In my view, politics is increasingly unrepresentative of the younger electorate. It’s also a source of frustration to those too young to vote but who still have a voice. I’ve personally made a point not to follow politics, preferring to focus my attention on creative influences.
I first saw one of the billboards posted on an Instagram story by someone I follow. At the time, I didn’t pay much attention. But one by one, more began popping up across my feeds, shared by those whose opinion I respect. The images showed billboards with provocative slogans about Britain, stark against a white background.
I became intrigued as to why this was all my network were talking about. I assumedit was a political campaign given the conversation around Brexit, so I was surprised to find out it was actually a campaign led by the rapper Slowthai.
His campaign stands out from the usual album launch. As someone starting to make waves in the industry, he could have taken the conventional route; a simple poster and a date or teaser video clips on social media. But he didn’t. It’s another ballgame to run with the narrative of his album, ‘Nothing Great About Britain’ and launch an entire campaign illustrating the beliefs behind the name. The depth adds a level of authenticity to his work, proving genuine intent in the message behind the music.
The decision to not use imagery to capture attention is interesting. The style he went with links directly to the messages he’s conveying. It’s black text on a plain white background. No sparkles, no special effects. Just the message. He’s also considered how the end product will be consumed. The call to share photos of the billboards with him online disrupts the flow of trendy food photos and summer selfies lost in space. The posts are confrontational, pulling the viewer out of the fog of sameness.
His method is smart. The fact-based statements aren’t loaded. They stand as a call to action to simply stop and pay attention to what is going on in the world around us. As he says, “I love this country but I feel like we’re losing sight of who actually holds the power and what makes us great: it’s the people, the communities, the small places that are forgotten, everyone that’s striving. It’s a question. I should have put a question mark [on it] really, shouldn’t I?” The era we live in today makes it tricky when it comes to news or information, more often than not it’s filtered, packaged and presented to us with added bias.
Slowthai’s background is a story that a lot of youth share and are experiencing today. He is of mixed heritage, raised by a single mum and struggled to find his feet in education and working life. Performing poorly in school, he bounced around a few miscellaneous jobs, all the while nurturing a talent and passion for music. Like Slowthai, a lot of youth today are torn between what they love and what they believe is expected of them. The power of his success in itself is a message to us all that you can pursue a life fuelled and sustained by what you love, and the confidence and bravery he displayed in doing so will inspire others on a similar path to do so as well.
At 24 and still in the early stages of his career, Slowthai has made the brave decision to use his platform to shine a light on the issues that are polarising society, delivering a voice for the youth of today.
Crucially, the campaign’s viral status is testament to just how switched-on and invested my peers are in the world around them. It challenges the stereotype that young people today are mostly interested in partying, gaming and wasting time on hedonism.
Despite not having the right to vote, youth now command great power through social media. With just a few taps on their smartphones they can contact powerful figures from all over the world instantly, such as the president, and it’s not out of the realms of imagination that they will actually receive a response. Equally, ‘cancel culture’, where young people rally online to boycott negative forces, has become an incredible tool for social change.
Whilst the campaign has grown his brand and sold albums, it’s more than that. Artists like Slowthai who are willing to be bold and outspoken about issues like these are a shining beacon. They inspire the youth that are still trying to find their voice and a way to take part in these conversations. It goes to show that doing good is good for business. But only when the intent to do good comes first.