Stop silencing musicians

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Early this year artists Skengdo and AM were given a nine month suspended sentence for performing a song at a London concert in December. According to Index on Censorship, this is the first time in British legal history that a prison sentence has been issued for performing a song but it is the start of what we think will be a clampdown on free speech for rappers.

The police are using laws made for terrorists and sex offenders to criminalise musicians who sing violent lyrics. It means that the police no longer have to prove any link between an artist and a specific act of violence to secure a conviction for ‘inciting violence’.

This is a threat to freedom of speech. Nobody in a free society should be imprisoned for words.

Young people don’t get into serious crime lightly. They do so because of serious social problems. The decline of community policing and the impoverishment of resources has led to a vacuum of authority on oppressive inner-city estates. Alongside real urban poverty, there is a lawlessness and a fear. That is what’s driving the escalation of violence on London’s streets. The soundtrack is irrelevant.

Banning Drill or any type of art is problematic for a number of reasons. It deprives already disenfranchised young people of a voice, it reflects moral cowardice for failing to look straight-on at the reality of marginalised groups on inner-city estates, and it won’t tackle issues caused by poverty, racism, and classism.

At best, it’s ineffective. Restricting young people’s ability to communicate will push them to express themselves on less detectable outlets.

At worst? There is a broader danger here that these bans stop our ears to severely disadvantaged youth of our society. Drill may not, technically, be classed as protest music, but the state should think twice before stifling the genre. There is a long history of suffering in black music. That collective expression is important, particularly for a deprived and otherwise voiceless community.

Let’s not forget that before the police spotlight was turned on Drill, it was on road rap, grime, and garage. The controversial 696 live music “risk assessment” form was accused of disproportionately stifling youth and black music culture since it was introduced in 2005 until it was finally scrapped in 2017.

This is why we are asking you to stop the Police from being able to Ban Drill music by using the Serious Crime Act to prosecute artists.


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