As MPs and music industry bodies once again call for the scrapping of the draconian Form 696, we see how the Met's risk assessment policy for urban music shows has personally affected one artist…
In many ways, Peckham rapper Giggs has got it all going for him. A long-serving underground rap star who sold a reported 100,000 mixtapes before signing to XL Recordings (also home of Dizzee Rascal), picking up a Best UK Artist gong at America's BET Awards and a place on the BBC's Sound of 2010 shortlist. His single 'Don't Go There' was creeping up the download chart in February of last year, promising to take his slow-mo flow to the mainstream, when all ten dates of his tour were cancelled, on police advice, over 'concerns about potential risks to the event'.
Giggs is wearily sanguine about it all. 'That's regular though, man,' he chuckles. 'It's always been happening. It's jsut that now I'm getting a bit more popular, people are starting to care.'
Coincidentally, Giggs's current popularity was boosted by his famous freestyle 'Banned From Lil Wayne', which dealt with his removal from the bill of Jeezy's ill-fated 2008 Stratford Rex show at police insistence. 'That turned positive, man. I got a lot of new listeners from that, and that led from one thing to another, so it was a blessing in disguise.'
The irony of the authorities acting as Giggs' unofficial PR department isn't lost on the rapper. 'Yeah,' he says, 'I should have them on a fucking wage.'
By his own repeated, recorded and rhymed admission, Giggs is a former bad boy, who a decade ago served two years in prison for firearms offences. Since then, he says, he's been the subject of close personal attention from officers attached to Operation Trident, who raided his shop, SN1 in Peckham, and phoned labels who'd expressed an interest in signing him to advise against it. 'Sometimes it gets to me,' says Giggs. 'But the fans are a big help. I go on Twitter and MySpace and I see all the love, and that's a big help.'
Communication between the hip hop and grime scenes and the police currently leaves much to be desired. The cancellation of the tour (prompted by police licensing officers rather than Trident) is seen as another unjustified attack on a hip hop community that already feels discriminated against following the introductin of Form 696, the notorious risk-assessment document for which many promoters, artists and Feargal Sharkey of the PRS claim is unfairly biased against urban music promoters and producers. For its part, the Met maintains that issuing an order banning a show from taking place is rarely employed last resort, and that the police have been unfairly blamed for the cancellation decisions of individual venues. According to a sattement on the Giggs affair, 'It is routine for police to work with licensed venues on a regular basis to identify and manage risk assessments for forthcoming performances, but the decision to cancel an event is a matter for the venue itself.'
But realistically, once a promoter or venue hears that police have advised against continuing with an event, it's far cheaper to cancel it than to challenge the advice and risk a prevention order and a potentially damaged relationship with the authorities. Promoter AMG, which booked Giggs's tour for their venues, told Time Out: 'We take advice from the clubs and vice intelligence units across the country. On this occasion, the licensing officers strongly advised us against the Giggs show going ahead based on the intelligence they had received. As venue owners and operators, we have to ensure the safety of all patrons and artists in line with such recommendations from the local regulatory authorites.'
Giggs feels that he's being persecuted for talking about subjects that poeple don't want to hear about. He insists that his lyrics, infested with casual violence and downright blithe drug use, belong to the grand rap tradition of educating listeners about the unpleasant events occuring in the dark corners of their backyard. His vision of Peckham is not exactly pretty.
'Yeah, cos it's not pretty,' says Giggs. 'People are scared of the truth. Some poeple just don't wanna know, they're like: "Fuck that, I don't wanna know that that's going on", so they just shut it right down. It pisses me off a lot. But that's the way it goes, man, I've just gotta keep working hard.'
The first thing on the agenda is attempting to improve communication between the Giggs camp and the police so the tour can be rescheduled. 'What we need to do first is sort out this situation,' sighs Giggs, 'because it's not worth putting on another tour, and then everyone buys their tickets again and they have to get refunded again and you lose out on money. They want me to give up. But that's not gonna happen. So we're just gonna try and sort it.'