Did You See? – J Hus
Last week I met my Year Nine group. I am their form teacher. I get to see their smiley faces every day at twenty to nine and I get to teach them English on a Wednesday and a Thursday. They are an alright bunch. Most of them. There are already obvious leaders in the class. Some of the lads are massively confident, and massively popular with the girls. Some of them talk like they live in the Bronx (despite not actually owning a passport), some of the girls drop words like ‘batty’ and ‘sket’ into conversation like I would drop words like ‘mate’ or ‘please’.
On my third day in the school I walk into their form room and I hear music blaring out of a phone owned by one of them (a lad called Josh). Technically phones and such like are banned in the school, but most of us turn a blind eye as long they aren’t used in the class. So I after I have say good morning to them all I ask Josh to turn it off. He does so with a shrug (his girlfriend Aleesha tuts at me and rolls her overly made up eyes at me) and then says
“What’s up Sir, don’t you like J Hus?”
Now. When I was at school there was nothing worse, absolutely nothing worse, than the teacher who claimed to like the kids music, even if they genuinely do. We had Mr Duncan, the science teacher at my school who claimed to be into Nirvana and wore Red Hot Chilli Peppers Tshirts under his shirt. I used to see him coming out of Canterbury’s Penny Theatre on rock night, with his arm draped over a girl who was about 20 years younger than him.
But I actually do like J Hus. Apart from his preference for carrying knives, which is just daft, I think he has done good things for UK hip hop. But I don’t tell them that. I say,
“Luca, can you shut the door please”.
Which he does. I then tell Josh that as he asked, I preferred Vince Staples to J Hus.
Loca –Vince Staples
Which is met with some derision, largely because they refuse to believe that a rapper can be called Vince. Honestly it’s supposed to be a grammar school. The silent indie kids in the corner, frown at me and my pathetic attempts to win favour with the urban kids.
Seizing on the moment Josh announces to the class that my favourite song ever is probably ‘Baby Shark’. Cue Laughter. Mine included to be fair. Although I make a note to make sure that he gets a bad grade for his next essay (actually he’s a bright kid and will probably do very well). I’m tempted to change my ring tone to it and get my mate to phone me the next day during registration.
An hour or so later I take the group for English, and the earlier conversation gives me an idea. Some of you may know that J Hus was jailed just before Christmas for being caught carrying a knife in Westfield Shopping Centre in London. Before his music career he was quite well involved in gang culture, something which believe it or not has taken hold even in leafy Canterbury (I mean they are hardly Crips and Bloods but there has been stabbings and a few rucks).
When they all file in I hold up two books in my hand. I tell them I am letting them choose which book they want to read this term. There will be a vote and the book with the most votes will win.
In my left hand I hold ‘The Amnesia Clinic’ by James Scudamore. A story set in Ecuador about friendship, opposites and how fantasy sometimes blurs the reality (this was supposed to be the book we were going to read).
Morning Bell Amnesiac – Radiohead
In my right hand I hold ‘Brighton Rock’ and tell them about that. A thriller about gangs, murder, love, betrayal and obsession. But ultimately, it’s about gangs. I say.
Gangs – Honeyblood
‘Brighton Rock’ wins hands down.