Tim Westwood Deserves Your Respect, Baby
Things Tim Westwood is older than: lasers, Barbie, valium, space travel. Wind, rocks and rain. Tim Westwood is older than the peace symbol, Castro's Cuba and Lego. Tim Westwood pre-dates the silicone breast implant. Think how many plastic boobs Tim Westwood has beheld in his wonderful lank long life. Tim Westwood has been alive for every breast implant in history. There has not been a single silicone breast insert without Tim Westwood there, alive somewhere, distantly saying "yeah". Tim Westwood is older than disposable lighters, and black forest gateaux. Tim Westwood is older than ATMs. Tim Westwood is older than the Berlin Wall and the Hep-B vaccine and Kevlar. Tim Westwood pre-dates the halogen lamp. Tim Westwood was a fresh-faced 20-year-old when the first Star Wars movie was released. Tim Westwood was 21 at the time of the Jonestown Massacre. "Motherfucker, WHAT? Motherfucker, WHO?" – Tim Westwood, reacting to the Jonestown Massacre [unconfirmed]. Every single event in modern history has had the spirit of The Big Dawg woven through it. And still Westwood doesn't get his due.
What does Tim Westwood have to do for you to respect him?
Tim Westwood is 60 years old today, which is just astonishing news, for everybody, not least the universal laws of decay. It defies logic because Tim Westwood has always sort of seemed kind of old, even when he was young, and now he's kind of older that's inverted and contextually he seems kind of young again, so you see how Tim Westwood has defied time itself, lived a life backwards, hip-hop's Benjamin Button. Like: if it turned out that a wizard had cursed Tim Westwood at an early age to live an infinite life as a 42-year-old, I would accept that information. Tim Westwood is at once ageless and ancient, baby.
You know the basic elements of Tim Westwood's life because Tim Westwood is as old as the wood in the trees, and also you remember where you were – it was that year you started untucking the shirt from your uniform and saying "fuck" out loud and listening to the radio on low when you were supposed to be asleep – you remember where you were, exactly, when you first learned Tim Westwood's dad was a bishop. Fam: Tim Westwood's father was the Bishop of Peterborough. It's fine. Move on. Fam: Tim Westwood has detailed the same anecdote about his mother in two Guardian articles, the articles each 13 years apart ("Yeah, man! This is how it's going DOWN!" If I'm with my mother I might do my belt up a little tighter and not have my trousers hanging down and drop the swearing" – Tim Westwood, 2004. "If I'm with my mum, I pull my jeans up and I don't swear, out of respect for the situation" – Tim Westwood, 2017.)
Tim Westwood's upbringing is cited a lot, as if it is some massive a-hah, a stain upon his realness: that he came up middle class, that being a bishop's son somehow makes him less sincere, his deep love of hip-hop and lifelong dedication to it some sort of act, that he only ever got to the top because the Bishop of Peterborough introduced him to Jay-Z, or something, and nepotism took over from there. Interviews prod and dance around him as if journalists can say the right combination of words and low sounds to unlock some sort of secret interior Westwood – immediately stops saying "fam", opens his eyes more than 30 percent of the way, switches out of a 5XL Ralph polo and into some Blue Harbour, intones in estuary English how, actually, he's more of an Adele fan – ignoring the fact that Westwood just is Westwood. The man has been in the game for 40 years plus. He's been shot, a figure of ridicule, and celebrated. Tim Westwood living a life of being Tim Westwood as some sort of glistening skin on top of an actual, more conservative Tim Westwood would be the longest and most pointless character act in all of recorded history, and as we have discussed Westwood has lived through quite a substantial amount of history now.
Westwood's origin story is that he was dyslexic at school (remember Tim Westwood went to school moments after the concept of schooling was invented: he went to school at a time before widespread dyslexia recognition, because he basically went to school in a time before chalk) and didn't have much ambition beyond that. "Nah, I was worthless, man," he told the Guardian (2004). "I was clueless at work and poor at sports. My dad would have been happy had I become a butcher. A kid at school became a butcher and my dad said, 'That's a good job, Tim.'"
Butcher Tim Westwood bringing the FLAVOUR, baby! But instead he zigged: after leaving school, a glass collecting gig in Soho aged 17 turned into a support slot if he promised to deliver a 50-strong crowd to the venue, and then things kept happening from there ("My dad would always ask me how it's going, and for about 15 (*1) years I would say to him, 'I'm just trying to make it happen.' Then he would keep on asking, 'When is it going to happen?' Truthfully, I think it's happening right now."). It was there – warming up at Gossips' jazz, funk and reggae nights – that Westwood first got into the burgeoning electro scene, which he adopted whole-heartedly, and now, 35+ years later, he's the UK's premier Slenderman-shaped hip-hop DJ.
