By now most people who have followed my posts probably know that I’m a fairly big fan of activism through music, and these days particularly via rap and hip hop. I’ve written about it in regards to the Bernie Sanders campaign and comment on it here fairly often here in regards to Indigenous artist highlighting their modern struggles through the art-form.
So in a continued effort to highlight the new era of musical activism (and to take a break from all the Trump talk), I thought I’d give 5 examples of why Kareen Dennis (aka ‘Lowkey’) is my 2017 activist artist of the year.
Lowkey (born May, 1986) is a British-Iraqi hip hop artist from London who rose to underground fame (and government notoriety) with his politically charged track Obama Nation and the’Soundtrack to the Struggle‘ and later an extremely highly viewed & reviewed ‘Fire in the Booth‘ appearance. Due to his activism and opposition of Zionism plus support of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Lowkey has been arrested or detained multiple times on various travels. This is probably also related to him being a sharp critic of United States and British foreign policy, claiming that the two powers are only interested in supporting leaders who are under their influence or are willing to assist them. He also claims American media overlooks those within the country who do not believe in American military supremacy. Israeli hawks describe the increasing influence of performers such as Lowkey as a “potential nightmare”.
In May 2017, Lowkey endorsed Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the 2017 UK general election. He said: “We have a choice between policies which foster empathy and policies which foster greed, resentment, estrangement and alienation.”
Between 2012-2016 Lowkey took a hiatus from music to travel and further his education then mid 2017 he jumped right back into things with a stronger message than ever. Below are 5 of the best examples:
- THE DEATH OF NEOLIBERALISM
With the skill of an alchemist, turn pain into empowerment
Inspired to be alive, in this powerful moment
No more will these cowards sell us out to their donors
We rose, like a giant awoken out of this coma
Confront the culture of power with the power of culture!!!
An upbeat anthem of awakening to the realities of the Neolibaral agenda and a call to band together to fight back with ‘the power of culture’.
- LORDS OF WAR
Intestines, shattered hopes and dreams adorn the floor
The face behind the screen has seen it all before
And the worst thing about is theres more in store
Just another sacrifice to the lords of war
A look at the effects of ‘push a button to kill from thousands of miles away drones’ on those they are used against, those who use them, and those who order & profit off of it.
- Lowkey On Militarism, Foreign Policy and the Arms Trade
Showing a massive knowledge of history and how they relate to current events, Lowkey talks to Tom Barns about militarism, foreign policy, austerity and the toxic role the Arms Trade industry plays in the UK political system at home and abroad. Well worth watching.
- FIRE IN THE BOOTH PART 2
Power to those that suffer in silence, those it hurts to hear
Power to those that hold their ground
Power to those that persevere
Power to those that love humanity more than they love style
Power to immigrants probably raising Donald Trump’s child
Marking his return to the much loved on YouTube ‘Fire in the Booth’ program, Lowkey performs one the most packed with knowledge songs I’ve ever heard. I’ve set the video below to start on the ‘200 bars of power’ part, as most of you don’t have time for a 10+ minute performance… but if you do, the whole video is worth a watch if you want to see a lyrical genius at work. Bonus points to all the people who catch the Bernie Sanders shout-out.
- THE GHOSTS OF GREENFELL
The night our eyes changed
Rooms where, love was made and un-made in a flash of the night
Rooms where, memories drowned in fumes of poison
Rooms where, futures were planned and the imagination of children built castles in the sky
Rooms where, both the extraordinary and the mundane were lived
Become forever tortured graves of ash
Oh you political class, so serve out to corporate power
Lowkey witnessed the Grenfell Tower fire disaster in June 2017 which resulted in the death of 80 people (and much likely, many more) . He criticized the British government, Queen Elizabeth II, corporations and the mainstream media in the wake of the disaster; and opined that the tragic event was a result of the injustice and criminality at the heart of Britain’s current political system. He was later hailed in Parliament as “poet laureate” for Grenfell Tower by MP Emma Dent Coad.