Things are fraught in the UK right now. There’s the post-Brexit backlash, dissent in the Labour party, a Tory leadership contest and a wave of hate crime and street harassment, with over 100 racial incidents recently reported. In response, a clip in which Akala comments on the ‘insidious’ nature of racism from the BBC’s Frankie Boyle's Election Autopsy 2015, was shared thousands of times. We spoke to the rapper to hear his thoughts on the situation the UK currently faces.
On the damage done by voting 'Leave'
“There’s a real sense of renewed racism – that some people belong here and others don’t – and that was borne out in the polls; 80% of people that voted ‘leave’ think that multiculturalism’s bad, 71% of them think the internet’s bad, they think the green movement’s bad, they think feminism’s bad. This idea that it was about TTIP [a trade partnership between the EU and US] or corporate power or any of this c**p people will pretend it’s about is wrong – it’s about fear of other people and believing that we’re better than other people – good old fashioned 18th century xenophobia. It just doesn’t make Britain look very good in the world.”
On who created this atmosphere of fear
“It isn’t just UKIP – it’s the media; the Daily Mail and The Sun. Even the Tory party and the more Blairite wing of the Labour party – it’s a way of the political class deferring their f**k-ups. We all know that £500bn was given to the bankers after they messed up the national economy, we know we always find money for war when we need it, but we can’t quite find the money for good schooling or a good NHS or all the other things that regular poor folk need. There’s a whole set of people who run this country who, to disguise their own shortcomings, will have you blame people coming from elsewhere.”
On the future of the UK
“I believe there’ll be a very significant economic downturn if they invoke Article 50, I think, ironically, poor people – a lot of the people who voted ‘leave’ - will be the hardest hit by that. It’s also given legitimacy to a kind of 1970s style bigotry. That’s going to be one of the most significant consequences of a campaign run wholly on the fear of other people.”
On hope for change
“It’s not like the only tradition in this country is a tradition of racism and hatred. There’s very progressive history when it comes to the anti apartheid struggle, the abolitionist movement, the Chartists and the suffragettes. There’s a long history of multiracial, class-based struggle to better people’s lives. Those people continue, but those people are not the people in power. Decent people don’t seem to be in the political class of the country.”
On Theresa May or Michael Gove becoming PM
“Neither of those options fills me hope that Britain is going to become a nicer place for the average decent working person!”
On running for PM himself
“I don’t see that happening! Anyone who thinks that someone like me could become Prime Minister doesn’t understand how dirty politics is. The political system is not set up to deliver genuine democracy. Almost all of our political elite was educated in the same place, they’re all rich. But we can affect politics as musicians, as artists, as thinkers, as writers, as everyday people in our everyday lives. You choosing to go and give food or time at a homeless shelter, to volunteer at a youth centre, to mentor young people, to listen to this music over that – all of these are political choices. It’s not like we have no power.”
Akala plays London’s Citadel Festival on July 17. 10 Years Of Akala is out September 6. A UK tour will follow in October.