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Buckingham Palace declines to comment on BBC Rap Uproar

g and compass


BBC promotes rapper who claims the Royal Family killed Diana

By Chris Hastings and Gary Anderson

(Filed: 04/04/2004)

The BBC has been condemned for broadcasting a song that compares the Queen to Saddam Hussein and accuses the Royal Family of murdering Diana, Princess of Wales.

Great Britain, which is currently being played on Radio One and on the BBC's digital station 1Xtra, is a diatribe against the British way of life.

Written and performed by Scor-Zay-Zee, a Nottingham based hip-hop performer who has recently converted to Islam, the song is considered by some in the music industry to be more offensive than God Save The Queen by the Sex Pistols. That track, released to coincide with the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977, was banned by the BBC following a flood of complaints from listeners about its scathingly anti-Royal lyrics.

The new record portrays a nation torn apart by rising crime, grinding poverty and political corruption.

It claims that the country's young are being "brainwashed and put in a daze" by an out-of-control consumer culture. Over the course of just four minutes the song also manages to take pot- shots at Britain's support for Israel and its special relationship with the US, which is labelled "The Devil".

One verse states: "Sit back and watch some TV Great Britain, Watch the adverts and buy s*** Great Britain, Everything on finance for you Great Britain, A slave to the system every day Great Britain, While the Rich take over your brain Great Britain."

The track saves its most damning criticism, however, for the Royal Family, which it accuses of carrying out thefts and killings.

"Slavery made the riches of Great Britain, the Queen wears stolen diamonds, her husband's a Freemason, they Killed Lady Di," the record states.

It goes on: "The Queen lives in a house like Saddam Hussein. They're both rich so I guess they are both one and the same."

The chorus, which is about Britain being held to account for its crimes, is even more controversial.

Scor-Zay-Zee sings: "If I had an army I would fight ya. If I had the police I'd arrest ya. If I had my own court, my own judge and jury I'd sit back and let history tell the story."

John Beyer, the director of Mediawatch UK, said that the BBC had a duty to keep the airwaves free of material that was undeniably offensive.

"The BBC should not be playing this song. Just because someone puts out a record doesn't mean that they have an automatic right to have it played on the BBC. There is no justification for giving airspace to something as offensive as this. Licence fee payers are funding this service and they have a right to expect higher standards."

Julie Kirkbride, the Shadow Culture Secretary, said that she favoured freedom of expression, but thought Great Britain was too extreme.

"I know there is an argument for free speech and for airing arguments about Britain's past and the monarchy," she said. "But I think that this particular song has gone too far and I think it is a pity the BBC is giving it airtime.

"We have to respect freedom of expression but we need to avoid being offensive to the rest of society." The BBC's support for the track has brought about a remarkable U-turn in its fortunes. Written a year ago, it was never meant for public release. Then P Brothers, two producers from Nottingham, asked if they could include it on a collection of songs that they released last month. Even then, the song might have gone unnoticed because it was only available through mail order.

Steady airplay has, however, turned the song into something of a cause celebre. It is now on sale in branches of HMV and record companies are battling for the right to release Great Britain as a single.

Paul Morley, a music journalist and broadcaster, who once managed the band Frankie Goes to Hollywood, warned that banning the song from being broadcast by the BBC might bring it an even larger audience.

"I remember when Frankie Goes to Hollywood brought out Relax: it only started selling when it was banned. Censorship of this kind can often be your best commercial," he said.

Moe Brandy, who is one half of the P Brothers, claimed that the song tapped into a genuine sense of national unease.

"I have a lot of respect for BBC 1Xtra for playing the song," he said. "Rebellion is the classic rock'n'roll story and this track is part of that tradition. When I first saw the lyrics I thought, 'This is going to be a smasher'. I thought that right there and then.

"It is going to be a song with some consequence and that is what we are about."

Trevor Rose, who manages the singer, said: "Scor-Zay-Zee has a deep insight into things. He studied religion after he left school. That is the sort of person he is.

"He has addressed a major issue and capitalised on his ability as an artist. He is just being very honest and expressing how he feels." A BBC spokesman insisted that the song had not breached producer guidelines and would continue to be played. He said that the track had provoked strong opinions, but no complaints.

"Great Britain represents the personal views of a particular artist, not the BBC's. It is a protest song that has been selected entirely on the basis of musical merit," he said.

Buckingham Palace declined to comment.

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