Comment | Lowkey: Why I had to say no to Westwood TV

Earlier this month, Lowkey, one of the UK’s leading hip hop artists, turned down an invitation to appear on TimWestwoodTV, the influential YouTube channel hosted by UK Hip Hop’s biggest name. In an exclusive piece, he explains why.

Ideas, New in Ceasefire - Posted on Wednesday, January 25, 2012 10:00 - 54 Comments

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Tim Westwood with troops at Camp Bastion

Being not only a Hip Hop artist but a life-long fan of the genre, I have, like many others, been very familiar with Tim Westwood. As a young boy, I remember listening to his show on Capital FM and have since spent the majority of my almost decade-long musical career trying to get a spot on his BBC Radio1/BBC 1xtra show. For a long time, an appearance on the show was – and, to some extent, remains – the benchmark for any aspiring Hip Hop or Grime MCs. For many rising artists, you were only considered relevant if you had been acknowledged by Westwood. Moreover, whenever Westwood chose to champion a particular artist, throwing his weight behind their career, big success was almost guaranteed.

Yes, his clout as the self-described “gatekeeper” has declined over the past three years, due to the rise of independent media like SBTV and Grime Daily and, more recently, the progression of Radio 1’s Hip Hop DJ Charlie Sloth. Nonetheless, turning down an invitation to appear on Tim Westwood TV, as I have done this month, was not a decision I could take lightly.

As far as I am aware, Tim Westwood’s first visit to the occupying military base ‘Camp Bastion’, in Afghanistan, was in early February 2011. In contrast to his later trip in May 2011, this one seemed to be in a more personal capacity, he had remarked of the British troops stationed there that they were “really making a difference to the world” and that he felt he had a “moral duty to come out”. He also vowed to “come back with Radio 1”. And come back he did.

A BBC Press release, published in late April 2011, announced that “Tim Westwood will be broadcasting his show live from Camp Bastion, the main base for British troops in Afghanistan, for five consecutive days from Monday 30 May 2011.”  BBC Radio 1Xtra, according to the announcement, was ‘the home of new black music’.

Further down, the press release proudly proclaimed that BBC Radio 1Xtra had “teamed up with BFBS (British Forces Broadcasting Service) to simulcast Westwood’s show from the base, linking live with the BFBS Radio studio on the ground in Afghanistan, across the UK and to British Forces in more than 20 countries.” Moreover, Westwood’s Afghanistan shows were to be aired not only on BBC 1Xtra and the BFBS but also on BBC Radio 1 for 5 consecutive days.

This naturally prompts a question: what does ‘black music’ have to do with the occupation of Afghanistan? And why should BBC Radio 1Xtra listeners be subjected to this propaganda? Indeed, even setting aside the broader fact that as a citizen of this country my taxes were being spent to station an army, supposedly representing my interests, in over twenty countries, I found this entire press release very alarming.

Of course, for some this will come as no surprise. After all, whenever the BBC reports from places occupied by British soldiers, the journalists doing so are often “embedded” with them, and that is the perspective many have come to expect from the BBC. However the Westwood move seemed to me to signal a concerted effort to increase support for the British occupation amongst a specific UK demographic.

Although I do not believe Westwood’s decision to do this to be a malicious one, I do not believe it was the apolitical gesture of goodwill he tried to depict it as when he said “I got quite a lot of hostility back in the UK from people who said I was supporting the war, but that’s not what this is about. There is a distinction between the people who sent them and the people who are out there doing it.”

Indeed, a blog post by Rhys Hughes, executive producer for BBC Radio 1 makes clear how calculated this decision was, writing “BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra decided to bring Tim Westwood to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, because the story of the troops out here is primarily a 19-year-old’s story, which is perfect for our audience.” Hughes went on to add “Radio 1 and 1Xtra worked very closely with BFBS (British Forces Broadcasting Service) as well as the MOD to make this trip possible.”

The Ministry of Defence are precisely the people who send our young men and women to kill and die in our name. As such, this was clearly a concerted effort to target the very demographic they look to recruit. After all, who do the Ministry of Defence rely on to leave their homes in Britain and sacrifice their humanity thousands of miles away? It is, as Rhys Hughes put it, the 19-year-olds that are “perfect for our audience.”

