Sunday, 9 October 2005

Guns And Gangs

Guns, originally uploaded by chantelle.

If you haven't yet read this book it's a serious investment, an education, and there's really no excuse for ignorance around an issue as prevalent in our society as rising gun crime. We are no longer civil and who wants to live with that? And what are we without it?

Author Graeme McLagan, also responsible for Bent Coppers, rather than wash up another tale of old east gangsters i.e. the Krays or detail the days of white mob rule, he's providing what I think amounts to the first real investigation into black gun crime in the UK. From the increase and influence of crack cocaine and Jamaican drug mules in the 80s and 90's to the formation of Operation Trident and the aftermath, it's here. Surprisingly a few familiar names have popped up. I'm surprised for two reasons a. McLagan really knows his shit which shows a most certain error on my part for assuming he would only scrape the service b. a name can trigger memories and emotions that have lain dormant, the context with which they're rediscovered often leading us down a weathered thought-train.

In particular I was reminded of some old tapes I have, one being an interview which I'm going to blog soon with the now ex-head of Trident which took longer securing than a meeting with any celeb, (about three or four months I recall), and one with a north London crew giving their version and views on certain events they had been involved with. I can't quite put my finger on why, but since doing that latter interview I've never listened back to it... It's only now I think I know why.

A recurrent theme in Guns And Gangs is cowardice, primarily witness' refusing to give evidence. It strikes a chord because truth be told, In my own way, I'm a coward too. Too often we don't want to see or hear the truth because it's too alien to comprehend. You become desensitived to what's going on around you, on your next door neighbours doorstep, up the road, in the next city.
Our instinct say ignoring something will make it go away and we selfishly show a lack of concern when something only effects what we deem to be the minority. If I'm cool, the world can just get on with it. False. Truth is reality and unless you stand up to that reality, the tree of disfunction continues to grow.

One woman detailed in Guns and Gangs really made me sit up. Sophie Lewis, who on agreeing to give evidence and placed under protection, was shot a total of six times on two different occassions, yet still stood up to speak out in court. Forget 50 Cent's scars. Surely this is the kind of face Reebok should be glorifying? Ok, I realise this probably has implications but you get the idea? Yes, I'll hold my hands up if I speak out of ignroance, (her act of bravery is according to McLagan well-used) but stories like hers should be common knowledge.

It also brings me to another case not featured in the book but that has made the press this weekend, that of Helen Kelly, shot outside the UMA (Underground Music Awards) around this time last year. Miraculously she was saved by her bra, the bullet diverted by the underwiring deflected through her breast and out of her body. She had been walking past The Barbican when the shoot out between two rival groups took place (a motive for the exchange hasn't been disclosed). I was stood just a few feet from the crime scene with an artist. After the first few shots rang out, confused as to the cause (fireworks?), we ran around a corner. Diners came out of the restaurant laughing. "Like anyone is going to have a gun battle in Barbican" one man chortled. Feeling stupid we laughed at our great firework escape and despite hearing screaming, thought little of it (why, I don't know) and got into the first cab we could hail down. Picking up the Evening Standard the next day, well it hit home, right there on the front page. Innocent passer-by hit. A 24-year old city worker walking home. The same age as I was then. 'I want justice for her, but I don't want to be involved'. That was my reality. A source revealed to me that 80 witnesses came forward. Very few of those wanted to give evidence, of those that would many sought some form of witness protection. But Helen Kelly didn't. In the end the accused changed their plea to guilty, and yesterday one man received 12 years and another two years.

It makes you think, right?


brad said...

I think it's a tad hypocritical that you are asking us to celebrate someone who helped stop gun crime when you yourself spend your career promoting, writing about and befriending people who actively participate in gun grime and promote it through their lyrics. If you people to read the book and be moved then they're not likely to then read your interview with Skepta, listen to him go 'make your stomache like a bowl of spaghetti'.

Chantelle Fiddy said...

I can see your point but I wouldn't assume to know so much about my life. My friends certainly aren't participating in gun crime and Smash Hits doesn't allow me to deal in grime yet. I write about the music I love, which ultimately isn't a reflection on the lyrical content but the sound as a whole. The difference perhaps between myself and an impressionable 13 year old is that because I know the difference between right and wrong, the lyrics have little negative impact, although I am suitably tired of the same old shanking/gat bars. I've also had moments where I've been close to quitting this because I simply can't hack the contradictions or the people. As a result of this I had to re-structure way I work and who I work with. I don't name names but there's a number of people I don't support through choice, primarily because of way they live their lifes. I'm real to myself. Despite what some may or may not think, I do voice my opinions on this stuff to the artists, although not on a public forum. It's simply too draining to draw out everything that's weak about the music and society. As far as I can recall, I don't glorify gun content?! Nor do I take most lyrics too literally. Half the people that chat it aren't telling the truth, and I think it's sad that MC's are stuck on the same old subject matters and not being real to who they are. Like my point about being a coward (there's plenty of people I could have had arrested) I believe most artists too deserve this tag. They're scared to stand up, be different and speak for what they want and who they want to be incase it's rejected by street code or their peers. A basic assumption to a bigger puzzle but you get the point... However MCing is also an artform. Look at someone like Plan B and he's not chatting about what he does, but what other people do. Often lyrics can be taken too much at face value and I try not to judge anyone without knowing what has gone into their work. I'd hope people have the respect to do the same for me (certainly not the case in most instances). Anyway I'm rambling... but point I'm really trying to make is although not right, half people don't chat reality. That book is the reality though. And I would recommend everyone reads it. I've already told a number of people in the scene to do the same and I'll be interested to hear their feedback when they have.

Chantelle Fiddy said...

p.s. should add, with reference to your comment "they're not likely to then read your interview with Skepta..." again, I don't think people should be immediately tagged by what they say on the mic, and I'll reiterate point about not assuming what's behind the bars. This also relates back to my 'problem' of distancing myself from content because It's the energy and overall feel that I'm into. People should read the book, read the interview, listen to the music and form their own opinions. My voice is just that - mine.