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The Political Prowess of Run the Jewels #RapForTheManyNotTheFew


Image credit: Derek Bremner/NME
In what could be one of the most politically charged gigs of the year Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the UK’s Labour Party, fresh from unexpected success in the general election, is introducing one of the most politically active and outspoken Hip Hop acts of recent times. Michael Eavis will bring Mr Corbyn out to a huge crowd on Saturdays Pyramid stage if social media is anything to go by (below). The fast becoming young people’s hero Jeremy Corbyn will then most likely deliver a short speech to a rapturous crowd and introduce rap duo Run the Jewels, a combination which is likely to create one hell of an atmosphere for the campaigning rap duo.

To some the connection is more obvious than others. Run the Jewels have always been politically outspoken and are good friends with Socialist Democrat Bernie Sanders having shown him a great amount of support during last years US election.

Musician Michael “Killer Mike” Render (R) reacts after introducing U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders at the Annual Oyster Roast and Fish Fry in Orangeburg, South Carolina February 26, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Youth turnout for voting in the UK General Elections has been falling off since the 1990’s reaching as low as 39% in 2001 for 18-24 year and olds. This year it reached 59% with 66% of them voting Labour and 19% Conservative.

The highest amount of 18-24 year olds voted since 1992 bringing them inline with their elders. Looking at those statistics it’s clear that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour campaign engaged the highest number of young people in a political process for decades. This refreshed engagement of young people in Politics can not be underestimated. Young people will no longer be ignored by the political parties and there is a general sense of excitement in the air that hasn’t been evident for a long time.

The recent general election suggests that young people now realise that they need to be engaged in politics in order to shape society to their needs. Young people voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU at last years referendum but not enough of them voted to make a difference.

It’s no secret that Jeremy Corbyn was endorsed by a number of high profile musicians during this years general election. Surprisingly or not he received a lot of support from urban artists and in particular, Grime artists with the hashtag #GrimeForCorbyn soon trending on social media. Some put this put this connection down to the common ground of fighting for the underclasses.


Leading up to and since the general election it seems that Bernie Sanders staff have been working with the Corbyn team and the man himself has even publicly congratulated and endorsed mr Corbyn. Run the Jewels also urged the crowd to Vote Labour at their recent performance at London’s Field Day festival. All of this leaves it pretty obvious as to how Mr Corbyn became the warm up act for Run the Jewels at this year’s Glastonbury festival. RTJ have also been outspoken campaigners for social justice for some time now so this is undoubtedly also a high point for them. I’m sure plenty of RTJ fans will be receptive to Corbyn (as will the rest of the festival), but I’m also hoping a few Corbyn fans will take an interest in Run the Jewels, maybe we’ll spot a sea of mugwumps bumping around.

I remember meeting Killer Mike and El-P back in 2014 when I filmed their music video ‘Run the Jewels’ with Director and friend RuffMercy in Shoreditch studios.

They were some pretty humble and fun loving bros it seemed to me. The best way I can describe it is being similar to meeting a famous skateboarder, they are usually pretty grounded and just seem to be enjoying what they are doing. But I had no idea they would become so successful and powerful as a kind of musical movement. I’m not even sure if political is the right way to describe Run The Jewels. Politics are dirty, sneaky and power creates hunger. By their own admission RTJ have always been talking about important issues for as long as they can remember, it just seems that the way the world is right now those topics are all the more relevant.

Just watch Killer Mike in particular in this series of gripping and emotional take downs on live television. First up his systematic breakdown of Hip Hop culture in response to Bill Maher’s question of Hip Hop inspiring crime & violence.

What’s so great about Killer Mike is the fact that he is a great speaker and can be a role model and a voice for so many young people as he literally has millions of fans. Mike really gets good in the second half of this clip after the chit chat.

His reaction to the Ferguson shooting in 2014 is a staggering show of character and really underpins his passion for confronting today’s injustices. If you don’t know what happened in Ferguson, an unarmed 18yr old black kid was fatally shot after robbing a convenience store. Tyrone Harris Jr was also shot and killed a year later at an anniversary protest of the Ferguson shooting.

