How black culture has filtered into the mainstream
The growing recognition and appreciation for black culture in modern Britain highlights the prominent presence of the black British community. This appreciation extends from endorsements in the urban music scene from large media companies to the tremendous influence of cultural events. Particularly, the impact of the urban music scene on British society is undeniable—black artists have had their stories and experiences catapulted into the mainstream by utilising their platforms to convey their realities. Namely, Andrew Onwubolu, a rapper and filmmaker from Lewisham South East, London, popularly known as ‘Rapman’ and creator of the distinctly acclaimed web series ‘Shiro’s Story’. The viral trilogy illustrates the struggles of young black people growing up in compromising conditions characterised by gun violence. When asked if he felt that his fictional visual display glamorised gun violence he said: ‘I don’t think it glamorises it at all, it shows the ignorance of it—a lot of these situations could have been resolved with a phone call. It’s to educate, so to not show it would not be true’. The web series collectively amassed a huge 12 million views on YouTube since its initial release in April this year. The demand for more content has led to Rapman being featured on British breakfast television programme ‘Good Morning Britain’ as well as a short documentary on BBC1 News. Rapman also shares his aspirations of taking his works to Netflix in an effort to globally exhibit the experiences of young black people from council estates. The widespread captivation of Shiro’s Story confirms the articulate beauty of storytelling rap.
Another black rapper that is worthy of celebration is British-Ghanaian rapper Michael Owuo Jnr., professionally known as Stormzy. Stormzy has his foot in every camp and is making waves in the mainstream: in music, literature, and fashion. The rapper is an ambassador for Adidas, sporting their clothing in his music videos. In Stormzy’s freestyle music video ‘Shut Up’, which accumulated a whopping 80 million views, Stormzy is wearing a bright red Adidas tracksuit, which visibly shows the Adidas logo. There is an evident correlation with Stormzy’s presence in mainstream society and the 40% rise in Adidas’ brand trend at the time of the deal. Stormzy has also recently created his own publishing imprint ‘#MerkyBooks’ with Penguin Random House, whereby 2-3 books written by people from lower-income communities with fewer resources, will be published with the opportunity of a paid internship. This provision further imbeds black culture into mainstream British society as Stormzy creates a platform for individuals that come from similar backgrounds to his.
The Notting Hill Carnival in London is another cultural affair within the black community that has become a majorly anticipated mainstream event. The carnival was originally created in 1966 for the British West-Indian community to celebrate their culture—now, the estimated 2 million attendees come from many backgrounds all over England. People come to collectively celebrate West Indian culture by consuming the street food that is available, enjoying the music, and wearing their cultural garments. The event is a significant feature of mainstream Britain and is now the largest street festival in Europe—a festival which celebrates black culture.