TEDxObserver - Plan B - Youth, music and London

Uploaded by TEDxTalks on 17.03.2012

I'd like to thank Goldie for introducing me.
Thank you guys for having me here.
I got kicked out of school in year ten
and no other schools would take me.
I had to go to a Pupil Referral Unit,
which is also known as a PRU.
I went to Tunmarsh Centre in Plaistow
and at this school... I was there with other kids
from a lot more dysfunctional families than me.
They'd been through a lot more than me.
And one thing we shared in common is
we didn't have any respect for authority,
whether it be teachers or police.
I think the reason why we didn't have respect for authority
was because we felt that we're ignored by society.
That we didn't belong to it.
And so we wouldn't listen to anyone
apart from our favorite rappers.
You know -- There was underground music out there that we would listen to.
We would let this music raise us
and most of these artists we'd never meet in our lives
but their words are what guided us.
And unfortunately, some of those words are negative.
You know, within hip hop, there is that kind of --
that hip hop that romanticizes street life and being a gangster and selling drugs.
There is that.
But there's also conscious hip hop.
And I was a fan of the conscious hip hop.
I was a fan of the hip hop that was like poetry,
it was like reading a book.
And it changed your life. Just one sentence could change your life.
And I've realized that this was a powerful tool
and I wanted to change things.
I wanted to change the stuff that I read in the paper or the stuff that I came in direct contact with,
that I didn't agree with.
Damilola Taylor was ten years old when he lost his life.
He was stabbed by a kid
that was maybe only three or four years older than him.
This is a child killing another child.
I didn't agree with this.
I didn't agree with the mentality.
There are a lot of these kids [this was going around with]
but I understood why [there is going around with it].
I understood that they were from broken families
they had parents that were probably alcoholics, drug addicts, dysfunctional.
That raised them up to believe they could never make anything of themselves
because them, as parents never made anything of themselves.
There's a lot of kids that grow up in families where they're abused,
whether it be physically or mentally.
The great thing about the Tunmarsh Centre was
that it was a place where these kids could go for the first time in their lives
and be showed encouragement and motivation,
and be told that they could make something of their lives.
And this school changed my life.
I watched Goldie's TED lecture from last year and he said, basically,
the same things that I'm saying today.
That there's one person out there that can change these kids' lives, you know.
They can come from a negative family environment.
They only have to bump into one person that can plant one positive seed
in their head and in their heart and it can change their life.
And Tunmarsh Centre was full of these positive teachers.
And when I left there, I went on this journey,
through hip hop music,
and I decided to write an album to try to reach out to these kids
and try to, in some ways, I guess, be a father figure to these kids
because they were parentless.
And that's what my first record was.
I found -- with my first record, there was a lot of stumbling blocks
the music industry, the way that it works.
You know, it's not built for the way I make hip hop music.
If I want to talk to these kids, if I want to get through to them,
I've got to talk in their language.
I've got to swear.
I've got to talk about violent negative things
because that's what they're attracted to.
But -- my methods of trying to teach positivity were unorthodox.
I wanted to hook them in by making my hip hop, on first listen,
sound like it was the rest of the hip hop out there.
But when you listen deeper, you'd actually find there was a meaning within it,
and it was positive.
It wasn't glamorizing gang culture.
It was exposing it for what it really was.
The grim reality that, if you get shot nine times,
you're gonna die.
You know, 50 Cent is lucky to be alive.
But in reality, you get shot once, you're gonna die.
And I guess the first album was almost like the anti-smoking campaigns.
You know, where you see a main artery with a load of shit coming out of it.
It's trying to scare us into not smoking.
To think about our actions.
And that's what I think the first record was.
And it was very hard to get it played on radio.
So I took a break from it,
because I started hating music, you know,
and I took a break from the politics of hip hop.
I tried to get "ill Manors" made.
And I had a lot of big film companies that was interested in making it,
but nobody wanted to take a chance on me
because I was an un-tested, un-tried director.
I was ready to make "ill Manors" before this album came out.
And the only reason I didn't make it was because no-one would back me
until this album came out and went straight to number one.
