Via the Guardian Newspaper

Pitting hip-hop star Dizzee Rascal against Jeremy Paxman in a Newsnight special was probably designed to up the “yoof” factor in the heavyweight debate about the consequences of Barack Obama’s election victory.

But rather than receiving plaudits for making the programme less stuffy, the BBC has been criticised for its unorthodox choice of guest, with Paxman accused of conducting a “patronising” and “crass” interview with the London-born rapper.Critics say the 58-year-old journalist asked questions that he would not have put to a young white musician – such as “Mr Rascal, do you feel yourself to be British?”

Dizzee Rascal, real name Dylan Mills, is a leading proponent of UK hip-hop and grime, and won the Mercury Music prize in 2003.

Lee Billingham of the charity Love Music Hate Racism said yesterday: “Why does a leading BBC news journalist deem it necessary to ask a black British person ‘do you feel yourself to be British’? Would he have asked Barack Obama ‘do you feel yourself to be American’, of course not.”

He added: “A better line of inquiry would be to explore if racism is affecting whether non-whites ‘feel British’ in 2008. From Norman Tebbit’s ‘cricket test’ to the government’s ‘citizenship test’ to Paxman’s ridiculous question last night, it seems that even if you’re third or fourth generation British, if you have black or brown skin then your nationality can be brought into question, where your white counterpart’s would not.”

Meanwhile the musician has come under fire from some sections of the black community for fuelling “negative stereotypes of young inner city people, especially black people”, by using slang such as “innit” and “wassappenin” during the interview, and for joking about running for prime minister.

The BBC has not escaped criticism either. Around 50 people have called the corporation to complain about Wednesday’s programme, all of whom questioned Dizzee Rascal’s suitability as a guest on the special which the BBC said was watched by 1.4 million people.

Facebook groups have also been set up urging users to add their voices to the debate. One message doing the rounds on Facebook said: “Why is it that Britain’s minorities are always depicted in this negative light, making our positive achievements seem somewhat belittled. The BBC creates a false impression of what we are. They promote one side of the spectrum, which is usually the negative side.

“There were many intelligent black people from the UK [who] would have represented us correctly, but due to the negative images that the BBC so regularly promotes it was fitting for them to pick a RAPPER, to speak on one of the most momentous occasions for black people in the 21st century.”

But DJ Semtex, a presenter on BBC 1Xtra, said on his blog: “Dizzee was sincere, accurate, unfazed by the political process, and entertaining, which is why they put him on primetime TV.” It was nonsense, said DJ Semtex, to suggest that the Newsnight slot misrepresented black people because the senior black politician, Lady Amos, appeared alongside Dizzee Rascal.

Bashy, a north London MC wrote on his blog: “Dizzee is a mad talented platinum selling artist, but in a time of change TV channels should be way more responsible & carefully choose who represents our community, in order to build a relationship of trust.

“That was a perfect time to give the young people of Britain a voice regardless of colour & I personally feel Dizzee didn’t do us justice & further fuelled negative stereotypes of young inner city people, especially black people.”

On the Threadless blog, commentators criticised Paxman’s technique. One said: “I mean … asking Dizzee Rascal… if he considers himself British? I think that’s more than a bit patronising.” Another said Paxman was “especially crass”.

A spokeswoman for the BBC said: “Jeremy Paxman’s question to Dizzee Rascal about whether he felt himself to be British was a direct response to the preceding comments from Baroness Amos who was saying that in the UK, as opposed to the US, we don’t talk about the nature of Britishness and what it means to be British. The topics being discussed were race, nationality and identity and this question was a natural part of that discussion.”

Dizzee Rascal could not be reached for comment.

For those who missed Dizzie’s ‘road man’ antics on Wednesday’s Newsnight, watch him in action below…..

Poor Baroness Amos……..LOL.. SMH…. 

15 replies »

  1. Meanwhile the musician has come under fire from some sections of the black community for fuelling “negative stereotypes of young inner city people, especially black people”, by using slang such as “innit” and “wassappenin” during the interview, and for joking about running for prime minister.

    I don’t understand how using slang enforces negative stereotypes. First of all, what is it so negative about those words? It’s not a stereotype, it’s a reality. Most black kids talk like that and Dizzie represents the black youth. Like it or not thats the reality. Who’s to say what words are appropriate? It’s not like he was swearing. He was using words which are a result of his up bringing and his culture. No-one has the right to criticize him for the words he uses as long as they’re not foul or degrading. So what they’re saying is if we want to go on BBC like them and be watched by millions we have to adopt a fake posh arse accent and wear a suit etc? KMT! Never that man… Black kids shouldn’t have to sacrifice who they are all the time..