Things just went from there: in 1986 Westwood bought in to KISS.FM, the pirate radio station he'd been DJing on since its formation a year earlier. A year after that, he switched to Capital. In 1994, after a series of meetings with then-controller Matthew Bannister, Westwood agreed to defect to Radio 1, becoming the station's first Rap Show presenter. Throughout all this were trips to New York, where he picked up his now iconic presenting style (from DJs Marley Marl and Mr Cee), made mad industry contacts, baby, and became the go-to UK hip-hop connection across the pond, less a tastemaker and more the world's most earnest hype man. Obligatory Westwood quote: "For my launch party when I joined Radio 1 I brought over Notorious BIG and P Diddy. For carnival we've had Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes and Lil' Kim all perform on the same bill. I was the first person to bring Jay-Z to London to play a concert at the Hammersmith Palais. I did some amazing parties with Funkmaster Flex." Westwood bought deep, deep sincerity to the whole scene: "With rap culture you've got to approach it like a community that you're trying to serve," he said, in 1998 (in an interview very much worth reading, if not for the quote "I know everything there is to know about Matthew – he's mad open," then for the anecdote of Tim Westwood doing the washing up at a dinner party (*2)). "When Biggie Smalls was killed everyone rung our rap show. When 2Pac was murdered, everyone turned to the show for information and comfort. That's the role radio should be playing." For the 20th anniversary of Biggie's death, Westwood dropped a previously unreleased freestyle session from 1995. The man's vaults are impeccable.
A WORD ON THE DIET OF TIM WESTWOOD
Listen, I am like you. I am made of blood and veins and pulsating pink-red cells, and bones and bone shards, and my skull is white-yellow and my eyes are moist and spongy in their sockets, and my hands hurt and my back hurts and my head hurts and my heart hurts, I am just like you and just like you, I also sometimes scroll all the way down to the bottom of Tim Westwood's Instagram page to look at photos of waffles.
Tim Westwood, to look at him, is not a man who eats. My theory on Tim Westwood is he eats once every eight-to-ten days, but enormously, then spends the ensuing week or so digesting it, like a snake. So you look at Tim Westwood's Instagram profile and he mainly eats – if he eats – waffles. Most of the times he goes overseas he will try the local fried chicken. Once a year he will post a picture of a suckling pig roasting in a fire pit, which must assumedly be his annual big feed. In 2009 he ate some yam: "After eatin pounded yam last nite my back feels incredibly strong," he tweeted. "Might grab the rear bumper of a bendy bus and see what happens." This is the drastic effect food has on Tim Westwood's body. Then: "Next time I've got a hot date I'm gonna hit that pounded yam early. I'm a skinny guy – I need that power in my back." Tim Westwood, yam-mad and horny.
Here is a video of Tim Westwood preparing and consuming a mango. Tim Westwood eats like no other motherfucker alive. But you know what? Tim Westwood looks good for it. Maybe we all need to try only eating like twice every month and living our lives with a caffeine headache.
There is really no reason for me to insert this section on doomed Max Power x MTV mash-up Pimp My Ride UK, only other than to say: i. good god-fucking-damn can you fucking believe the absolute state of some of the haircuts going on here? This was only 12 years ago, truly the past is a different country; and ii. Westwood is about the only competent thing in this, and even then he spends a lot of the time sumo wrestling on the bonnet of a knackered Suzuki or sitting in a darkened room with a load of wide charmless mechanics asking them what tyres they are going to put on, and even in such a tight and constrained situation he is this weird lightning rod of long-limbed charisma.
It is hard to understand precisely how Tim Westwood is so watchable, but he is:
HAS ANYONE EVER BEEN MORE CASUALLY SHOT?
Tim Westwood got shot in 1999 and he could not be more underwhelmed by the experience. Critics would say it should be a major formative event in his career: Westwood getting shot, through the window of his 4X4 at a traffic light in Kensington, transplanted east coast-west coast rap beef culture to London, injured his arm and shattered the kneecap of a passenger, but also very crucially made Westwood headline news.
"Not trying to be flippant or anything, it put me on the front page of the newspapers," Westwood told ShortList last year. In 2000, a year after the incident, he was still pretty blasé about the whole "being fucking shot" thing. "The police got a couple of people," he told the Guardian. "Lack of evidence, let 'em go. Just one of those things, man." Or, same paper, this year: "You've got to understand, I have lived a blessed life. Like, I was shot at close range, my friend had his kneecap blown off, a bullet went through the back of my seat an inch from my spine, a bullet went through my arm and missed the three nerves which would have left me paralysed – am I not blessed?"
If I got shot I would still be shitting myself, even now, 18 years later. Continuous unceasing self-shitting. They'd have to build a special sort of iron lung/toilet contraption to both contain the shit and feed me with the various solutions I would need not to die. Papers would nickname me "The Shitting Boy", and I'd variously be wheeled out as a punchline on light-entertainment TV shows. Tim Westwood has come out of getting shot somewhere between indifferent and religious.
