: “These people warned you before it happened and you just ignored them.”

El Nino watched the Tower burn from his window. He is uncompromising about confronting those responsible with the effects of that night. “It wasn’t soft for us to watch, so why should it be soft for them? We had to watch that, so why shouldn’t they have to listen to us? You need to empathise, and actually have feelings towards what’s going on, but they don’t.”

El Nino’s understanding that these are not uniquely local problems is significant. He was interested to hear the responses internationally to our meetings and discussions on Grenfell. He was also aware of a “very positive” response to the track from a wider audience. This may be due to the subject matter, which is strikingly different to El Nino’s usual material.

By his own admission he was “not a conscious rapper.” He is still coming to terms with that shift, commercially as well as artistically. He told me that for the first time he has started to find music platforms that will not take his track.

His description of this as the first “conscious drill tune” is a recognition of a change, and he acknowledges that it is setting him new challenges artistically. “For me, it’s just made me a bit aware about the things I say, my music. That was my first conscious tune over a drill track. I’m going to try and make something else like that, but it depends on the topic. It’s kind of hard to talk like that over that genre of music.”

This is a difficult fix for an artist who has made such a leap. He faces the challenge of “What do I do next? Do I change it up a bit? Make it into what you like?”

He is aware that he can reach “all different types of people if they’re going through the same situation as the majority of people in London, or wherever.” It reflects the possibilities within grime, but the strength of this track lies in its lack of calculation of target audiences and its honesty about reality. That such questions are coming up is an indication of the beginnings of a shift in consciousness.


‘Alt-right’ neonazis, parody song

This 19 August 2017 parody music video from Britain is called Alt-Right Said Fred – “I’m Too Edgy”.

It is a parody of the song I’m too sexy (for my car) by British band Right Said Fred.

The lyrics are:

I’m too edgy for you cucks
Too edgy for you cucks
I’m redpilled as fuck

I’m too edgy for libtards
Too edgy for libtards
I’m alpha and hard
I’m too edgy for Reddit
Too edgy for Reddit
8chan is the shit

Live in my mother’s basement
Turned down a work experience placement

I’m too edgy for snowflakes
Too edgy for snowflakes
So edgy it aches

I’m a race realist, if you know what I mean
And I worship a cartoon frog god
Cartoon frog god, Pepe the frog god
It’s Kek the ancient Egyptian frog god

Donald Trump and white supremacy, parody song

This 16 August 2017 parody music video from Britain is called Trump Airplane – “White Supremacist Rabbit”.

It is a parody of the song White Rabbit, by Jefferson Airplane.

The lyrics are:

16 August 2017

Red pill makes you smarter
And blue pill makes you liberal
Down in your mother’s basement
You’re certainly in thrall
To the orange guy who wants to build a wall

If you chase white supremacist rabbits
Then you know you’re going to fall
Down white supremacist wormholes
Where Breitbart makes the rules
It’s fascist disguised as cool

When the men with the torches
Get up and tell you where to go
Bear in mind the President will blame you
When the two sides come to blows

It’s a free country, so anything goes
When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the white knights are marching onwards
If you don’t join them, you’re a dirty red
Remember what the President said:
Both sides are bad! Both sides are bad! Both sides are bad!”

God Save the Queen played in war-torn Libya

This video says about itself:

The UK’s national anthem as you’ve never heard it before – BBC News

25 August 2017

A Libyan military band tried to perform the British national anthem for the arrival of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson as he arrived in Benghazi.

These Libyans are warriors of warlord General Haftar, boss of one of at least three governments killing each other’s soldiers and civilians in NATO’s brave new Libya.

Dutch NOS TV reports today that Mr Johnson is the first NATO country politician ever to visit General Haftar, who, they say:

reigns in the east of the country and does not obey the UN-recognized [so-called] unity government in the capital Tripoli.

This is euphemism by the NOS. Warlord and [by now ex?] CIA asset Haftar not only does not only not recognize the Tripoli government, he has bloody fights with them.

Libyans respond to Boris Johnson’s ‘dead bodies’ comments: ‘He doesn’t know what he’s talking about’. Politician calls remarks ‘cruel and unacceptable’ amid calls for Foreign Secretary to be sacked: here.

London Grenfell Tower disaster and music

This music video from England says about itself:


8 August 2017

For September 2017 tour info and tickets: here.

Featuring vocals of Mai Khalil and Asheber.
Produced by Quincy Tones and Jo Caleb.
Mixed by Guy Buss.

Executive Producers: Fahim Alam, Tariq Chow and Lowkey.
Director: Fahim Alam.
Director of Photography: Jeffrey Celis.

By Paul Bond in Britain:

“The night our eyes changed”

Five musical responses to the Grenfell Tower inferno

16 August 2017

The June 14 inferno at Grenfell Tower has had a profound political impact. The death of at least 80 people was a cruel exposure of the reality of social relations between the classes and has laid the basis for developing a socialist political orientation among broad masses of workers and youth.