Who do the Ministry of Defence rely on to sell these wars? Who do they rely on to recruit for these wars? To provide justification for these wars? The media, of course. The BBC, of course. And now Tim Westwood, the most well-known Hip Hop DJ in this country.

Indeed, upon Westwood’s return from Afghanistan, the BBC 1xtra website published some pictures of his trip with one photo labelled “Westwood phrases in Helicopter ground crew greeting” showing a white board with the words “Westwood quote of the day: Drop a bomb!” written on it.

Whether this was written by Westwood himself is unclear but the sad joke is there for the world to see. Have the people underneath those bombs ceased to be human?

Now, as I’ve said earlier I do not believe this decision was educated enough to be a malicious one on the part of Tim Westwood, but it clearly was a calculated one on the part of the BBC and the MOD hierarchies. Essentially, this trip has enrolled Tim Westwood as part of the war machine; a war machine I want nothing to do with.

Just this month, footage surfaced of US Marines urinating on Afghan corpses. The BBC, no doubt briefed by the MOD, fell over itself to report that those were ‘Taliban corpses’. Not human corpses, just Taliban corpses. As if they even knew the names of the people they were urinating upon, let alone any political affiliations they had and as if that makes any difference anyway.

Can Tim Westwood imagine for one minute how it feels to have your country violently invaded, occupied against your will and then see those foreign troops literally treat the corpses of your countrymen as a toilet? No he can’t. Can he imagine his country being occupied four times by the same foreign power in less than two centuries? Why do the British keep going back to the Afghans’ land? A land almost everyone knows to be the ‘graveyard of empires’?

Let us ignore the feelings of the Afghan people, as we do everyday anyway, and think about what this occupation is doing to the British soldiers involved in it, and how it affects their lives. A recent study has found that, for the last 2 years running, the US military has lost more troops to suicide than it has to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. This is the US military and not the British military but it would be interesting to find out the figures for the latter. I would not be surprised if such findings end up being somewhat similar. Of course, even if such studies existed, I wonder if the MOD would grant us access to them.

Or let us ignore the feelings of the soldiers, as those feelings are clearly not valued by the war machine that has sent them anyway. Let us think of how the citizens of this country feel about our military presence in Afghanistan. Well, in April 2010 an Independent on Sunday poll found that 77% of British citizens want the troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan. And here we reach the truth of Tim Westwood’s trip to Afghanistan.

The reality is that the MOD and the BBC need to sell an increasingly unpopular military adventure to the youth of this nation, so they use a character of dwindling relevance by getting him to broadcast his live show from the heart of the occupation itself. After all, despite his dwindling relevance, this character remains the most widely recognised Hip Hop personality this country has ever produced.

This was, in essence, a failed attempt to make war cool. Now, none of us are perfect, I have made a million mistakes and bad decisions in my life and I am likely to make a million more, but turning down Tim Westwood TV is not one of them. I hope Tim Westwood develops the conscience to regret this decision in years to come.

If you want to stay updated on articles like this one, type your email address in the top right corner box. For previous articles, reviews and interviews featuring Lowkey, click here.

Also see: The Second Death of Mark Duggan.

Lowkey

Lowkey is a hip hop artist and activist. His latest album Soundtrack to the Struggle, released in October 2011, reached the #1 spot on the iTunes HipHop chart. He tweets at @LowkeyMusic1.

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54 Comments

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Marshall Penn
Jan 25, 2012 11:37

Nice words and well put.

Ishola
Jan 25, 2012 11:43

I can confirm as a resident of New Cross, South London, I have noticed quite an increase in excited young black cadets at bus stops, getting on public busses all kitted up on their way to the Woolwich Arsenal

Angel
Jan 25, 2012 11:50

Still one of the most eloquent political rappers, I have huge respect for Lowkey and can completely respect his decision to not take part in the show of a man being puppeteered by the BBC and government to garner support for an injust war.

Yasmin
Jan 25, 2012 11:55

Good article. However, what difference would it make if Lowkey appeared on his show or not. The afghan people are still being massacred day in day out. Instead of talking about the injustices committed by Britain and America, lets find a viable solution.

saman. kuridstan, iraq.
Jan 25, 2012 11:59

You might have made a million mistakes in your life, but with this mindset, it’s very unlikely to make a million more.

Represent!

