Andy Cowan: Noises Off

Don't be a stick-in-the-mud, Noel. Jay-Z will be a hit at Glastonbury

Share
Related Topics

The fuss over the news that Jay-Z is to headline this year's Glastonbury festival has caught me by surprise. When I first heard, I thought Jay-Z was a natural fit – the world's biggest hip-hop star at the UK's most forward-thinking music festival. Noel Gallagher disagreed: "Glastonbury has a tradition of guitar music... I'm not having hip-hop at Glastonbury," he said. "It's wrong." As a hip-hop fan, that struck a nerve with me. So when the BBC asked me for a comment, I gave them a quick, equally ill-considered quote: "These are the typical reactionary views of a pampered has-been." It's not that I have a problem with Noel or Oasis, it's just that I can't stand such monomania in the broad church of modern music.

The next day, I awoke to an in-box full of emails from irate Oasis fans; many reiterated Noel's point, that Glastonbury was about "indie rock" and nothing but, and how dare that big scary bogeyman Jay-Z spoil their beautiful garden party? Their response exposed one myth: that the old tribes of pop have all but dispersed, making way for a generation of technologically savvy, cosmopolitan consumers who cherry-pick the finest sounds from any number of contrasting genres. The furore also prompts a bigger question: is the Jay-Z row a storm in a teacup, or symptomatic of a far deeper malaise?

The hostility you see on the NME message boards – "we don't need this hip-hop wank" ran one posting – is hard to explain. Perhaps it's simply the prospect for "indie rock" fans that Jay-Z's appearance will force them out of their comfort zone. Or perhaps, as Emily Eavis, the co-organiser of this year's Glastonbury, alluded to in The Independent on Tuesday, at the heart of this row may be something more troubling than differences in musical taste: race. It would be interesting to know what the reaction would be if it weren't Jay-Z headlining, but Eminem.

British festival audiences have had their musical tolerance tested in the past, and found it wanting. In 2004, when 50 Cent (right) and his G-Unit crew played Reading, they were viciously bottled by a braying mob (don't take my word for it, go to YouTube). 50 was remarkably sanguine about it. "That was fun," he laughed. "It reminded me of when I first started. How do you react to it? You start to take it all in while you're up there and laugh – what are you going to do, get mad?"

That was an exception, and I don't think it'll happen to Jay-Z this year. His show isn't full of the cheesy rituals that you normally get in a hip-hop show: he's very

focused. He knows how to whip up a lethargic crowd with nothing but his superstar presence. But he's also part of a tradition in hip-hop of audience interaction – as opposed to the kind of rock gig where a band will play a song, wait for the applause, and carry on, often without so much as an aside to the crowd between songs. In contrast, Jay-Z will pick a member of the audience and rap straight to them for a minute at a time. It gives his shows a laser-beam intensity, and if people can approach it with an open mind, his appearance at Glastonbury will win a lot of converts. (One of the highlights of last year's festival was Dizzee Rascal joining the Arctic Monkeys on stage.)

The boy from Brooklyn's cause will be helped by the fact that, like the Arctic Monkeys, he understands the power of the special guest appearance. Last year at the Royal Albert Hall, Jay-Z brought on stage Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow. How fitting it would be if hip-hop's biggest act issued an invitation to indie-rock's pin-up boy at Glastonbury in June.

Andy Cowan is editor of the magazine 'Hip-Hop Connection'

Do you have an issue to raise in Noises Off? Email us at: noisesoff@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Consultants - OTE up to £35,000

£15000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Franchise Operations Manager - Midlands or North West

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The position will be home based...

Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent publishing and...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the Greeks can stay in the euro or end ‘austerity’, but not both

John Rentoul
The old 1,000 Greek drachma notes and current 20 euros  

Greece debt crisis: History shows 'new drachma' is nothing to fear

Sean O'Grady
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue