The BBC Defends Black Music Critcism… And Quite Right Too
RECENTLY, the BBC rated the most influential artists in Radio 1Xtra’s Power List. The “UK’s leading black music station” (their words) gave the top honour to Ed Sheeran, who you might recognise as being absolutely not-black and not really making black music.
Wiley, number 16 in the poll, went nuts, accusing Auntie Beeb of representing a “backwards” music industry in Britain. “We influence a man and all of a sudden it turns he has influenced us… Lol,” he wrote.
That’s called Columbusing.
The top 5 was made up of Sheeran, Disclosure, Tinie Tempah, Sam Smith and Rudimental and Austin Daboh BBC Radio 1Xtra’s music manager defended the list:
“Every single day of the week, every single hour of the day we support black artists and other races that make black music sounds. I think that anyone who wants to bring race into the discussion is probably a little bit misguided.”
But here’s a thing – race absolutely plays a part.
Why did 1Xtra become a thing? Well, for a start, when you search for it in Google, it is listed as a “new black music network.” Of course, people who aren’t black can make black music, but there’s something a little depressing about the whole thing: the BBC obviously felt the need to represent black music, PoC and people who enjoy black music, so they set up a dedicated station.
With that, when it comes to heralding the best in black music, you’d hope that the top 5 would be more representative of what’s going on. Sheeran, Disclosure, Sam Smith make music influenced by black music (who doesn’t?), but the BBC wasted an opportunity to shout about the people they felt they needed to represent by setting up a dedicated station for.
The aforementioned are also rotated heavily on Radio 1, so with something that is meant to shine a light on the new, innovative artists that are shaping the music played on 1Xtra, it isn’t so much that they need to be black, but rather, someone in need of the spotlight, as British black artists are often criminally ignored in the UK.
That said, at least the BBC has managed to maintain an entire station dedicated to black music.
A lot of the BBC’s critics – other stations, TV think bubbles and broadsheets – are far guiltier of under-representing black music and, indeed, providing a stick to hit any new black music that comes out (because, as you well know, the only credible black music is 20 to 30 years old and endorsed by the white middle classes – that’s why Biggie and ‘Pac are in common parlance while The Future and A$AP Rocky are all but absent in British mainstream media).
The fact is, the BBC did make a mess of this hot-list, however, they made a mess where they’ve been performing well. 1Xtra is just about the only mainstream media outlet that has kept up with modern soul music, Dirty South hip hop, trap, ratchet digital R&B and more.
Austin Daboh, music manager at 1Xtra, said: “We are a station that cares very deeply about black music. From Stylo G to Fekky these are all acts that were played, supported and guided by 1Xtra, often before anyone else cared.”
“There is definitely a wider debate to be had around the mainstream support for black music. Legitimate concerns have been raised around the pressure some artists feel to compete commercially.”
The naysayers are right to question the BBC’s decision to allow Ed Sheeran to be the face of their black music station, but the rest of the media needs to take a long look at their own stock before accusing anyone else of being racist or otherwise.