Mike
Jan 25, 2012 12:04

Very well written and bringing across strong points and facts. I have been waiting to read a decent article on the whole Tim Westwood in Afghanistan situation. Thanks Lowkey, living legend as ever.

hardeep
Jan 25, 2012 12:05

sounds racist to me. by referring to music as black music and then having someone stationed in a country to attract there attention of young people, that is ageism. From what i see they are targeting young black youth to fight and in unpopular war which is you could say cant be won, and also inflict in them the horror of going to war that alone can drive a person to suicide.

Maz
Jan 25, 2012 12:21

@Yasmin – I don’t think Lowkey wants to affiliate himself with Tim Westwood and rightfully so. By appearing on his show it’ll seem like he’s supporting Westwood’s actions.

Tiana
Jan 25, 2012 12:23

Lowkey is a breath of fresh air on the UK hip hop scene!
He fully takes his responibilty as an artist and a role model
seriouly by fully researching what affiliations with others really
means. He is not a sellout most are! He does everything with a
consciously fully knowing the consequences if something goes
Against his beliefs he will not be assoicted with it but he’ll say it
as well explain why! Conscious hip hop all day!

idnaan
Jan 25, 2012 12:29

lowkey is a political m.c, so im glad to see he is real and is sticking to what he says in his lyrics. westwood is very talented but in this scenario he is being used as a puppet, however his job is to promote music and that is what he is doing. the personalities and views to the war of both individuals is on other sides. it would have been good to see lowkey on westwood but gta respect the fact he aint fake

Aamir
Jan 25, 2012 12:37

Agree with lowkey completely, keep at what your doing you dont need to go on westwood to justify your talent!

Painter and Decorator in London
Jan 25, 2012 12:55

I respect Lowkey for the decisiob he made. He is a unique artist at the end of the day.

Souad
Jan 25, 2012 13:47

Informative article. I think what i find most disturbing is the BBC involvement, i have seen various well known Brits go out there for a media covered visit to support to our soldiers. Yet if they genuinely supported our soldiers, they would hit the streets and every other avenue and not rest until our young men and women are brought home. In the video clip Westward tells us, he views going out there as a moral duty (really? moral duty) an on going commitment , something he wants to give his time to and it’s important to him. Westward knows exactly what the purpose of his media covered visit was all about. Why are British soldiers really still there? How has British involvement there benefited the people of Britain? How has it benefited humanity? I support Lowkey’s refusal.

moses
Jan 25, 2012 13:59

American Military Conflicts since the Second World War (not forgetting, of course, that they’ve used the military against their own people several times in blatant breach of Posse Comitatus

IRAN 1946,
YUGOSLAVIA 1946,
URUGUAY 1947,
GREECE 1947-49,
GERMANY 1948,
CHINA 1948-49,
PHILIPPINES 1948-54,
PUERTO RICO 1950,
KOREA 1951-53,
IRAN 1953,
VIETNAM 1954,
GUATEMALA 1954,
EGYPT 1956,
LEBANON l958,
IRAQ 1958,
CHINA l958,
PANAMA 1958,
VIETNAM l960-75 ,
CUBA 1961,
GERMANY l961,
LAOS 1962,
CUBA l962,
IRAQ 1963,
PANAMA l964,
INDONESIA l965,
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 1965-66,
GUATEMALA l966-67,
CAMBODIA l969-75,
OMAN l970,
LAOS l971-73,
CHILE 1973,
CAMBODIA l975,
ANGOLA l976-92,
IRAN l980,
LIBYA l981,
EL SALVADOR l981-92,
NICARAGUA l981-90,
LEBANON l982-84,
GRENADA l983-84,
HONDURAS l983-89,
IRAN l984,
LIBYA l986,
BOLIVIA 1986,
IRAN l987-88,
LIBYA 1989,
VIRGIN ISLANDS 1989,
PHILIPPINES 1989,
PANAMA 1989,
LIBERIA 1990,
SAUDI ARABIA 1990-91,
IRAQ 1990-91,
KUWAIT 1991,
IRAQ 1991-2003,
SOMALIA 1992-94,
YUGOSLAVIA 1992-94,
BOSNIA 1993 onwards,
HAITI 1994,
ZAIRE (CONGO) 1996-97,
LIBERIA 1997 ,
ALBANIA 1997,
SUDAN 1998,
AFGHANISTAN 1998,
YUGOSLAVIA 1999,
YEMEN 2000,
MACEDONIA 2001,
AFGHANISTAN 2001 onwards,
YEMEN 2002,
PHILIPPINES 2002 onwards,
COLOMBIA 2003 onward,
IRAQ 2003 onwards,
LIBERIA 2003,
HAITI 2004-05,
PAKISTAN 2005 onwards,
SOMALIA 2006 onwards,
SYRIA 2008,
YEMEN 2009 onwards,
LIBYA 2011 onwards