And then suddenly people wanted to give me their money.
But by then, it was too late. I had already done a deal
to make this film on a small budget.
And the reason why I care about it so much
is because this project was me going back,
going back to Tunmarsh Centre,
going back to the schools in the local area,
specifically targeting the poor schools in the local area.
Because I needed kids to represent the characters in this story, in a real way.
I couldn't have Thespians.
At fourteen years of age, you can't expect a fourteen-year-old kid,
who's not from this world to portray this world.
You can't expect that.
The one school that invited us in with open arms was Rokeby School,
which doesn't exist anymore. It's an all-boys school in Stratford.
And I found some gems there. I found some real talent there.
You know, I only had one space, for one role.
And it was like five kids. The one other kid that didn't make it into my film,
off the back of us knowing about him and the casting director taking another job,
he got the main part in "Top Boy".
So the young man in "Top Boy" is someone that through failing to get into my film,
got another opportunity off the back of it.
And that filled me with even more purpose.
So when you've got these kids giving you 100 percent,
and they're believing in you and expecting you to pull through for them,
how could I neglect this project?
How could I enjoy the success of what students make?
I couldn't!
Not coming where I come from.
So... I'm gonna play you a little bit of my next single
and we'll talk about it afterwards.
[Lyrics] Let's all go on an urban safari, we might see some illegal migrants.
[Lyrics] Oi, look there's a chav. That means council housed and violent.
[Lyrics] He's got a hoodie on, give him a hug. On second thoughts, don't, you don't wanna get mugged.
[Lyrics] Oh shit, too late, that was kinda dumb. Whose idea was that? ...Stupid.
[Lyrics] He's got some front, ain't we all? Be the joker, play the fool.
[Lyrics] What's politics, ain't it all smoke and mirrors, April fools?
[Lyrics] All year round, all in all just another brick in the wall
[Lyrics] Get away with murder in the schools, use four letter swear words coz we're cool
[Lyrics] We're all drinkers, drug takers every single one of us burns the herb
[Lyrics] Keep on believing what you read in the papers council estate kids, scum of the earth
[Lyrics] Think you know how life on a council estate is from everything you've ever read about it or heard
[Lyrics] Well it's all true, so stay where you're safest there's no need to step foot out the 'burbs
[Lyrics] Truth is here, we're all disturbed we cheat and lie, it's so absurd
[Lyrics] Feed the fear that's what we've learned Fuel the fire – Let it burn.
[Lyrics] Oi! I said Oi! What you looking at, you little rich boy!
[Lyrics] We're poor 'round here, run home and lock your door
[Lyrics] Don't come 'round here no more, you could get robbed for real
[Lyrics] Yeah, because my manner's ill.
[Lyrics] My manner's ill, for real. Yeah you know my manner's ill, my manner's ill!
[Lyrics] You could get lost in this concrete jungle. New builds keep springing up outta nowhere.
[Lyrics] Take the wrong turn down a one way junction, find yourself in the hood, nobody goes there.
[Lyrics] We got an Eco-friendly government they preserve our natural habitat.
[Lyrics] Built an entire Olympic village around where we live without pulling down any flats
I wanna ask you guys: What is this a picture of?
A what?
(Audience:) A youth!
(Plan B:) A youth.
Oh no, that's not me!
What is it, though? What is it?
(Audience: It's a child.)
(Plan B:) It's a child, it's a boy.
Yeah? Alright.
What's that?
(Audience:) That's you!
It's funny you should say that because that's the point I'm getting to next.
What is it, though?
Who just said "chav"?
It's a chav, right?
He's got a Burberry cap on and everything.
It's a chav.
What does the word "chav" mean?
[inaudible audience remark]
...yeah, that's what it means now, but what did it use to mean?
It did, yeah.
The term may have its origins in the Romani word "chavvy" meaning "child".
Now, my godfather used to call me "chavvy".
He used to call me "chav" and it was affectionate.
I used to enjoy it, used to like it, when he called me that.
And then, in 2004, I think it was, Michael Carroll, the "Lotto Lout",
won nine point something million in the lottery.