TIM WESTWOOD AND THE CREDIT CARD THING
Sometimes it is hard to know when you are living through a moment of supreme cultural importance until you have lived it, digested it, grown distant from it, looked back with fresh eyes. Tim Westwood deetsing himself on Instagram was not one of these moments. To recap: earlier this year Tim Westwood put his entire credit card on an Instagram story, along with the modern poem:
Baby looking forward to taking you to dinner on Thursday /
I appreciate you may wanna get nails, hair & a wax. /
Even some new shoes or a clutch bag. /
Use my credit card /
It's black with private banking /
So there's no limit
(but don't be buying a new car /
This, it turns out, was a mistake. Broadcasting your credit card details to 92,000 people was a mistake. Immediately, obviously, people started making purchases with the card, and Tim – who was DJing in Bermuda at the time – had to cancel it, cutting off his own funds. Tim Westwood, to The Sun, days afterwards: "It was a bit of a drag, to be honest. I didn't realise I'd done that until the bank rang me. Within 20 minutes the bank rang me and they wanted to check I'd bought 12 Louis Vuitton bags for £4,700 each. They'd also had another 60 [purchases] that were various, from Foot Locker to Nike Town, and then, as the lady was speaking to me, it went from like 72 and jumped up to 80, so she had to put me on hold while she blocked the card."
This was the direct result of that: "Breakfast was inclusive at the hotel. When I went for my breakfast, not only did I eat a lot, but I made a load of peanut butter sandwiches and then I also took a load of bananas, which made my stomach run because I was eating like ten bananas a day."
Read that back again, in Tim Westwood's voice. Understand that: Tim Westwood deetsed himself so hard he gave himself diarrhoea.
Nobody on Earth has listened to the sound of windows smashing more than Tim Westwood. Tim Westwood uses bomb-dropping sound effects to relax. Tim Westwood, at home, has a special rig set up to play a bomb-dropping sound effect that yells "WESTWOOD" whenever he walks in. This is a real thing. Tim Westwood, on this: "When the big dog hits the crib, baby, yeah, the bomb should drop and some horns should ring off." Tim Westwood, on condoms: "Strap it up before you slap it up!" The man was chosen by God. The man has spent four decades in the game. The man took a bullet for his art. What sound would Tim Westwood make if you shot him today, in big, big 2017? I put it to the court that he would make this sound, slumped heavily up against the wall: a long, exasperated, slightly disappointed but still under-lyingly quite horny: "baby".
Tim Westwood is willing to risk it all for Cardi B. Tim Westwood, on the word "faggot", 2012: "It's a very uncool word to use nowadays." This Tim Westwood quote makes me believe there was a timeline where it was a very cool word to say, and that Tim Westwood lived through it. But also that Tim Westwood is woke now. Tim Westwood looks sort of like what I imagine Big Bird would look like if you shaved him. Tim Westwood, on the onslaught of sugar baby requests he had thru Instagram after accidentally leaking his card details: "I do not want this." Say it in the Westwood voice, that curious blend of Austin Powers-era shagadelia and Timb-rocking corner thug: "I do not want this." Understand that.
As best I can tell, Tim Westwood has had two haircuts in his entire life: "up" and also "down". If you rolled through to your IT department and Tim Westwood was there, wearing a utility belt and fixing a keyboard, you wouldn't be that surprised, would you? But instead he is the reigning king of the UK's hip-hop scene. Tim Westwood daggers like a dog shagging itself apart. Tim Westwood throws his adidas away after three wears, max, always box fresh. Tim Westwood is the living embodiment of "Ladies Get in Free". There is nothing more harrowing than this video, 0:48 to 1:02, of Tim Westwood as a child, getting an autograph off himself. Tim Westwood frequently says he doesn't really drink or take drugs, so when he does get high it is frankly iconic.
Tim Westwood is earnest and passionate about what he does in a time when sincerely loving things is passé. I'm starting to think that Tim Westwood's curiously undefinable anti-cool is actually what makes him very, very cool. He's just a gigantically tall man who fucking loves tunes and has done more for the UK scene than anyone. And he speaks an entirely different language from everyone else on Earth, a sort of Westwoodian lingua franca: boom, drop the bomb, [every single sound effect all at once], baby, fam, understand that, mad, The Big Dawg, flavour, main man, make it happen, boom boom boom, baby baby baby, boom, baby!, yeah, understand that, understand that. It is Tim Westwood's birthday today. Pay your motherfucking respects.
(*1) NOTES ON THE VARIOUS AGES OF SIR TIMOTHY WESTWOOD
Westwood said this during a 2004 Guardian article in which he insisted he was 27, meaning his dad asking him when his hip-hop DJing career was going to take off would have started when he was 12. And you think your dad pressured you.
(*2) It's also worth noting Tim Westwood's given age in this piece – 29 – and his amazement at going to Bannister's 40th birthday party, when he was already 41 himself. Westwood spent a lot of the late-90s/early-00s hovering around the age of 28/29, but never changed the dates of his milestone achievements, so in this case Westwood's first rap show – in 1982, it says here – would have happened when he was 13 years old. What I am saying it is would not astound me to learn that Tim Westwood's current given age is a lie as well, and that he was actually 1,000 years old, older than a cathedral, older than time itself.