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London rapper Professor Green interviewed on the demonisation of young people

This article is over 16 years, 9 months old
Professor Green is a 23 year old rap artist from Hackney in east London. He spoke to Socialist Worker about the demonisation of young people and their music
Issue 2069
Professor Green
Professor Green

You released a track called Upper Clapton Dance that talks about crime and violence. Could you explain why you think it is has become so popular?

I think because despite it being called Upper Clapton Dance, it relates to anyone in a run down area anywhere – it’s the same all over.

Despite it talking about a slightly darker side of things, a lot of older people like it because of the Brahms Hungarian Dance #5 sample. I’ve had messages from people’s parents on MySpace telling me they like it! That was quite amusing.

Do you think your type of music is unfairly represented in the media?

One hundred percent. I find it laughable when people say

hip-hop is responsible for violence. The violence came before the music.

Anyone that’s ever lived this life knows it’s not about glamorising it – we just talk about what we know. I don’t think we can be expected to do otherwise.

What I was doing before music very nearly landed me in prison. Now I’m a mostly legitimate citizen. How is that not positive?

Unfortunately a lot of us grow up in less than ideal situations. I was brought up in Clapton, east London, by my grandmother.

When I was born there was my nan, her mother, her two sons and my mother in a three bedroom flat. I also got in a fair bit of trouble and saw things most people won’t ever have to witness. Therefore this influences my music.

I think hip-hop gets stick because the powers-that-be would rather ignore what’s happening.

I think they’d be happy to silence us. They do things already, like the police making [grime artist] Kano pay a few grand for policing just to perform at the Astoria, and completely shutting down other people’s gigs. It’s fucked up.

I can’t believe the people in power – the people that effectively run our country – could be as ignorant as to blame a type of music for the problems on our streets.

If they blamed poverty, bad schooling, bad parenting, the drugs, the lack of equality – any of these things would be a lot closer to the mark.

To be honest, and I’m sure anyone like-minded would agree, I can’t listen to what people who don’t live our lives have to say about our situation. Their points and arguments have no substance.

You can read all the numbers and statistics and talk to all the people you want. You’re not in a position to say anything without having gone through it first hand.

I grew up in a multicultural environment but I think racism is still pretty ripe and evident even in music.

You might remember Lemar winning an “urban” Brit award. Lemar isn’t urban, he’s black. He makes pop music, not “urban” music. I put “urban” in inverted commas because I hate the term.

It’s a name given to our music to make it a niche. They put us in a box and put us to the side.

If you look at BBC Radio 1 they don’t wanna play more than one “urban” record at a time. It’s made nigh on impossible to succeed making the music we make, for more than one artist at a time anyway.

I don’t know why any record that’s not made by a white middle class band with tight jeans and long hair or a Girls Aloud-esque group seems to be so hard to get daytime play. That’s why it makes me so happy to see Kano and Dizzee doing what they’re doing.

Radio 1 did a survey of a few thousand people and the results were that people aren’t interested in “urban” music any more. I wonder where they went to do the survey?

There have been many articles in the press about “postcode gangs”. What do they represent in your opinion, and why do you think there are so many “gangs”?

They represent a lack of unity. I’m nearly 24 and in the years I’ve been alive I’ve seen the change. It is only getting worse.

A lot of these kids come from broken homes and their families are their friends. It’s becoming more and more territorial now.

Whereas it used to be maybe Hackney and Tottenham up in arms, it’s becoming worse than just postcodes. It’s becoming estate wars.

What people need to understand is that these kids, in a different situation, could have been completely different people.

I’ve had friends who’ve had to buy heroin and crack for their mother just to avoid her being out on the street, while taking on the role of looking after their siblings and trying to avoid them and themselves ending up in care.

Are you really gonna tell me that’s the fault of music? Could you really blame people for doing what they have to do so they can get by?

The kids don’t ask to be brought into this world and are more often born into less than ideal situations. They aren’t fine til they get into hip-hop music, then all of a sudden pick up a gun and start selling crack.

To not have and to want is a pretty hard thing to deal with.

It’s not cool to be good in class. With no education the options are really limited, so people out of desperation end up doing things they themselves probably didn’t agree with at the start.

Others are shown the wrong way from being young and it’s just a natural progression. When you don’t have the luck of being able to concentrate on school due to all the other stresses it really changes things.

My nan was always in debt trying hard to give me what I needed, and all I saw was her in pain. That’s not easy to deal with, and neither was having my mum and dad disappear.

That said people go through far worse. All this does is create upset, which often takes the form of anger. You can only be upset for so long.

Upper Clapton Dance can be heard at


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