And suddenly, the papers adopted the word
and started using it to represent people like him.
That looked and dressed like him.
But people that look and dress like him, where did they live?
They live on council estates, right?
Yeah... they're poor.
They're the underclass.
So what does that word mean now, what does it stand for?
Now I state – this is what I believe – it stands for
"Council housed and violent"
Because people like Michael Carroll,
people like the guy up there,
they're dressed like that,
commonly come from council houses.
And ignorant people, you know, they say, well, the difference is using violence, right?
Well, they do, 'cause they're not educated enough to settle it any other way.
So this word is derogatory.
It's a word used to ridicule and label people
that come from a less educated background than the rest of society.
For me, it's no different from similar words used to be prejudiced towards race or sex,
the difference is, in this country, we openly say the word "chav",
the papers openly ridicule the poor and less fortunate, openly.
If we'd done the same thing with race or sex,
there'd be a public uproar, and rightly so.
But why is it any different with this word?
It is how I believe!
I believe there is a demonization of the youth.
Throughout the media and people are falling for it.
'Cause if you have no direct contact with the kids that I'm talking about,
how the hell can you judge them?
'Cause you're only judging them based on something you read in a newspaper!
Aren't you?
And see, this fuels the fire.
If you call kids words that are derogatory to them,
just because they were unlucky enough to be born into a family
that couldn't afford to give them any of the education that you had,
they're gonna hate you, of course they're gonna hate you!
And you're gonna hate them, because of their actions.
And this is vicious circle that goes round.
By calling these kids these words,
you push them out of your society and they don't feel part of the society,
you beat them into apathy,
and in the end, they just say: "Cool, I don't care.
I don't want to be part of your society."
And then the riots happen, right?
You've got a generation of youths out there, on the streets,
the weather's hot, it's nice, they ain't got nothing to do,
because all the community centers have been shut down,
and all the money that was put into summer projects
to keep these kids monitored and occupied,
because their parents aren't gonna bring them out of the country on holiday,
well they're not going on anymore,
so they've got nothing to do, some riots kick off,
and in it somewhere, there's justifiable reasons,
in Tottenham, a young man lost his life,
but then it spreads.
You've got a whole generation of kids that do not feel like they're part of this society.
And they start rioting and looting.
And taking the things that society has made them feel that are the most important things.
So this is the quote, this is from Sheldon Thomas.
"If you ask how we became a society where young people think it's ok to rob and loot,
I respond how did we get to a society that cares more about shops and businesses
than the lives of young people?"
That's some strong words, right there.
The media demonized the youth.
And when I was – I know this, because...
When I was shooting "ill Manors", we were in Manor Park
and I had a film crew.
We were shooting outside Manor Park train station.
And this gang of Asian youths come up to me,
one boy comes up to me, he said:
"Listen! This is my street. I own this street."
"And you're trespassing on my territory.
You need to get all your crew and you need to leave."
I tried to take him to one side, I tried to explain to him:
"Listen! I'm from Forest Gate. I'm trying to make a film
about what it's like to come from ends like this."
He was not having it. Okay? He was not having it.
He was up there in my face like that and his boys were about to kick my head in.
And I could see members of the crew that weren't from this environment
picking up their gear and saying, "Let's go".
"Let's run!"
And I'm like, I'm gonna get my head kicked in.
But I stood my ground.
Because there's a destructive part of me that would do that.
Rather than back down, I'd try to get one of them.
Knock one of them, at least, out.
'Cause where I'm from, that's what you do.
And I could feel that, I could feel it coming,
I'm thinking, "Wow, you're gonna knock one of them before they all jump on ya."
And then all I hear is: "This ain't your street!"
I see the biggest group of guys I've ever seen in my life,
come out of nowhere just like, just brush these kids aside like they're nothing.
Like they were made of paper.
Kids all like, head down, tail between their legs, walk away.
I'm looking at these guys, I'm thinking:
"Do I know these guys?" – No, I don't know these guys!
He nods at me, he says: "Do your thing, man. Do your thing."
And I had security for the rest of the day.
(Laughter) (Applause)
Well, I did!
