Skip to main content

Chris Inperspective: Black people should own Black art

Following his viral Facebook videos calling out Hospital Records for their part in the whitewashing of the drum & bass scene, founder of the Black Junglist Alliance, Chris Inperspective, explains why the route to real change is more Black ownership

This whole situation with me saying all this stuff about Hospital Records, and about the jungle scene at large, is pretty mad. A lot of white guilt and Black anger has been thrown at me; and mentally, it’s not been a problem to deal with, it’s actually been quite enjoyable for the most part, because I’ve had a lot of positive conversations. But I’m sensing a lot of lip service. Those on the board at Hospital still haven’t made any further updates like they said they would in their initial statement in June. It’s just plain arrogance on their part. They are literally treating the Black community like the guys selling watches on the beach in Spain — just waving us away, in the form of poorly curated live streams. It’s sad really. 

They seem to think the normalisation of whitewashing in jungle and drum & bass is so strong, that eventually it’s gonna go back to selling posh white boys — by Christmas this will all be forgotten. That’s not going to happen. There’s a big group of people who are looking at drum & bass now in a way that they’ve never looked at drum & bass before. These labels need to really take a hard look at themselves. They’re gonna feel attacked again if they read this, I get it, but it’s not an attack, it’s just really reminding you that you cannot pull any bullshit here. It can’t be some quick plaster. It has to be an elongated sustainable programme of re-inclusion of Black faces. (I’m using the term Black loosely in this whole conversation, it’s people of colour that I mean.)

Black women, in particular, really need to be seen right now,for a whole myriad of reasons which are so complex on so many levels. There are people that I know who would be able to write whole theses on this, because the misrepresentation of Black women, in society first and foremost, but also in jungle and drum & bass, is just so bad. And as the group I started, the Black Junglist Alliance (BJA), has developed, it’s become abundantly clear that that’s a huge priority. 

The advantage that drum & bass has, over any other dance music form, is the fact that all the top labels are in one country. And all the major media outlets. You’re in this country. Most of you are in London for fuck’s sake. You can literally have systemic change in jungle and drum & bass tomorrow. You get the top five or six labels on one Zoom chat or at one dinner round someone’s house, and you just fucking thrash it out with a couple of representatives from the Black community or the Black Junglist Alliance. That’s solvable.

You show a 15-year-old Black kid GRM Daily and you show him UKF — what is he gonna go to? It’s very simple. So that’s my problem. DJ Kane said it best. Young Black kids see jungle and drum & bass in the same way they see the police force, it’s a hostile environment and a place they are not welcome. I’m sure that comment may upset some, but if it does then you need to take a look at yourself. What exactly upsets you about what I’m saying? 

I want young Black kids and kids of colour to see positive Black imagery in association with drum & bass. Because there’s a notion that we’re only capable of showing a ratchet or a more downtrodden side. Or that we’re aggressive, or whatever. It’s all these kinds of tropes that are commonly put on us by the media in general. Just open up the Daily Mail, the Express, or watch the BBC or Sky One. Yeah, white kids in Hackney might be able to differentiate. But what about that kid in Grimsby, or the kid in Godalming in Surrey? Or the idiot in a Tory stronghold like Hellhole Horsham who abuses artists like Degs (who loves being on Hospital more than life itself) on a daily. He’s gonna grow up with a certain way of thinking in terms of what Black people are and what we stand for. The only way you fix it is by having more Black ownership, because then we get represented by ourselves. Then Black people will be deciding how Black people are seen by everyone.

"Anything fucking cool you like, a Black person probably invented it, in music that is. With blues, we literally made the pain and suffering of slavery and the years after into a global phenomenon. That’s what Black people are capable of doing"

Black people should own Black art. And that’s why there needs to be more Black ownership in jungle and drum & bass, because it is Black art. Even if you take all the samples that were taken by white artists, it was all Black music. All the breaks that white artists took back in the day, it was all Black music they sampled. Even if you sampled heavy metal, that’s still Black art, because it came from blues. It doesnt matter — anything fucking cool you like, a Black person probably invented it, in music that is. With blues, we literally made the pain and suffering of slavery and the years after into a global phenomenon. That’s what Black people are capable of doing.

So what I’m saying now to a 15-year-old Black kid who might be into drum & bass is: start a label. Don’t wait on Hospital to make your dreams come true. It might be better for you to find some other people and start something yourself, because I just think that’s more empowering. And get in touch with the BJA. This is what we want to do: If you’re a Black artist and you’re thinking ‘Fuck it, I’m gonna start my own label’, we can then put you in touch with the right organisations, the right people to help your label be what you want it to be — get the right info, the right advice, as a young Black artist, as a young Black entrepreneur. That’s what is, for me, the main priority now.

At the moment we’re setting up a charitable foundation, and the remit will be to endeavour to find more diversity within jungle and drum & bass. It’s the only way we can really have any power, because a foundation is something you can build upon — and what I’m trying to build here is something that will go on after I’m dead. People might think it’s me having a big ego, but I know why I’m doing this. It’s about my son being able to go out in 10 years time and see people his colour or darker on the stage or in the dance with him. That’s what the BJA is for. It’s to help bring people of colour back to drum & bass. Like when it was at its best.

It hasn’t been lost on me that people might read this and think: ‘Oh it’s the guy that’s at the end of his career and he’s bitter about being fired from Hospital’. I get how someone would read this and think that. But you would only think that if you hadn’t watched my videos. Or if you’re just a prick. Because when I explain what happened in the music that I love, by the biggest organisation in the music that I love, then you realise why this fuss needs to be made, and will continue to be made, and why the BJA needs to be there.

It’s a bit arrogant maybe, but it’s similar in a way to the Black Police Association or the Black Lawyers Association. There’s a lot of Black organisations in many industries, and there’s a reason for that: because we’ve been marginalised on a societal scale. So it’s political. We’re not the Black Panthers, or the Black Avengers (our unofficial title), but we are certainly gonna be making sure that ownership and inclusion of people of colour is the primary concern within jungle and drum & bass.

After reflecting on how we can tackle the issues  around racism and racial injustice within the electronic music industry as a publication, we delivered our pledge to you yesterday (Monday 20th July), presenting significant changes within the company in order to better represent the scene — from the way we do business, to who we work with, and give coverage to. Read it here.

You can also find a directory of collectives, organisations, charities, and initiatives working with the Black community in a number of different ways, as well as resources that you can use to educate yourself, get involved, and donate if you can here.

Chris Inperspective pic buy Tony Oudot.