Tom Slater

Rap stars like ‘Dave’ should stop calling Boris a racist

Rap stars like 'Dave' should stop calling Boris a racist
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Plenty of people are pretending this morning that they actually knew who Dave was the day before yesterday.

The Streatham rapper made headlines at the Brits last night for calling Boris Johnson ‘a real racist’ during a performance of his song ‘Black'. Suddenly, he’s the toast of Twitter, liberal-lefties and assorted other Boris-loathers, who eagerly shared clips of the performance.

Following the huge success of his debut album, Psychodrama, which won album of the year last night, Dave, it seems, has achieved a kind of crossover success - he's cracked the Guardianista market.

But among other standout Brits moments - like the bloke from Chumbawamba pouring ice-cold water on John Prescott or Jarvis Cocker pretending to moon Michael Jackson - this was actually pretty dull and predictable.

‘Black’, a song about racism, black pride and black pain, has been out for a year. But Dave added an extra verse to bring it up to date. He spoke up for the victims of the Windrush scandal. He also gave a heartfelt tribute to his friend Jack Merritt, the young academic and rehabilitation worker who was killed in the London Bridge terror attack. Which is all fair enough.

But Dave’s crude pop at Boris, plus a line about the alleged mistreatment of Meghan Markle, made it all come off like a ragbag of liberal-left one-liners about how racist Britain is and the evils of Toryism and the redtop press.

Dave is wrong to call Boris a racist, because, whatever you think about the PM, he clearly isn’t. Those who say he is rely entirely on lines from his old newspaper columns, wrenched out of context, and the fact he once made a joke about a misogynistic religious garment.

What’s more, this degradation of the word ‘racist’, its defining down to basically mean anyone someone disagrees with, has clouded the discussion of racism and fostered a lot of unnecessary resentment. The r-word has become little more than a weapon in the culture war, and this will only make locating and challenging real racism more difficult.

‘Rapper slags off Conservative prime minister’ is hardly a shock headline, and I don’t go to pop stars for thoughtful, unifying commentary on political issues. But, in the end, what grated about Dave's performance was how safe and pedestrian it was. Even those who disagreed with his comments would hardly have been shocked, given they hear them over the airwaves every day.

For while calling Boris a racist was no doubt intended as anti-establishment, it perfectly echoes the views of the cultural establishment, the chattering classes, those deranged by Brexit and obsessed by identity politics, who are now praising Dave to the hilt. A rapper being ‘political’ or ‘controversial’ now seems to mean saying things that the Independent’s sketch writer can eagerly endorse.

Rappers and pop stars used to be relied upon to transgress, now they just repeat Radio 4 talking points. They used to surprise us, now they just reflect middle-class prejudices. It’s not just Dave, either. Grime superstar Stormzy did basically the same thing at the Brits in 2018, taking a pop at Theresa May and her allegedly racist regime.

None of this is particularly offensive - it’s just incredibly, incredibly boring.