And in return, I put these guys, the heroes, in the film.
Now, when I spoke to a newspaper about this story,
I thought there's no way they could twist this story.
I was so happy to talk to this newspaper about this story.
Their version of events is the same as mine,
all up until the point where I was about to get my head kicked in, but I wasn't scared.
And then they changed the subject.
Why would you leave out the greatest thing about the story,
the whole point in that story?
Why would you leave it out?
Because for the rest of your newspaper, it doesn't fit in.
Because all the other articles in the newspaper
are about how bad the kids are in this country,
and how much of a problem they are, alright?
So I know we demonized youth in this country.
And I'm asking you, the people out there, not to be so naive and just don't fall into the trap.
Don't let what you read in the newspaper, in the media, sway you.
I'm going to trying and wrap this up, I can talk for hours!
This guy, he was 19 years old when he joined my band.
He was a very quiet young man but a very talented young man
and I saw that talent in him.
And I brought him on tour and he flourished.
Like I threw him in at the deep end but he's so talented
that he just, he rose to the occasion.
This guy -- he's from Forest Gate -- comes from a dysfunctional family background like myself,
and had a bad attitude, but again, very talented.
And I took him on the road with me and I showed him
the opportunities that were there, that was out for him.
But now, listen, I can only do that if I meet a young person
and I see they have a musical talent
or they have an acting talent.
They're the only kids I can help.
If you can do something else, like, I don't know, maybe...
Like you're a plasterer or something.
You come to me and go "I really want to go plastering."
All I can say: "I can't really help you with that, mate."
I can't!
What I realize is, other individuals out there
that feel passionate about these kids as much as I do,
that will help these kids.
And that brings me to this guy.
So, that's Ryan. That's the kid I was talking about earlier on, from Rokeby School.
He's gonna be a star, so remember his face.
Andrew Curtis. This guy was trained by Vidal Sassoon, okay?
He was offered a very high-paying job.
And he says, "No, I don't want to take the job, I don't want to take your money."
He goes, "I wanna go and start an academy where we'd teach underprivileged kids how to cut hair."
And so he did. Him and his girlfriend, they got this building,
and they set up this salon, and they're living there,
and they're putting their hands in their pockets
to pay for the things that these kids need in order to be trained,
because no one is giving them any funding.
So he's got kids, like, that -- without this, would have criminal records
and would be going to prison. Would be going down the wrong path.
And no-one's funding him! No one's backing him to do this.
So he's doing it off his own back just out of love.
That's me right there, but in a different form.
Basically, I think my point of this lecture is, today,
it's going back to what Goldie said in his lecture last year.
There's one person out there...
Everyone in this room knows one person out there that they can help.
Who's less fortunate than them.
I'm not talking about help, financially,
I'm talking about, with knowledge. Planting that seed.
Find out what these kids are good at or what they care about or what they like.
And try and draw it out of them because it will change their lives,
just like it changed Goldie's life, just like it changed my life,
just like I've changed people's lives with giving them opportunities with what I'm doing.
Just like Andrew Curtis is changing people's lives.
There's a song by Jacob Miller called "Each One Teach One".
It's a reggae song. You should listen to that song.
'Cause that's all we gotta do.
The government take our taxes, alright?
And we know they don't do the right things with it.
So this ain't about money.
And you're just gonna have to accept that that's what the government do.
Alright? But just because we pay taxes doesn't mean
we're allowed to have an opinion on something
that we're not willing to put the time in to change it.
Because that money is only gonna pay for some social worker's salary.
And what's the social worker gonna do?
Put in time, and effort, and energy into these individuals,
and engage with these individuals.
So everybody out there, you can do that for at least one other person.
And the point of my lecture is to say, I'm one of those people,
I'm willing to do that, and if there's anybody else out there,
like Curtis, please, contact me, because the next step for me
is to try and create an umbrella organization that is going to bring in money
and disperse it amongst these individuals within their communities,
working within their communities, doing positive things with no funding.
That's the next step for me.
And I just wanted to put it out there in the universe, in the world.
Thank you.
I think that's it, you know. Thank you.