The tragedy has already triggered an artistic response from musicians. Music mogul Simon Cowell brought together a number of high-profile figures for a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, but a far more powerful and politically interesting response has come from local artists on the urban music scene.

Where Cowell’s record was an attempt to soothe and calm, the reaction of local performers has been marked by anger and an insistence on justice and naming the guilty parties. They express the need for the victims of capitalism to speak with their own voice. These tracks sometimes make for difficult listening, but indicate a growing politicisation of the grime scene.

Grime is an eclectic and innovative form of rap music, described by one commentator as “an amalgamation of UK garage with a bit of drum & bass, a splash of punk,” that has firmly established itself on the British urban music scene. Its descriptions of urban life have not always got beyond the gritty and everyday, but this gives it the potential to comment directly on immediate events and makes it well placed to make more directly political comment. Indeed it is no accident that the strongest part of Cowell’s charity single was the introductory verse by grime artist Stormzy.

Lowkey’s Ghosts of Grenfell is the most accomplished of the tracks to date. Like the other performers, Lowkey watched the horror unfolding on what he describes here as “The night our eyes changed.” He recounts the events he saw, the accounts of survivors and he names the victims.

There is a fine poetry in Lowkey’s words, his testament to those killed in “Rooms where both the extraordinary and the mundane were lived.” “Now it’s flowers for the dead and printing posters for the missing” is a powerful line.

Like the other tracks, Ghosts demands a community response, with Mia Khalil singing a chorus “Did they die or us? Did they die for us?” It identifies the forces behind the blaze, declaiming, “Oh you political class, so servile to corporate power”, and confronts them directly with their victims. At the end of the video survivors and locals hold up “Missing” posters under the Westway. They name the victims, asking the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) council directly where they are, before warning, “The blood is on your hands … Like a phoenix we will rise.”

It is a heart-wrenching moment—difficult to watch because of the tragedy it conveys so well, but also an inspiring call for defiance.

Lowkey is an articulate performer with a history of political activity. Long involved with the Stop the War Coalition and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, he endorsed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at the recent General Election.

Other local artists have also supported Corbyn. In an interview with the Guardian, grime artist AJ Tracey said his endorsement was based on the question of council housing. Others have identified with his empathy. As Shocka put it in his Grenfell Tribute, “He’s white, I’m black, Colour don’t change jack, Whenever something happens he’s there that’s a fact.”

That is in line with the basic human empathy expressed by all of the artists to the fire. …

This music video from Britain says about itself:

Shocka | Grenfell Tribute [Music Video]: SBTV

29 June 2017

After a few difficult weeks for us in the UK, Shocka brings us the realness. He’s currently raising money for the victims of Grenfell Tower, if you would like to support, download MyBusks and you can donate to his live performance of this track.

It’s time we use our talents to change the circumstances of those less fortunate.

The Paul Bond article continues:

There is a growing recognition that the situation facing working people and youth is worsening, demanding different, revolutionary responses. Shocka is explicit on this: drawing attention to sickle cell sufferers and mental health patients, he says, “Life’s getting tough for us, but you’ve got to keep fighting,” and later, “Even though there’s so much problems in the world, it’s kind of funny that the problems got us all uniting,” before stating quite bluntly that the smell of “revolution’s in the air, you just gotta take a whiff.”

In part this is because of the failure of all of the political forces “so servile to corporate power,” in Lowkey’s words. In the Guardian interview, AJ Tracey’s brother, Mickey, noted that there had been “no central government response, no local government response” to Grenfell Tower. While both brothers advised against rioting as an expression of anger (because it allows the ruling class simply to disregard its causes), they recognised its root in a frustration caused by peaceful protests being ignored or dismissed.

This brings out explicitly the question of class forces. Flow’s Grenfell Tower Tribute (Raise Your Head) opens with a rejection of talking about the authorities, addressing itself explicitly to the victims, “not the government.” Again, the social realities of class difference are recognised (“If the government starts thinking ’bout the money less, maybe we’ll wonder how to identify bodies less.”) The song’s call that this must not happen again prompts the urgent demand that “We need changes.”

This music video from Britain is called Flow – Grenfell Tower Tribute (Raise Your Head).

The recognition of class differences and working class community cohesion is common to many of the tracks. Grenfell Tower Tribute by Big Zuu, one of AJ Tracey’s collaborators, points to the rich sitting uncomprehending while the poor are struggling with the realities of daily life, and says “No wonder why there’s people there displaying rage.” Again, he draws a sharp distinction between “Community, the people power” and government: “this city’s ours.”

The song closes by insisting that the people died because they were poor in one of the richest cities in the world.