  2. If an American rapper had appeared on the US version of Newsnight and acted GHETTO in front of mainstream America, he would have been slaughtered the following day, by his peers, the bloggers, community leaders and even his own fans! Ripped to shreds! Anyone remember what happened to Camron when he went on the news show ‘60 Minutes’ and came off sounding like a complete fool when asked to give his opinions on “snitiching”?. He had to issue an apology through his publicist several days later, because of the heat generated from the African American community.

    In America there are artists who understand the importance of showing themselves as being intelligent and articulate when presenting themselves in front of a different demographic. They understand that there is a time and a place for everything. If you are going appear on BET’s 106 & Park then you can get away with acting the clown in a bid to appeal to the younger fans. But if you are going to appear on a programme that is known for discussing SERIOUS topics of the day, and is watched by an older/professional demographic then you leave the “road man/ghetto” speak at home.

    This is what the youth / up and coming artists in this country need to understand! You all need to be watching the interviews that T.I has given recently on some of the biggest shows in America. Watch, learn and take down notes!

    If you want to act the fool and want to pretend as if you don’t know how to string a sentence together then visit Channel U. But if you are invited on to a programme like Newsnight, you don’t have to go on there sounding like Prince Charles with a plum in your mouth, but you do need to SWITCH IT UP!

  3. I just wanted to add my thoughts to BRE’s comment… “it’s a reality. Most black kids talk like that and Dizzie represents the black youth.”??

    What black youth is represented by Dizzie, the youth on the corner, ask them and they will tell you that he is not even current, he is not relevant right now he is not intouch with them right now.

    Ask the youth at school / college / work, building a future for themselves they will most probably ignore your question like you don’t know what you are talking about, I belive that perhaps the BBC thinks that Dizzie represents the black youth but I am telling you He Dosen’t!

  4. Excuse my opinion. What I was getting at is that Dizzie is a grime artist/rapper.. however you want to put it and that’s what the black youth listen to so thats why he is very much a representation of that culture. You can either agree or disagree. I’m just saying.

    I also think that the comparison to Cam’rons appearance on 60 minutes is unfair. Cam was asked if he would tell the police about his knowledge of a serial killer to which he replied yes for whatever reason. And that goes beyond music, black people the media and everything else, that is potentially inhumane. Which is why he apologized. Correct me if I’m wront but I think there might be a SLIGHT difference between not wanting to disclose the whereabouts of a serial killer and the words in your vocabulary.

    I’m not saying Dizzie was in the right, he could have been more professional. I’m just pointing out that something as trivial as the words black people use (you can deny it however much you want but those ARE the words) are pinpointed and are made into a huge issue and I find it unnecessary.

    And I do watch T.I.’s appearance’s on everything and anything almost religiously. He’s a very intellecutal individual and I’m a huge fan. But that’s HIS character. Dizzie’s character is obviously different but why shouls he have to change his character for anyone.

  5. Oh and @ Fr…

    I don’t need to ask the youth at my college/work anywhere.. I am the youth INIT. And I just call it how I see it around me. Dizzie was in an uncomfortable situation where he obviously didn’t realize the seriousness of the interview. He took it as a lighthearted, positive thing (I mean, the first black president of America had just been elected!!!) but as always the media, our community and this country as a whole had to turn it into something negative.

  6. Fair enough Bre, I can clearly see the point you are making, and now fully understand where you are coming from, … My concern is that while many work hard to reverse the sterotyped views of young black males and females, Dizzie went on air and just well IMO didn’t do us any justice at all, fair enough he may not have realised the seriousness of the matter and perhaps just thought he could go on there and talk how he normally does…

    Why should anybody have to change who they are??? It’s not really changing who you are, but presenting yourself in a different way for the greater good, that is the reality of where we are in todays society…

    from my experiences I can’t be speaking broken english or slang at home / in the hood / with my friends etc and bring that same lingo into my place of work and sit down at meetings and speak the same way, I can’t go into interviews and speak the same way, or attend important networking events and speak the same way, I have to adopt a professional manner and speak in way that presents myself in a professional and well educated way.

    I think our comminity is a little disappointted by the way he came across yes he may have been out of his depth, but I did not select him to represent us on BBC’s Newsnight, the BBC did, and by him deciding to go on there he did!

  7. Bre says – “(I mean, the first black president of America had just been elected!!!) but as always the media, our community and this country as a whole had to turn it into something negative.”

