As part of their 'Inspiration Season' SB:TV recently collaborated with Channel 4’s Battlefront to present ‘The Battlefront #DB8’ – a political debate mixing the rules of competitive debating and MC sound clashes to create a vibrant atmosphere for young people, UK artists and youth leaders and campaigners to attend and voice their opinions. The debate looked at three arguments often thrown at young people growing up in the UK
1. ‘Young people don’t respect authority’
2. ‘Urban culture empowers rather than imprisons’
3. ‘Young people can’t create change’
One that seemed to stand out was whether or not urban culture empowers or imprisons people. Now, to define urban culture would surely have us here forever; it is a culture that encompasses everything from music, fashion, art and everything in between. It offers a platform for imagination to grow, for creativity and individualism; a place to find inspiration. Chantelle Fiddey, a youth culture expert, comments: ‘one thing the urban community is good at is building something out of nothing’. This can be evident in certain aspects. For example, graffiti – a form of art by the likes of Bansky that has derived from what most people have seen as ‘pure vandalism’. Graffiti is now used by major businesses to engage youth and is even incorporated into the official 2012 Olympic symbol, one person states in the debate.
Empowerment opens up people minds and broadens their horizons, something that is crucial for young people when growing up, in any country, let alone the UK. It forces you to think beyond what you can see and, in this sense, urban culture can provide a great aid in this process. In terms of music, the reason why artists such as Mc Righteous, Lowkey and Logic seem to be blowing up right now is because people can relate to them, to their struggles, goals, ambitions in life. It is one thing to hear artists forever producing traditional ‘love songs’ and being able to relate, but when artists sing about key issues, it seems like people’s feelings are being engaged and portrayed in musical form.
One thing to note, however, is the fine line between ‘empowerment’ and ‘imprisonment’. Brian Paddock, Liberal Democrat Mayor Candidate mentions how ‘people take that [urban culture] and see it as an example, rather than a commentary’, pulling on the stereotype and idea that urban society is such that forces young people into a single mind set. While you may argue that certain people have no say-so or knowledge to be commenting on such a complex and multi-layered scene in the UK, it would seem ludicrous to disregard such an opinion all together. Things often look different to those standing on the outside, but this does not necessarily mean that they are wrong (or even right). An argument put forward by another is the way in which artists such as Wiz Khalifa glamorise the weed or the superficial chase of money part. The mindset that people are ‘from the streets’ as one guy puts it, or that to go on and ‘forget’ this would be a form of ‘selling out’ as I have often heard people accuse others of doing. Surely the idea of urban culture is much more than this. Yet, we are confronted with examples of people everyday simply limiting themselves to this mindset, to the idea that ‘the streets’ is all there is; ‘it’s almost like a fashion to come from a bad background and live that gangster life’ one comments in the debate.
But of course, when you think of Urban Culture, is this what springs to mind? Or is it the positive expression and source of inspiration that many youth draw from?