BANTS OR NOT, CHRIS & KEM’S FORAY INTO GRIME IS NOT WELCOME HERE

Words: JPHyperfrank

You’ve probably heard by now: Chris and Kem from this year’s hit ITV2 show, Love Island, have an official single out on Relentless which is currently sitting at No. 17 in the charts. Now, don’t get us wrong: Z Dot, who produced the track and has worked with the likes of Wiley, Ghetts and Devlin, delivered as he always does, offering up a shuddering grime riddim worthy of any top-tier emcee. Get your money, Z Dot. You’ve put in the work over the years. But let’s get it straight—this single, “Little Bit Leave It”, is the epitome of white middle-class entitlement.

Here we have two seemingly well-off 20-somethings who have grown up in the English countryside and have probably never had any genuine interaction with black British culture, other than on their computer screens. “Little Bit Leave It” is a clear attempt at making a quick pound off of a culture, a fifteen-year-old movement, which has had to fight nail and tooth to get to the place that it’s at today. Before the Grime 2.0 wave, which was sparked by Meridian Dan’s “German Whip” in 2013, this scene was being shut down left, right, and centre—shows were targeted by Form 696, negative mainstream press was relentless, and the music industry at-large took it for an absolute joke. At one point, it was virtually impossible to make a decent living from grime music.

No disrespect to Stormzy (salutes to the don!), who was a big fan of this season’s Love Island, but his one appearance on the show doesn’t permit Chris and Kem to essentially rip off Lethal B’s leave it catchphrase so that their 15 minutes of fame can last a little while longer. After hearing the obvious similarities, Lethal Bizzle’s management team eventually secured a percentage deal with Relentless regarding the single. However, to the average black music fan, this is a revolving issue: artists wearing blackness as a costume for momentary success (Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Pink… Honey G, Ant & Dec). 

Mash up the place

Smash up the rave

Come on, come on, that chick’s too bait

Come on, come on, got steak on my plate

Came in the game

Opened the gates

Flew to the states

Mixed with the greats, pap’s insane

Stormzy’s mate

Make that cake

Face is bait

All of the above are some of the cringe-worthy lyrics that mimic, or more like mock, dated inner-city colloquialisms that Chris and Kem felt they could adopt and remarket as their own (like high fashion has done with cornrows, durags, slicked-down baby hairs etc). Even on their ITV2 spin-off show, Straight Outta Love Island (🚩), Chris and Kem meet up with UK rap kings Krept & Konan; Kem goes to greet both of them, and then ‘mistakes’ Konan for one of Krept’s back-up dancers. 

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Are these really the people we’re allowing to infiltrate and make money off a scene we’ve worked so hard to build? Another argument we’ve seen online is whether Big Shaq, real name Michael Dapaah, is stealing opportunities from real-life emcees. Dapaah, if you didn’t know, is a well-known comedian who created his own skit show entitled #SWIL. With each video nearing 500,000 views—featuring budding rap stars and other popular faces—Michael has managed to create his own movement via his own social media channels.

Having grown up in Croydon, South London, and with friends in the likes of Stormzy, Bonkaz and more, Daapah’s background is a far cry from that of the bants duo, Chris & Kem. He too was recently given a single deal, off the back of his Fire In The Booth freestyle going viral. This is something he did with no TV production company backing him—just a good idea, and great networking skills. So to compare the two devalues Dapaah’s hard work and approach to a character that is essentially a dramatised version of himself, and his friends. 

Some may be bitter that he’s “gimmicked” his way to a deal, but Roadman Shaq has only highlighted a strategy that anyone (with a personality) could tap into. Michael Dapaah is someone that we can learn from, and have a laugh with. Unlike Chris & Kem, who are now laughing at us all the way to the bank.

Image: Josh Gillespie


Posted on October 10, 2017