"I agree with everything you say, but the way you say it stinks" - CREDIT TO THE NATION, live review, Melody Maker 1994
[note: For the first month I was a critic I still hadn’t really discovered what it was I wanted to say. I wasn’t given anything I could get my teeth into. Then went to see Credit To The Nation in Sheffield and this came streaming out afterwards.Now, on one level, it's a terrible piece of writing. I was 21, angry, and without a doubt back then you sometimes get the feeling that I reckon what I wanted to say was more important than what the reader might want to read. In no way is this review fair/objective. I repeatedly use the word I, and for much of the review I talk about everything EXCEPT what's meant to be under consideration (the gig). Crucially though, for me, this was a watershed moment as a writer, it was the moment when a lightbulb went off that simultaneously suggested (a) THIS is what I have to say and talk about & (b) wow, people will actually let me get away with this]
CREDIT TO THE NATION
“Racial prejudice and discrimination he recognises, are not a matter of individual attitudes, but the sickness of a whole society carried in its culture” – A Sivanandan, “The Liberation Of The Black Intellectual”.
“Why can’t more black people be that nice?” – overheard punter.
Okay, an atypical comment, but, hell. I balled my fists and tried to laugh. If the dominant culture seeks reassurance from the minorities it oppresses, then Credit to The Nation are a big fat Valium to anxious white heads. This wholly indie crowd wants racial confusion diffused in a wave of superficial analysis. They want their apathy affirmed, their existence validated: above all they want to be told that their life can stay the same. And Credit offer this in spades, ignoring the general political nature of all our lives in favour of giving us a checklist of borrowed correctness through which the audience can achieve individual security. Just tick the bleeding obvious sentiments you agree with and you’ve passed. You can now live life to the full, free of liberal guilt.
For a band that claims Public Enemy & Paris as influences, Credit generate surprisingly few ideas, merely creating an atmosphere of politicisation, an ambience of vague refusal and communal righteousness that is comforting in its concensualism and lethal in its passivity. Things will get sorted, and the endemic racism of British society has no place within these four walls. SO WE ACCEPT YOU AND FORGIVE.
Now that he can afford to, Matty is belatedly concerned that no black people are listening up. You know British rappers don’t make it, Matty, you’d seen how Gunshot had consistently released some of the most stunning British records of the Nineties and were still in no man’s land. You wanted to buy in, so you sold out, you peddled your hooked-on-indie novelty hit in a calculated grab at the indie cherry. The suckers bought it. Now you’re sanctioned to sell to them for ever.
And, when you had the ear of a white liberal audience, what did you say? You dissed Cube, T and Onyx. Well, thanks Bro. Excuses are too late, you legitimised white fears, you perpetuated the image of homophobia and sexism that too many enemies of rap ascribe to hip-hop and blacks, and you distanced yourself from black culture like an embarassed distant relative. Sure, prejudice is there, but the unevenness of hand and the way you’ve enabled so many white listeners to cover up the inveterate racism of their musical taste displays a cack-handed insensitivity that’s at best naïve, at worse utterly offensive. Especially when confronted by the comparative lameness of your music, its tepid beats, your monotonous and static rhyming.
Tonight you sound like hip-hop made by people who don’t like hip-hop for people who don’t like hip-hop. Which is, I guess, exactly what you are. And I don’t like it.
Of course, the egg’s on my face, 400 people had a great time tonight and I didn’t. Ol’ Paki four-eyes here gets wound up but The Kids understand. Matty Hanson would probably respond to any Uncle Tom accusations with a shrug of the shoulders and a curt “Fuck off”, and probably get a round of applause in the process. But you can’t go back, Matty. Those clapping hands will always be melanin-free zones because you’ve m ade your choice. You’re paid in full and everyone had fun. But any fun that encourages political apathy and conscience-salving worries me, and any band that kills thought – which is exactly what Credit do – loses my vote. Gimme Brothers Like Outlaws, with their honest confusion or Gunshot’s dark pessimism over a million of Credit’s little bleats about a “unity” that can never be.
With this country about to turn fascist all over this summer does Matty really want to send whitey home feeling cosier than ever? Look, Credit angered me so much I’ve even started using hideous words like “whitey” again. They are dangerous in the worst possible way. I agree with everything you say, but the way you say it stinks, Matty.
Someone tell me to lighten up, please.