Awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature to Bob Dylan opens up the possibility that other songwriters could receive the prize. In this week’s Working-Class Perspective, Sarah Attfield sheds a spotlight on British Grime artists who may be worthy of the honor.
One of my current favourite artists is Riz MC, a London rapper (and actor) of Pakistani descent. Riz MC tackles racism and Islamaphobia from the perspective of working-class ethnic minorities. His skillful rhymes provide insight into life in an immigrant community, the kinds of discrimination immigrants face on a daily basis, and how this impacts what it means to be British. His 2016 track ‘Englistan’ tells a powerful story of the liminal position he occupies. He is English, though some in the UK would not see him that way. The video highlights this sense of living between cultures through the soccer shirt worn by Riz. One half of the shirt sports the English soccer team’s colours and the letters ‘ENGL’, and the other half reads ‘ISTAN’. Set in various working-class communities, the video also draws attention to discrimination and alienation while making the multiculturalism of working-class communities visible. This contradicts some of the rhetoric around working-class people being overly racist, and it demonstrates quite clearly that working-class people in the UK are ethnically diverse (in the mainstream media, working-class is often associated exclusively with white people). ‘Englistan’ also refers to poverty, surviving on welfare, consumerism, and colonialism, and the song brings working-class people of different ethnic backgrounds and faiths together in opposition to the ruling class.
The Working-Class Perspectives blog is brought to you by our Visiting Scholar for the 2015-16 academic year, John Russo, and Georgetown University English professor, Sherry Linkon. It features several regular and guest contributors.