If you’re big grime music fan like I am, then the start of 2020 gave us a wonderful gift.
An epic grime clash.
It featured two of the arguably biggest grime artists in the whole culture – Stormzy and Wiley and it will go down in history. This grime “beef” had it all. The older statesman (Wiley) going against the new young blood (Stormzy). It brought out the best in Stormzy with the disgustingly disrespectful but endlessly entertaining diss track “Still Disappointed” and showcased that Wiley was still a force to be reckoned with.
Overall, it was good publicity for both artists. Great content for fans. And put the spotlight on grime culture again.
Then we had to go and ruin it.
Earlier yesterday, Stormzy, perhaps swelling with too much ego from defeating Wiley or from some ill-advised strategy from his management, decided to unnecessarily reignite his beef with Wiley on Twitter by challenging the latter to a face-to-face live clash on Rinse FM. Unsurprisingly, what followed was a war of words between Wiley and Stormzy across Twitter and Instagram, belittling each other and accusing each other of various types of “disrespects”.
So now what started out as two grime pioneers, from two different generations, engaging in a classic and genuinely entertaining grime clash, has now descended into a childish and embarrassing feud between two black men, one who is quite a bit older than the other.
And it makes the whole culture look foolish to outsiders.
Black people represent their culture when we are the only black faces in the room
Being black is difficult. I don’t deny this or pretend it’s not the case. Unlike other ethnic groups, our singular actions can have ramifications on the rest of our community, especially if we are in a position of power or if we are the only black person in the room. It’s just the reality of the black experience.
Considering the above, I am disappointed in both Stormzy and Wiley, but more so in the former. Wiley has always been antagonistic, loud and impulsive from the very early days of the grime scene. But I expected more from Stormzy, especially since he is in a far more prominent position than Wiley and wields greater power and influence.
We already have black boys killing each other on London’s streets. Now our biggest black British entertainers are feuding with other on social media. The narrative of black-on-black violence and anger towards each other not only continues but is reinforced by prominent figures in our community.
We need to do better not just for ourselves, but our community
It’s not fair that individual black people must carry the responsibility of their community on their shoulders, but the history of western civilisation has made it this way. There is so much already working against us in western society that we simply can’t be as irresponsible as other people from other ethnics.
Throughout much of my career, I’ve often been the only black person in the whole room full of middle-class, educated white people.
I am very conscious of this. Not in a negative way but I acknowledge that most of the people I am working with haven’t had this kind of proximity to a black person before since they aren’t so many black people outside of London.
Moreover, I am aware of the negative stereotypes of black men that exist in the British public consciousness. Therefore, I do my best not to play into these stereotypes, so they don’t hinder my progression but also the progression of other black men after me.
Whether we like it or not, black people are lumped together. If I behave badly at my workplace, where I am one of the only black people in the whole office, I know I will make it more difficult for another black boy to get employed because my own actions have been unfairly placed on him.
It’s not fair but it’s how our western society functions to hold black people back.
Black men and women in power represent all of us. It’s a responsibility automatically placed on them so they must be aware of how their behaviour affects the wider culture and their community.
The Wiley and Stormzy feud may appear to be nothing but an entertaining vocal scrap between two black musicians but, on a deeper level, we must think about how this is making our culture and community look to the outside world.
Are black British boys destined to fight with each other all the time? Is this really what we want our culture and black masculinity to be about? Endless and meaningless wars with each other?