Ary
Jan 25, 2012 14:00

Great article. Lowkey is inspiring :)

Nathan Khan
Jan 25, 2012 14:15

I’m always unsure how to react when I hear of celebs going out to war zones, it’s terrible publicity stunt and I really can’t get to grips with the message they are trying to portray. War is War – end of and going out to support anoccupation is what I find most shocking when compared to whole idea behing human rights and whats really going on.

Eqaz khan
Jan 25, 2012 14:22

Nice article .. love it.. love u lowkey!! :-)

Eqaz khan
Jan 25, 2012 14:23

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lowkey-the-Legend/305257566186621

Join this page for lowkey on facebook!!

d stone
Jan 25, 2012 14:40

I can only say that I was well in to Hip Hop in the early eighties (showing my age , I know!) What I have seen over the last 20 years or so is what i call the new black slavery, where rap artists are shown blatently disrespecting black women, taking full on drugs, while holding bottles of alcohol, not to mention glamorising violence. This is exactly what Malcolm X saw in the sixties happening with gun shops in 1 corner of the hood with alcohol shops almost side by side. The music industry is controlled by the same menace that is in Holywood which reflects foreign policy in the Whitehouse.
We need to educate our young and stop this new slavery.
Peace Lowkey, we need more like you in Hip Hop!

joebhoy
Jan 25, 2012 14:47

to whoever said westwood is talented-gies peace,he has made his money out of trying to speak like a compton blood or crip,his sycophantic ramblings when in the company of big name rappers is sickening,the man trys to make out hes from the “street” when in reality he was born into money and comfort as a minsters son,in my opinion he is a fake and anytime he opens his mouth i(as a white man)cringe with embarrasment,lowkey is the polar opposite,a man that stands for his beliefs-malcolm x said “a man that stands for nothing will fall for anything” if lowkey went on his show lots of real ppl that know the streets wouldve lost respect for him,(how can the army be defending the uk by blowing up and shooting poor ppl in the middle east,(trying to survive and get by)but even that isnt the reason,his reason is he couldnt look himself in the mirror,lowkey could be a multi millionaire if he signed up to the “club”,he refuses to because if he did his music would be VERY different as hed be censored-its refreshing to see a young man put his principles b4 his bank account,it almost never happens,but lowkey is different and i have as much respect for him as is possible,lowkey dont ever change my friend,we need more like you not less-i wish i could let him know how much i admire his courage-god/allah bless you lowkey-joe
ps please come to glasgow,id love to come see you-2pac wouldve loved you m8,because like him you refuse to hold back-we need to change this world b4 its too late-humble yourself b4 god ppl-its the only way

A
Jan 25, 2012 14:50

You’ve got to give Lowkey credit. He never sells out his beliefs and views. If only more artists could do this then maybe we would have more music with meaning instead of the generic ‘music’ constantly pushed out to match the record companies business model and agenda.

Sofia
Jan 25, 2012 14:57

Could not agree more with comments above about how Westwood is an embarrassment. His poor and insensitive attempts to imitate hiphop culture, despite his evidently rich, white and privileged background, are indeed cringeworthy.

Lowkey, a man of intelligence, moral integrity, profound political understanding and humanity, is right of course to refuse to dignify Westwood TV with an appearance. Westwood’s involvement in war propaganda is inexcusable.

Many years ago I attended a Westwood event at a club in East London. Westwood spent the night hurling abuse at innocent women who did nothing more than respond to his repeated requests for their presence on stage. To be exact, he offered free champagne to first woman to present herself to the stage, when a woman appeared he repeatedly called her “a f*cking hoe” and proceeded to do so all night. His behaviour was disgusting.

