Earlier this month, a nightclub owner in Croydon claimed that he’d been told that he was no longer able to play bashment music because it attracts the “wrong type of clientele”. According to what he told Noisey, both the Metropolitan police and Croydon council repeatedly threatened him, saying that if he continued to play bashment music, his club would be at risk of closure.
While both the council and the Met denied these claims (sort of), it’s not the first time they have been accused of thinly-veiled discrimination. From the notorious 696 form (which we made a documentary about in 2014) to early crackdowns on garage nights, there has been a long, fraught history of the powers that be singling out certain genres as being associated with crime and disorder, leading to allegations of racial profiling.
So, what can be done about this? Well, one person (who has so far remained anonymous) has made it their mission to pepper Croydon High Street with a set of striking posters calling out institutional racism in the capital in relation to the arts. Each poster references artwork from famous black musicians with words altered or added for affect.
In one poster, the words “Blacks”, “Dogs” and “Irish” are replaced with “Bashment” “Grime” and “Dubstep” in a satirical rework of the infamously racist signs that used to hang on pub doors. The poster itself is a reimagining of the art for Kendrick Lamar’s racially-charged 2015 anthem “The Blacker the Berry”, with the small print reading: “You hate me don’t you? You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture, you’re fucking evil. I want you to recognise that I’m a proud monkey. You vandalise my perception but you can’t take my style away from me.” At the bottom of the poster, it urges viewers to take a picture of it and share around social media, as well as wear a t-shirt with the slogan.
In another poster, the artwork for Drake’s album If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is altered to read “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late For Fairfield Halls.” For those not in the know, Fairfield Halls is a huge venue, theatre and gallery in Croydon. If you scan the NFC link at the bottom of the poster, it takes you to a depressing article in the Croydon Advertiser which reports that the venue will be closed down in two years to make way for a £30 million rebuild.
Another poster is made in the style of Kanye’s The Life of Pablo, with the word “marginalisation?!?” all over it alongside photos of various South London artists including Stormzy, Krept and Konan, and Benga. At the bottom of the poster, the small print reads: “I’m sure your Android or Microsoft NFC Phone can be placed on a few places on here." One of the NFC links also takes the viewer to last year’s Adidas ad with Stormzy – possibly a subtle side-eye at a system that utilises grime for monetary gain, but marginalises its creators.
So what are these posters exactly? Guerrilla protest, art project or both? Either way, their message seems to be that racism, gentrification and capitalism are irrepressibly interlinked, and only by fighting one can you properly fight the other.
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