Hip Hop at Glastonbury

The Glastonbury Festival is undoubtedly one of the biggest music showcases in the world. We’re talking like 177,000 people at one massive festival, with over 700 acts and 80 stages.

That’s huge. And it would be unreal. It’s obviously not solely limited to music, either There’s a variety of artistic endeavours, including dances, plays and a whole bunch of other things. On top of that, they measure it’s impact on the economy to the tune of 73 million pounds. That’s about $150,000,000. That’s crazy for a festival that primarily uses volunteers to run it.

Basically, no matter how you look at it, it’s a big deal toget invited to play there. It shows that the organizers recognize you as someone with a lot of appeal.

With that in mind, the organizers of the festival decided to invite our old friend Jay-Z to perform at the 2008 Glastonbury Festival. He’s headlining a festival FULL of amazing talent (Leonard freaking Cohen is performing). But, sadly, that’s just not enough for some people.

Famous crybaby Noel Gallagher (one of those guys from Oasis who made that Wonderwall song) has taken time out of his busy schedule to chime in on this choice. Keep in mind that this is the same guy who once told the press that he thinks the lead singer from Blur should “Catch AIDS and die.” But yes, Mr. Gallagher, who’s constant feuds with his brother Liam and general smarmy attitude are well documented, has come out to openly criticize the choice of Jay-Z as a headliner. (And yes, for those of you who are keen readers, I accidentally made the picture above of the wrong Gallagher, and now I’m too lazy to change it.)

Perhaps what bothers me the most about this attitude is the fact that it’s not specifically Jay-Z he’s objecting to. I understand that there are different appeals in music, and some are appropriate for particular times. However, for a music festival that prides itself on openness and tolerance, it’s ridiculous to try and exclude a genre of music altogether!

Here’s what Noel had to say:

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said. “If you start to break it then people aren’t going to go. I’m sorry, but Jay-Z? No chance.”

Gallagher added: “Glastonbury has a tradition of guitar music and even when they throw the odd curveball in on a Sunday night you go ‘Kylie Minogue?’ I don’t know about it. But I’m not having hip-hop at Glastonbury. It’s wrong.”

Absurd. This whiny little doofus seems to think that hip hop somehow isn’t good enough. The sheer amount of amazing artists out there obviously prove him wrong, and I’m proud to say that the festival organizers are by no means backing down. I’m not even saying that I love Jay-Z all that much, or that he’s unbelievably talented, or anything along those lines. Hell, I don’t even like him that much. But I’ll be damned if someone is going to say hip hop is not good enough for something.

Emily Eavis, one of the organizers, has written a whole letter to the Independent in response, and here is what she has to say.

Jay-Z is far from the first hip-hop artist to perform at Glastonbury, as one might assume from some strangely hysterical press reports. We have a long history of attracting top rap artists, including De La Soul, Cyprus Hill and The Roots. Glastonbury has always managed to attract a diversity of acts, which is, I hope, part of its unique appeal…

It’s reassuring to know that they’ve at least reached out before, and brought in some really solid acts. And here’s what she says to say to the “critics” (a.k.a. Gallagher)

Maybe what the critics have really revealed is something about attitudes that are still all too prevalent in Britain: an instinct to go back to base and play safe. An innate conservatism, a stifling reluctance to try something different.

This is not something that Glastonbury has ever embraced. And there is also an interesting undercurrent in the suggestion that a black, US hip-hop artist shouldn’t be playing in front of what many perceive to be a white, middle-class audience. I’m not sure what to call it, at least not in public, but this is something that causes me some disquiet.

In the end, this is nothing Glastonbury has not faced before. It is just another chapter in Glastonbury’s colourful history. Back in 1984, there were similar criticisms made when The Smiths were named as the headline act. Hippies just wanted acts that had played before. A disgruntled stage hand even deliberately mis-spelt The Smiths’ name on the stage. The reason we had the Smiths perform then is the same reason Jay-Z will play this year – Glastonbury must continue to evolve and develop. With so many smaller music events cropping up, it needs to keep moving and trying new things, whether hip-hop, African music or just an amazing new indie group. That is what has made it so popular for so long.

I can absolutely appreciate that. It’s important for a festival to adapt, especially if they want to keep pushing the envelope. Times change, and music changes. Adapting to new genres and new music is vital for all of us.

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