    @ Bre – I don’t think hundreds of people that have been writing, complaining and blogging about the Newsnight disaster have turned what happened into something negative. You cannot be serious !!!. ,
    We are a proud people, so on such a landmark occasion, to have Dizzie unprepared, greeeeeen, out of his depth, unversed on UK politriks and talking absolute shite was painful to watch. People are passionate and there were many many UK blacks that were intelligent enough to stand strong with Baroness Amos and do us proud on that special day. ( These people the BBC chose to ignore – alarm bells ring )

    I don’t know why people are defending Dizzie, especially by your comment…..saying that he obviously didn’t realise the seriousness of the situation, so he took a lighthearted/comedic standpoint. Give Dizzie credit, I think he did realise how serious/important this interview was, he was just too out of his depth and not knowledgeable enough to control Paxman’s questions.

    For Dizzie to say, after being asked if there could be a black PM – ” Yeah, yeah, yeah, but I don’t know if i care ” – … further lets me know that he was out of control. If you don’t care if the PM is white, blue pink in this contry, as he put it WTF was he doing there. He was chosen as a black person to represent us so the question was valid and a very important one. I despair at Dizzie for that response !!!

    It’s important for America that Barak Obama is a person of colour, because SLAVERY says so… So to have Dizzie ridicule the question was nuts.

    Dizzie was wrong to accept the invite. On a day like that we didn’t need a clown acting the fool… thats why people were so passionate. That program would have gone out to thousands of people outside of the UK – and it would have been a chance for the UK to shine with all our unlimited talent, ( famous and otherwise ). The list is too long.

    For me personally, it wasnt so much Dizzies articulation and the way he speaks, what he was wearing etc, I dont give two hoots about that and I don’t think thats what most people are saying. He could have been wearing a martians outfit for all i care…, it was what he HAD TO SAY AND HIS LACK OF INTELLIGENCE/KNOWLEDGE for the questions he was being asked !!!


    It was really unfortnate that he accepted the invite on this LANDMARK day.
    We can never get that back and for me it was far too painful to have the day dumbed down by Dizzie.

    There is no doubt that he is a successful artist and a role model to many black youth to achieve and make something for themselves. Maybe in time with growth he can represent on a more intellectual level, but he was definitely not ready for that day. So before we defend what happened, I think we need to look at the bigger pciture and put the day in perspective.

  8. I agree with Bre, Seems like the only thing most people think he did wrong was to speak as he normally does, The way someone talks or uses slang doesn’t dictate how intelligent they are, Or how valid there views are on any subject. I know people who talk slang that have first class degrees and have gone on to do Masters Degrees. Also im sure we all know People who are well spoken, argue professionally (all be it on internet blogs) that really are just stupid. But they will argue moot points all day and sound convincing. People can show intelligence in different ways not just speech or Interview skills.

    I would of hoped that most halfway intelligent people, black or white would recognize that. Sadly it seems not.

    maybe he could have put on some kind of act and conducted himself in a different way in the interview, Then i suspect some of the same black community crying he made us look stupid, Would be up in arms squealing he was fake he didn’t rep the youth.

  9. I have just seen what others have on there blogs, regarding this newsnight and dizzie thing, and boi we are in trouble!… I can’t belive so many people think he did a good job? WTF!

  10. Janice- Yes!! Very well put!

    I was not happy with this at all! My main questions are:

    1. Why did the BBC choose Dizzy Rascal to represent young black people to an INTERNATIONAL audience (estimated 1.4 million viewers)?

    2.When did NEWSnight start inviting people to talk who are so uninformed?
    would Jade (as noted by others) been askes to comment on the current recession?

    3. Why did Dizzy Rascal’s Management accept this invitation?

    4. Why did Dizzy … Read MoreRascal accept this invitation, to talk on such a momentous occasion about something he knew so little about, in such an inarticulate fashion (seen Snoop’s interview anyone? Being ‘street’ is no excuse)?

    5. Why did Jeremy Paxman think it was acceptable to laugh, sneer and smirk on air towards Dizzy Rascal, and the more important question of the possibility of a Non-White (Black) Prime Minister of the UK?

    I had to complain! The BBC cannot represent young black people, and young people in general, intentionally, like that, and not expect complaints. Nor Dizzy Rascal.

    Have you seen the facegroup group with over 700 people?
    I am glad I am not alone on this one.


    Is there really a conversation to be had about this??

    Anyone who watched that dire spectacle was forced to do one of two things:
    a) Cringe till only one eye was half open OR
    b) Be entertained wildly!

    All I can say is; I was interested in celebrating not being entertained by the court jester on such a historic day!! Jeremy was right to ask such an idiotic question to the idiot. More fool him for even answering, innit!!!


Follow MAD NEWS UK on

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow me on Twitter




November 2008
%d bloggers like this: