The Hourglass - UK Rappers on the Clock
Why are UK rappers dismissed so quickly when they fall outside the Dave/Stormzy/J Hus crop?
"Why are you still listening to ***** in 2022?"
The UK Hip Hop scene has elevated so much throughout the years. It is clearer than ever that Black British music in the UK is established as its own entity that makes noise and can influence the world. With that comes the good, bad and ugly of how we see those who shine within the scene. Opinions on rappers are always taken with a pinch of salt when they’re not ones you hold; but how rappers are received, especially from the UK, can be alarming. Countless artists are given artificial clocks for their so-called ‘relevance’ in the scene, despite how much success they actually achieve.
We first need to remember that what is said on social media does not necessarily correlate with what’s going on outside in the real world. People say a lot of things about rappers online, whether good or bad, but we get to see how they’re doing outside: if you hear their music playing in people’s cars, the amount of live shows they're doing and where they perform. In saying this, I’ve noticed a lot that people just ‘decide’ that certain artists are not relevant or ‘cool’ enough for people to be listening to. This comes as a surprise to me because it’s always the artists that people have recently championed. I see the same ‘You still listening to DBE?’ jokes bouncing around or about other artists when it wasn’t long ago they were revered for what they were doing in the game.
This is an issue for me because it reaffirms my theory that people don’t actually like the UK music scene like they claim they do. They're really just going with the newest or hottest thing and then letting them go when they're not hot anymore. It’s as if people wait long enough to dismiss artists when they’re not number 1 anymore or if ‘the culture has moved past them’. I use D Block Europe as an example because I see them constantly slandered in this way. It doesn’t make sense to me because get slated for their music relentlessly online, but in real life, they’re nominated for a BRIT (the most prestigious music award in the UK) for the second time and they sold out the O2. People in the UK constantly do this to UK hip-hop artists, being overly harsh on what people should like and not like (not that anyone should actually listen to these opinions).
What I’m bringing up; is it a real conversation or is it just a social media bubble I’m identifying? It may well be that some of these UK rappers that people say are not relevant anymore have regressed and are not as good as they were before. Or it may be that these artists have found their lane and are comfortable in it. It may even be the case that simply, the sound that those artists have does not appeal to people anymore. In general, that’s okay. But make it make sense; an artist/group cannot be irrelevant or not the thing to listen to if they’re still seeing major success in real life and can still sell out their shows. Putting an artificial timer to musicians and their art shouldn't even be a thing. Musicians should not be seen this way; it’s either the music itself is still something that appeals to you and you gravitate to that art, or it’s not for you anymore. Even with that, artists shouldn’t always look to be the moment or just the current topic of conversation. Building a strong fan base for your music is much more important, not only for progression in your art, but even for your pockets too. It's about longevity in the game, not longevity at the top; what goes up must come down.
This highlights that we should watch how we perceive music from social media. This popular school-kid mentality with music holds no weight. As much as people don’t want to admit, numbers do hold weight to how well an artist and certain artists are doing numbers in real life, and that is due to hard work and the impact of their sound. That does mean that numbers tells the full story, it just means that there is still a story to be told. Acts like D Block Europe are not where they are for no reason, because names don’t stay around for no reason in the UK. Adding to the numbers they do outside, their music is inevitable. So, putting a clock on musicians is pointless, especially for a scene as small as ours.