The man is a pathetic parody of himself and the sooner his increasing irrelevance becomes complete irrelevance the better.

joebhoy
Jan 25, 2012 15:01

one more thing-after the bush debacle,i admit i was caught up in obamas false promises,i genuinely thought he could be our generations JFK-i feel so foolish,because i shouldve known better,but what we got to realise is there is a battle going on for our hearts minds and most importantly our souls-we are being constantly being bombarded with subliminal AND right in your face msgs-we need to break the hypnotic hold these ppl have us all in,i look about and lowkey seems the only famous person in the uk that is resisting while also trying to wake ppl from their slumber-THE WORLD NEEDS CHANGE & CHANGE NEEDS TO BE FOUGHT FOR-there may be martyrs,but we got to draw the line in the sand,if only to give the next generation a fighting chance,instead of them being plugged into ps3s and other tech-it MUST stop-go lowkey,im in your corner m8,just let me know!

joebhoy
Jan 25, 2012 15:09

@moses you forgot eire my friend-i lost a LOT of relatives and family friends due to the terrorist british army-my ppl will NEVER forgive or forget the atrocities commited against them-erin go bragh (ireland for ever)

Shafik
Jan 25, 2012 16:12

Very well-spoken, Kareem. I could not have said or found anyone who could write those strong words as well as you. Keep up your work and influence, and may Alaah bless you every step of the way.

As for westwood, he’s just a white man that trys to act like a broke black man from the streets. It’s ridiculous how people can look up to him, especially after broadcasting and showing his support in Afghanistan

Javed
Jan 25, 2012 16:42

Well done Lowkey. You are definitely the man.

My admiration for you has gone up ten fold.

Stick up for what you believe in.

Dan PYC
Jan 25, 2012 16:45

Massive, massive respect, fantastically written.

Lowkey turns down Westwood TV « sisters of resistance
Jan 25, 2012 16:52

[...] [...]

james
Jan 25, 2012 19:00

Big up Lowkey for this, now let’s organise a Westwood boycott in the grime/hip hop community. It can be done.

Iqbal
Jan 25, 2012 20:11

I understand the view of being against the war, but I feel Lowkey is reading a bit far into this. How many artists and DJs go to warzones and camps and perform to troops live and broadcast their shows? A lot. I just think its a promo decision to make it look as if they care about the war and that will get them more viewers/listeners. Just saying…

Benjamin Samuel
Jan 25, 2012 21:15

I remember listening to this Radio 1 and BFSF the army radio show. It went out of its way to support our boys in their fight for Afghanistan. WTF
Thank you Lowkey for standing by your position. No rapper is free of political bias, even Tim Westwood and the BBC; I first saw you perform at a Stop the War political rally and put you very much in that genre.
Peace.FM

Ibrahim
Jan 25, 2012 23:26

Stand firm.

Sami
Jan 25, 2012 23:30

Good on you Lowkey- Just proves that you will never sell out and stick to your beliefs.

Aisha
Jan 25, 2012 23:54

As always… Much Love & Respect Lowkey!

Saj
Jan 26, 2012 0:38

Very well written article with references and comparisons I think this is just Kareem mastering his writing skills so one day he can be an author. Great work someone should forward this to Westwood.

Kassa
Jan 26, 2012 2:53

Yaa Allah protect this brother from the eVil eye and envious ones and from the servents of iblees. Aameen. THE REALEST RAPPER ON THE SCENE!!!! Cant SNM. PerioD.

jannathul
Jan 26, 2012 4:07

Lowkey mashuallah ur amazing ….u have brillant writing skills and and we all trust you to do by your beleifs, someone defo forward this to westwood. Lol xxxx (marryme)

Bobby
Jan 26, 2012 21:46

Well done Lowkey – We need more artists with moral standards. Keep writing for Ceasefire!

agzilla
Jan 26, 2012 23:54

Principles… Rare. Integrity.. Scarce. Intelligence… Precious.

Respect Lowkey… I’m old school.. Been listening to Westwood in the background nearly all my life since he was on the pirate stations (LWR) and at the Wag..

The man has worked hard, but is a fraudulent chameleon.. A shape shifting coke sniffing self serving parasite of the culture.. Embarrassing..

Now allowing himself to be used to recruit for the war on islam?

Naaah.. Can’t support that.

