RAPPERS UNDER FIRE

Kim Howells slams rappers as "boasting macho idiots" - and now we want to know what you think...

The UK’s culture minister KIM HOWELLS has been slammed after he launched an unprecedented attack on rap music and landed himself at the centre of a race row.

The MP singled out So Solid Crew for criticism and dismissed rappers in general as “boasting macho idiots” during a radio interview to discuss the shooting of two teenage girls in Birmingham after a New Year party, when they were caught in the crossfire of a shoot-out between rival gangs.

The MP claimed Britain’s black music scene “created a culture where killing is almost a fashion accessory,” and claimed: “The events in Birmingham are symptomatic of something very, very serious. For years I have been very worried about these hateful lyrics that these boasting macho idiot rappers come out with.”

He continued: “It is a big cultural problem. Lyrics don’t kill people but they don’t half enhance the fare we get from videos and films. It has created a culture where killing is almost a fashion accessory.

“Idiots like the So Solid Crew are glorifying gun culture and violence. It is very worrying and we ought to stand up and say it.”

So Solid Crew have also been attacked by the Metropolitan Police, whose assistant commissioner Tarique Ghaffur said music alienated young men and encouraged them to use weapons as fashion statements.

A spokeswoman for the 30-strong London rap outfit denied that the rise in gun violence was linked to music. Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, she said: “It’s poverty and crime which are escalating. Cocaine addiction is escalating too. They are just reflecting what they see around them. Their music is reflecting society just as Robert De Niro reflected American gangster society in his film roles. They are out there trying to make a positive difference in British black culture.”

[a][/a], who has been praised by police for taking a stance against drug dealers and violence in the black community, dismissed as “bullshit” the minister’s claims that the garage scene is inextricably linked with violence and voiced her support for So Solid Crew. “Garage is a young scene in London, that’s why people in power are afraid of us and try everything to shut us down.”

NME editor Conor McNicholas added that Howells’ comments are “deeply racist” and are an ill-informed reaction to a culture he doesn’t understand.

“We have to be absolutely clear, the gun culture is a function of urban deprivation and not because of the music. The music reflects the experience of young people and doesn’t create it,” he said.

If you have any burning questions on this issue that you think NME.COM should put to prominent figures, in parliament as well as the music industry, email them to us at news@nme.com.