Concerning Lowkey & Radio 1Xtra’s massive London bias.

On my way to the Clarendon Road shops, I passed some lads on the corner and I asked them what they were listening to.

The answer was ‘Lowkey’ – a UK rapper from London. His second album ‘Soundtrack To The Struggle’ came out earlier this month.

I asked them, had they heard his music on the radio?

They said, ‘No, it’s too real for radio’… they get their music directly from YouTube.

They were quite anti-BBC generally; they said they got all their news from Al Jazeera because the BBC couldn’t be trusted. We proceeded to have a good-natured discussion about propaganda and hypocrisy. I was really impressed by their intelligence, their interest in current affairs and their willingness to discuss their ideas with me!

Then I asked, were they interested in any music coming out of Manchester?

They said, ‘No, Manchester music is shit,’ but they didn’t really know of many current local artists. They’d not heard of ‘The Janice Graham Band’ for instance… which is supposedly the ‘next big thing’ around here.

I googled Lowkey when I got home and listened to some of his music. He’s very politically aware and raps about serious issues like Palestine, American foreign policy and mental illness. He’s lyrically very clever but I found the music itself quite boring… of those tracks I listened to anyway.

His “Obama Nation” (May 2011) video was apparently ‘banned from TV’ but I’m suspicious that the rumour was designed to make the content more interesting to YouTube viewers, because I can’t find any hard facts about the ban.

Lowkey was inteviewed by Radio 1Xtra in September, in anticipation of his new album’s release. So the lads I spoke to weren’t quite right in their assumption that his music is ‘too real for radio.’

However, I can’t blame them for giving Radio 1Xtra a wide berth… it’s huge London bias is acutely irritating. Basically, if you’re into ‘urban’ music and you’re outside London you might as well be living in the Outer Hebrides as far as the BBC is concerned because you’re OFF THE MAP!

I listened to Radio 1Xtra’s ‘Best of the Week’ just to make sure I wasn’t being unfair… and the contents were as follows:
– a London Radio DJ interviews a London DJ/producer;
– a London Radio DJ interviews a London girl-group;
– a London Radio DJ talks to 3 young potential ‘interns’, all of whom seem to come from London;
– ‘Gone Too Soon’ – Discussion of Biggy & Tupac.

And the biggest insult is… 1Xtra can employ Tim Westwood* 6 days a week in a prime-time slot, but they can’t give a show to anyone based outside the capital!

In fact, the entire weekday prime-time DJ line-up appear to be London natives, apart from MistaJam who’s originally from Nottingham.

The night-time DJ rota includes Semtex, originally from Manchester but based in London since 1998 (10pm-1am Friday) and DJ Q, originally from Huddersfield (1am-4am Wednesday), but all the others seem to be Londoners.

Manchester does have analogue radio stations, Unity Radio FM 92.8 and Peace FM 90.1, which are playing similar music in Manchester, but they operate on a shoe-string compared with Radio 1Xtra, which we all finance through our license fees!

The BBC, trying to be streetwise and inclusive, ends up excluding young people who don’t live in London… and, worst of all, nobody at the BBC seems to realise there’s a problem!

*Tim Westwood’s Profile:
None of the big names who ‘endorse’ Westwood actually listen to him on the radio, because they all live in the U.S… I wonder what they really think of him… and the rest of us in the UK, for keeping him in such an influential job? - 28/10/2011