This music video from Britain says about itself:

Big Zuu – Grenfell Tower Tribute [Music Video] | GRM Daily

16 June 2017

West London MC Big Zuu has just dropped this poignant video in partnership with GRM Daily to pay tribute to the people who have lost everything – their possessions, their homes, their families.

The video is a collation of footage around the site and is a touching documentation of the amount of love our community has for one another.

Nothing can bring back what was lost but we can honour them in our memories and our art.

The Paul Bond article continues:

Probably the angriest response so far is Grenfell Tower’s Burnin by El Nino and Cx4.

Its video opens with a banner declaring, “The Royal Murderers of Kensington and Chelsea.”

Masked, as ever, they appeal to their local street community for determination and defiance: “LA/LBG [Latimer/Ladbroke Grove], we ain’t ever gonna back down.” But the appeal is confined to the immediate community (“Love my hood to the death. RIP to the rest.”) Nevertheless it does draw the line between victims and perpetrators.

This music video from Britain says about itself:

6 August 2017

Grenfell Tower’s Burning is the unrelenting new music video from Latimer/Ladbroke Grove rappers El Nino & CX4.

The Paul Bond article continues:

El Nino describes the song as “the UK’s first conscious drill tune.” Like the other artists they recognise the widening gulf of inequality (“the poor getting poorer while the rich getting richer”), the policies of social cleansing on behalf of the ruling elite (“Government want us out, ’cos they wanna make way for the rich”), the council’s corrupt implementation of that policy through housing lists, the media’s role in covering up such manoeuvres, and the devastatingly vicious character of such a programme—“So many lives, so many little kids, Can’t imagine what they had to go through.”

These songs should be made known to as broad an audience as possible.

Paul Robeson, new book

This music video series from the USA is called Paul Robeson Playlist.

By Sue Turner in Britain:

Search for the inspirational figure of Paul Robeson pays dividends

Saturday 19th August 2017

No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson

by Jeff Sparrow

(Scribe, £14.99)

THE LIFE of Paul Robeson mirrors 20th-century struggles for black liberation, workers’ rights and international socialism and Jeff Sparrow’s biography — which he describes as unconventional — attempts to bring these past campaigns into the present.

The aim is to to inspire and inform a new generation for whom Robeson is largely unknown and to do that Sparrow travelled the world in Robeson’s footsteps, talking to people who knew or were influenced by him and those engaged in current political struggles.

Robeson’s life was astonishing by any standards. The son of an escaped slave, he was a brilliant scholar and champion athlete. Driven by his father’s insistence that self-improvement would make him a role model for other black people in the US, Robeson later rejected this individualistic approach to effecting social change as it ignored the systemic reasons for the position of black Americans.

Having abandoned a career in law, and becoming the most famous black actor and singer of his time, he began to speak out as an advocate for social justice around the world, supporting the struggles of the south Wales miners and the republican cause in the Spanish civil war.

The labour movement in Britain was a revelation for Robeson because of its solidarity and collective nature and it gave him a greater understanding of the link between the struggles for African-American and workers’ rights.

“It’s from the miners in Wales I first understood the struggle of negro and white together,” he said and the Spanish civil war was as inspirational: “The true artist cannot hold himself aloof… the artist must take sides. He must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I have no alternative.”

This stance led him to deliver speeches and fundraising concerts as well as singing for the International Brigades on the battlefield.

Visits to the USSR from 1934 onwards led to a lifelong and unwavering commitment to Soviet socialism, support acceptable in the US during WWII, and he worked tirelessly to defeat fascism, hoping that the liberation of oppressed people everywhere would follow. After the war, with changing US perceptions of the Soviet Union and the rise of McCarthyism, Robeson’s career ended.

Radio stations would not play his songs, nor cinemas show his films and he could not record music nor perform live. His passport applications were rejected for 10 years and his status and popularity made him too dangerous to have a voice at home or abroad.

This witch-hunt culminated in an appearance before The Unamerican Activities Committee in 1956.

When asked if he was a member of the Communist Party, Robeson replied: “What do you mean by the Communist Party? It is a legal party… do you mean a party of people who have sacrificed for my people, and for all Americans and workers, that they can live in dignity?”

Eventually his career did revive and his political commitment remained intact. He never recanted and never retreated.

Sparrow has eloquently portrayed Robeson as a giant of a man who was prepared to kill off his career for his political beliefs. He emphasises that past struggles should inform today’s — we need not just inspiration to act but affiliation to organise and solidarity to withstand.

While Sparrow’s ruminations on his travels can be lengthy and he states his own political views very clearly, this book is nevertheless an interesting introduction. But Paul Robeson Speaks — his writings, speeches and interviews, collected by Philip Foner — and Here I Stand, Robeson’s own memoir, give a fuller insight into this remarkable activist.