Riots in Ferguson following the shooting of Michael Brown
Tyrone Harris Jr – Killed in the one year anniversary protest of the Ferguson Shooting

This followed a series of similar incidents including the 2012 shooting of 17 yr old Treyvor Martin which sparked the Black Lives Matter movement after he was somehow put on trial for his own murder, in place of the offending officer. Run the Jewels happened to have a gig the same night that the Ferguson officer’s not guilty verdict came through. Run the Jewels were the only artists not to cancel that gig and Killer Mike’s emotion can be felt in the rawness of this clip where he felt compelled to address the issue.

Further reaction in this news clip.

During the US presidential campaign last year Killer Mike interviewed US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Since our brief meeting in 2014 I’ve watched Run The Jewels go from strength to strength. From releasing a string of dope tracks to playing at Banksy’s Dismaland during which they chanted the Lyrics ‘Lie Cheat, Steal, Kill’ at a poster of David Cameron. They appeared a few times on Letterman, survived a bizarre on stage attack at SXSW and most recently collaborated with DJ Shadow on a timeless classic which also has a political undertone.

They also filmed a clip for Rookie magazine as part of their amazing ‘Ask a grown man’ feature, in which I think El-P really shines. It’s not often you get to see two adults from a fairly male dominated macho world give advice to teenage girls about their love life.

So their softies at heart really, or maybe just they care, which in a roundabout way brings me back to Jeremy Corbyn. This is the reason that many of his newfound supporters especially young people and urban music artists give for their newfound interest in him and his movement. With his engagement among young voters it seems Corbyn’s power and momentum is also increasing. After all an army of dedicated, empowered, passionate and digitally savvy young people can do wonders for campaigning to bring about social justice.

Michael Eavis and his daughter Emily Eavis who books much of the talent for Glastonbury are self proclaimed Corbyn fans – “I’ll be leading him on – I’ll get a cheer as well!” laughs festival founder Michael Eavis, who at 81 remains as twinkly as ever, constantly rattling off high-pitched chuckles. “I’m so looking forward to it. He really is the hero of the hour, and he’s so refreshing. We’re going to make some major changes in our society. There’ll be a way of financing it somehow, there has to be – this is the future of the country, and young people are so into it. It’s bloody brilliant!”

Eavis applauds Corbyn’s policies on nuclear disarmament and public services, saying of the latter: “The Tories have ignored them, and the Labour party as well – the Blairites. It’s all changed now.”

His daughter Emily, a mother of three who carried her newborn baby around last year’s festival, agrees. “When you think about the number of young people who voted, that gives me enormous hope,” she says. “And I love the way Corbyn has stuck to his message.” -source The Guardian

So the question is are we likely to see one of the most politically charged gigs of this year? Or are the crowd just likely to descend into an unfathoumable chorus of the Labour Leader’s new theme tune ‘OOOh Jeremy Corbyn!’.

My prediction is that he will bring a huge crowd to the Pyramid stage. Glastonbury festival does have a fair demographic spread among its festival goers but the majority of the crowd are undeniably liberal and likely to be receptive to a Corbyn appearance. He will most likely strike a chord with Run The Jewels fans too. I anticipate Mr Eavis bringing him out to rapturous applause and a possible Corbyn chant followed by some heartfelt announcement of political injustices from Mr Corbyn and a speech to further energise and engage his younger and broader audience. The atmosphere will most likely be highly politically charged by this point as Run the Jewels enter stage left. I’m hoping for Corbyn’s sake he doesn’t attempt another high five calamity –  Typically heavy beats kick in, the crowd starts to move and Run the Jewels drop their own political, societal commentary in the form of their trademark power driving beats and melodic lyrics. Or maybe I’m just blowing it all out of proportion as I’ll be on Daddy duty watching it from the comfort of my sofa with my two year old.


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