Agzilla – Deckwrecka

Zz.

Dre
Jan 27, 2012 17:50

Standing up for what is right it the thing you’ve done..

TW bless him but he sold himself out long time ago..

Lowkey this will enhance you and you’ll do well from this …

Syeda
Jan 28, 2012 15:08

Well done Lowkey, u are a true man, a soldier in God’s eyes fighting for the lives of innocent. Who needs that rubbish BBC?, I even gave up watching eastenders (which was a favourite) and all TV programmes that indirectly support war or are not islamic, almost everything in this country supports the war apart from the majority of people within it. I hope people can awaken themselves from the reality of what is going on. They tried to use your music, and make you look like a hypocrite, they are very very stupid indeed!

gh
Jan 31, 2012 17:02

It’s all a conspiracy!!! Westwood and the BBC are conspiring to get black people into the army! (LOL) You and all your cliquey fan boys crack me up lowkey, lay off the green stuff.

» Why Lowkey said no to Westwood / Beat Culture
Jan 31, 2012 17:31

[...] Click here for the piece. Tags: lowkey, uk hip hop [...]

fareed aka faz ov block oNe 9
Feb 2, 2012 5:32

bbc can suck dick an die slow an thts every 1 that works for bbc. Big up 2 LoWKeY

Blackwall Oz
Feb 6, 2012 14:36

Remember it isn’t the MoD who send the young to fight and die, it’s our elected leaders.

And maybe Westwood went for the money because his influence IS fading.

And seeing all those lads on the bus to Woolwich, maybe if some of them didn’t mess around in school and got decent exams they wouldn’t have to rely on being cannon fodder for the MoD and have a career in arts, finance, engineering etc…

Blackwall Oz
Feb 6, 2012 14:40

to: joebhoy… i think few of your rellys have had a good shot at the UK too… Omagh, Warrington, Manchester Arndale, Woolwich Barracks, so let’s just call it quits and move on eh?

Blackwall Oz
Feb 6, 2012 14:52

to: Syeda … that is your UK deomcratic right to critisize the output of the BBC, however, I will pull you up over the islamic comment. If I was in Iraq, Iran or Saudi and watching their tv and made a complaint about the lack of Christian based tv programmes I think we all know what answer I would get!! And you know what? I’d expect it as I am not at home so my views are not valid.

The same applies to you too my friend, if you feel so strongly about it, buy Sky TV and subscribe to Al-jezzera Tv where I’m sure they will cater for all of your broadcasting needs…. but with no sign of a Phil, Grant or Dot Cotton though!!

lol ;-)

PIXLIFICATION
Feb 20, 2012 12:29

I need to read this again it was so good, wonderful bit of succinct prose, to the point and well constructed. Yeah Lowkey, i understand and concur. When i was growing up ( i watched the ‘world at war’ avidly before i was ten years old) i always wondered what it those who mistakenly voted for Hitler felt like. Then i voted for Tony Blair!!!!!! the True horror of what i am culpable for is with me with every atrocity every news cycle. A permanent stain on my soul. you made the right decision blood.

respect2lowkey
Feb 29, 2012 12:21

Big respect to Lowkey. Lowkey stands up for what is right..always & never selling out.

Tim Westwood is a nobody anyways, I remember back in the day there was an underground hiphop forum (got closed down because of people sharing break beats etc) there was a section where people would post how rubbish Tim is & that he only got the job back then because radio1 back then didnt employ black DJ’s. Tim is just a manufactured wannabe. Tim talks about a distinction between whos sending them out there etc BUT he still supports them, bottomline means he supports the killing.

Theres always people saying ‘support our troops’ ‘its not their fault’ etc its the government’ etc NO they made a conscious decision to go out & kill, no matter what. These warmongering inhumane callous morons are always trying to justify invasions, murders, occupation etc.

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tanveer
Aug 3, 2012 21:51

Lowkey is the best hands down in the UK HIP HOP SCENE
HIS music all have meanings in them, while mainstream artists are being exploited like tools.

omar
Feb 10, 2014 11:03

lowkey is a real man i love him and respect him

Tuggs
Apr 6, 2014 20:20

Nice article, fantastic principle to stand on, but shoulda gone on the TV and said that to his face ala KRS ONE!!! then wrote an article on why he did it.

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