I don’t know about you lot, but I am anticipating BckChat Uncensored. It’s switching up the usual format of ‘round-table’ discussions and moving abroad. From the preview, it looks like a black, South-London version of Love Island and I can tell this is going squeeze so much laughter out my lungs.
My more highbrow, intellectually-minded friends don’t quite understand why I like BckChat London. Yes, it's loud. Yes, it's vulgar, and yes, it can be misogynistic. But you know what? It is unapologetically Black British. Being born and bred in London, the cast of BckChat are around my age, and they are so recognisably and refreshingly familiar in their mannerisms and viewpoints. It is refreshing to watch a show like this which is so true to its roots.
Another familiar show I’ve recently started watching that is similar to BckChat London is 3shotsoftequilla. Its premise is identical to that BckChat London but exclusively features Black British men discussing a variety of topics. Like BckChat, it's very Black British, very loud and, if you grew up in London, very entertaining. It’s like I am listening to the sort of banter I have with my friends.
Black British is an identify now
I think now, arguably more than ever, we are in a period where Black British culture is permeating confidently through mainstream British society and feels authentic, rather than trying to be African American. I don't think we've quite reached the renaissance or the golden era, but there's been a shift. Growing up in London, I remember a time where the notion of ‘Black British' was a nebulous concept. I never identified as a Black British person when I was a teenager. When I was 13, if someone asked me what I identify as, I would have replied that I identify as a Nigerian. Ask me now, at 29, and I’d say I am “Black British” or, more specifically, “British Nigerian.” I have reconciled my Britishness with my Nigerianess.
A massive factor in this successful reconciliation is because the idea of being “Black British” is a tangible construct because we have a collective culture, albeit a developing one, but a culture nonetheless. The forging of a truly authentic black British culture started with the Notting Hill Carnival followed by a series of events throughout the 70s and 80s that are too complex to cover in this single blog post. The emergence of jungle and garage music in the 90s added another layer to black British culture. The rise of grime music in the noughties further gave the young, third generation Black British youth a voice. Black British identify has become even more concrete now with afrobeats, drill music and with entertainers like Mo The Comedian and Michael Dappah, who have entertained the mainstream without losing their Black British identity.
From a sociological perspective, a confident Black British identify has manifested because black people in England have become more unified. Growing up in Newham, East London, I remember a time where African and Caribbean kids didn't get along. There was this silent animosity between us mainly because the Caribbean culture was seen as ‘cooler' than African culture. The only reason this was the case was that Caribbean people had been in England longer than Africans, so their culture was better acclimatised into British society. Now we have reached a point where all black people in England play together. The second and third generation of African and Caribbean adults now have mutual respect towards each other in England which has helped solidify the Black British identity.
We have not yet entered the Black British cultural renaissance
As much as I love shows like BckChat and 3shotsoftequilla, they are very similar in style and structure. Both of them are very London-centric, and both of them can become a little too immature, a little too loud and a little too foolish. But it’s entertainment. And good entertainment at that.
But what I would like to see is more content from Black British creators which is more intellectually stimulating. We do have the Mostly Lit podcast which I implore you to check out if you’re looking for some Black British content which is less in-your-face and more cerebral than BckChat and 3shottequilla. Rapman's Blue Story trilogy and Shiro's Story are examples of mature, Black British storytelling in film.
I am not saying every single piece of Black British culture must be brainy and have some deeper subtext. We have highbrow and lowbrow white British culture, and we should also have highbrow and lowbrow Black British culture. But I feel we do not have enough of the former. Now the drill genre dominates Black British music, and our content online is entertaining but mostly loud and silly. Even our movies are just big and flashy, with little introspection or any thoughtful analysis of the Black British psyche. This year's most prominent Black British film was Intent 2: The Come Up. While I paid to watch that movie and enjoyed it, it’s a damn shame that this was the biggest and most advertised Black British movie of 2018.
For Black British culture to reach new heights, we need more Black British creators developing content which goes beyond just entertaining us. We need material that makes us think and takes a proper look at Black British lives growing up in Britain and all its complexities. The reason why I've decided to become a part-time, cultural writer is that I wanted to write fiction and non-fiction books which explore the lives of Black British people in a way that truthfully comments on our flaws, our conflicted lives while also being entertaining.
Black British culture is varied and black creators should be communicating every aspect of it. Loud, fun and flashy is great, but Black British culture is and must be more than that if we want real longevity.
They still talk about Shakespeare; let’s do our best to make sure they are still talking about us 200 years from now.
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