Sunday, 19 February 2012

SB:TV #DB8 - 'Urban Culture empowers rather than imprisons'

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?


  1. When I think of 'urban culture' I usually think of a waste of space! That entire movement is so redundant, and it's embarrassing. It's an outdated black culture, that many black people have not yet moved away from. Now, if you buy a certain amount of 'street wear' and use the correct phrases you too can be 'urban'. Coming from a ghetto isn't anything to be proud of; it only used to be a defence mechanism in times of severe racial inequality. The term 'urban' is also laughable when really all things that it derives from are from black (both African American and Black British) cultures, that once again as a people, we can't even be given credit for. I pray for the day that the black community as a whole realise that it's time to drop the culture as it doesn't empower, it cripples. No one from this 'urban' market really prospers unless they allow themselves to act as entertainers, and even those that are successful are sell outs as they don't live the lives they sing/rap about anymore anyway. And besides having money in their bank accounts, is anyone in the urban market, REALLY taken seriously by anyone outside of it?

  2. I get what you mean, Urban Culture is being commercialized so much by the media and companies.
    I think it starts off as a way for creative outlet and it's good in that sense, but people do grow from it while the people who seem to be stuck in it are the ones with the mindset 'oh, I'm from the street so I gotta stay on the street' as if it's them against the world. It ain't a good thing, and it should help motivate you but I guess people take it in the wrong context. Everyone's fighting a hard battle tbh and regardless of where you'r from, people can face hardship of any sense..
    That's true, are they taken seriously?? hmmm..

  3. i heard that so many times before one guy literally told me that his friends from his 'end' don't know that he's going to uni because it would come across as hard or whatever???

  4. Really?? It's so sad when people have that mind-set, that you can't do other things in life other than that!


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