I’m now starting to feel alienated from my fey and pasty Indie brethren. It hurts. In pubs and students’ union across the country, you’ll hear the same slim-fit-T-shirt-clad Indie kids, bleating the same trite nonsense, and now it’s making me actually angry. Annoyingly, these people look just like me. So this is an apology to Tim Westwood, UK Hip Hop doyen, on behalf of the Indie community. – Joe Sparrow//ANBAD
I’m no hip-hop afficionado. The bulk of my CD collection comprises of albums made by skinny boy-men who spent too many of their teenage years shut away in their bedrooms.
But I can say this, without hesitation: If It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back isn’t the greatest record ever made, it’s pretty damn close (and the hands-down best gig I ever saw was Public Enemy performing the whole album on their mind-bogglingly brilliant Don’t Look Back tour), while the Wu-Tang Clan can pack more creative brilliance into a single song than the whole of U2 have managed in their stupendously dull career.
And to prove this isn’t a thinly-veiled, post-ironic joke at his expense: here’s an outlandish statement – Tim Westwood is just as important to the UK music scene as John Peel ever was. I’ll explain how later.
These are the Top Three Westwood Criticisms, in order of commonness and fatuousness; two traits which are inexorably entwined in this instance:
- “He speaks like a black rapper, but he’s a middle-class white man,”
- “Have you seen how he behaves? He’s 52, but he thinks he’s some kid from Brixton,”
and finally, the all-conquering snippet of Westwood-info, regarded as a trump card by all who play it:
- “His dad was the bishop of Norwich! No, really! Look it up on Wikipedia! See! See!”
The first of these is the most worrying, accompanied as it is by the rank whiff of latent prejudice. Do black rappers talk differently to non-black ones? How should a white, middle-aged, bishop’s son speak and act?
When you hear someone spout this one, feel free to immediately stamp the word ‘moron’ onto their forehead, to spare everyone else the waste of time it took you to find this out.
True fact: there are plenty of ridiculous things to savour about Westwood. His catchphrases (“Bow down and kiss my ring – and I don’t mean the one on my finger, baby!”), his Über-blinged Westwood-mobile with its £25,000 wheels, his nicknames (Big Dawg), his straight-faced donning of the hip-hop wardrobe. Feel free to Google for more fun at his expense.
But bling has always been gauche, catchprases and nicknames always facile, and hip-hop clothing always faintly daft.
Westwood is just living the life of a mover and shaker in the Hip-Hop world, because – and here’s the rub – that’s what he is.
Just think: when he’s not getting UK talent into the studio, he’s also the man who can get Eminem and 50 Cent on his show, on their rare forays into Europe. If they think he’s an idiot, they certainly don’t let on.
There are legions of bandwagon-jumping music commentators who, in a heartbeat, will leap feet-first into the next fashionable genre as soon as it arrives. Westwood has stuck to his guns.
He was there at the start, and is still there now. And he’s not as po-faced as the majority of Indie pin-ups, either: if you have functioning eyeballs and a TV remote, watch Pimp My Ride UK, and then try to convince yourself that his tongue isn’t pressed firmly into his cheek.
John Peel, Indie demi-god, guided generations of music-lovers through the minefield of leftfield new music, and is rightly venerated for it. Westwood is doing the same for Hip-Hop, in a country that for a long time had few native Hip-Hoppers. And all the while he’s been the Westwood character and brand that drives so many to mockery – the same people who wouldn’t dream of poking fun of Mick Jagger – another nice middle-class boy who took ‘black music’ and has sold it to the masses ever since.
The UK hip-hop scene is finally blossoming, spewing out actual chart-topping stars like Dizzee Rascal, and if Westwood is the de-facto figurehead of UK hip-hop, so be it – he should be celebrated, warts and all.
His enthusiasm for hip-hop hasn’t deviated from his early championing, and it won’t, ever, until he reaches that big, jewel-encrusted hip-hop mansion in the sky. Westwood is a man having fun, behaving and living life the way he’d like to live. He’s not stuck in an office, dreaming – he’s doing it, right now, in his stretch Hummer, in his Fubu tracksuit, in his own way.
So, Tim: we’re sorry. We may yet bow down and kiss your ring (and you don’t mean the one on your finger).