Live Review: Joey Bada$$ x Pro Era @ XOYO

Hip Hop is alive and well, as evidenced at XOYO last night, where New York hailing Joey Bada$$ and his Pro Era strong entourage well and truly proved any disbelievers to be, without a doubt, wrong.

Having been steadily garnering a following since his emergence onto the scene some few months ago, Bada$$ touched down in London town where he showcased the lyrical ability and depth he has become so well known, and loved for.

“A lot of UK artists think it’s all about being nonchalant with it. No. We want to see you performing like it’s the last show of your life.” tweeted co-founder of music blog SME following Joey’s bada$$ performance (sorry, I couldn’t help it.) “Fun is cool,” he continued.

And if ever there was any doubting the matter, watch a Joey Bada$$ performance.

Repeatedly diving into the packed out crowd that read like a who’s who of the music industry and a ‘Where’s Joey?’ type Wally book, the desperation and need for someone to reaffirm the original principles of hip hop were acutely felt with the urgent, almost angry – were it not for the broad smiles on the protagonists faces – way in which bar for bar was spat through overexcited lips.

Performing a catalogue of previously released songs (Survival Tactics was energetically played out twice), the trio then erupted into an impromptu freestyle, seemingly as a thank you to the audience who were witness to their “best show ever.”

And if ever there was any doubt of the extent of their charisma, the loving crowd swelled and broke like waves against the stage, all too happy to obligingly sing “happy birthday” to Pro Era’s Kirk Knight.

Gallivanting their way around the stage, charming the crowd and pulling up girls left, right and centre to wipe their sweating brows and lovingly pour water down their parched throats, like true veterans, it will most probably come as a surprise to learn that Bada$$ and crew are not even legal in the UK, let alone the US.

A trawl of the internet failed to deliver me the quote I was looking for but it goes something like: “Don’t praise the youth for being young, it’s the only thing they have no control over and will inevitably lose.”

But for Joey Bada$$, the praise comes fast and thick. Regardless of age, gender, colour, nationality or planet he hails from.

In a world of the try hard, overdone and redundant, Joey Bada$$ and his too big (and too on show) boxer shorts are effortlessly cool.


Loving Home VS Ethnic Match?

There is no “more urgent task” for the government than speeding up the process of adoption and tackling the “absurd barriers” to mixed-race adoption, David Cameron recently said.

This comes hand in hand with new plans that aim to create a “fairer, faster” adoption process, following research that found that black children wait an average of twice as long as their white counterparts to be adopted.

“We want to make it clearer that ethnic matching should not automatically be an overriding consideration in the matching process,” said a No 10 spokeswoman.

But should it be one? Selina, a Jamaican born, London based woman who was raised in a variety of different foster homes when she was younger argues that the decision is a difficult one.

“In an ideal world it would be nice I guess,” she said, when asked if she thought children should be raised in a household with parents of the same culture and heritage as themselves. “But I think it’s more important that kids are part of a family being really looked after and belonging to something as opposed to on the sidelines, waiting to be picked up.”

This is particularly poignant due to research that shows that the outcomes for children raised in care remain shockingly poor, with 53 per cent leaving school without a single GCSE and only one per cent reaching university (as opposed to 40 per cent of their peers). It has also been found that adults who grew up in care comprise 23 per cent of prison inmates, despite the fact that they account for only one per cent of the general population.

This is something that came as no surprise to Selina, having been accustomed to it while growing up. “A lot of the children… especially black children that came in and out of the homes had a really tough time, and really went off the rails,” she revealed. “I can’t say many of them didn’t go down sort of bad paths really.”

This is something she suggests may be due to the lack of identity instilled in them from a young age. “I think it’s important for people…” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of children in the care system who have almost jumped on a race thing when they get to a certain teenage age because they want to be accepted and they want to identify with something. And the stereotypes that they then start trying to identify with aren’t necessarily the best ones”

“I think if you can consistently just let people know about different aspects of who they are or where they’re from,” she went on to say, “and then just let them decide who they want to become.”

This is something that Antonia’s adoptive parents made sure to do. Born to Colombian Christian parents, Antonia was adopted at the age of six months old to American Jews.

“Catholicism has always been spiritually an important factor to my life. I was born a Catholic, my birth mother was Catholic and over 80% of the people in Colombia are Catholic too. My adopted parents are Sephardic Jews and raised me to make my own decisions on religion and spirituality. They never forced me into a religion but educated me on various faiths.”

This was something they ensured by sending Antonia to two Church of England schools and a Catholic school during her youth. “As a child I would go to Synagogue with my family for all the major holidays. December 25th we always celebrate Christmas. My parents attend mass to support me and we only decorate our tree with angels. The angels that hang from the branches are all multi-racial and international.”

Instilling a sense of ones culture and faith when it doesn’t match your own isn’t always so easy, however. “In some ways, I can see how it would help,” said Selina on the importance of a child’s heritage matching that of their adoptive parents. “My foster family had all daughters with long glossy manes like the shampoo advert, but I remember them having to get my hair shaved at the barbers, unsure basically, what to do with it.”

Selina went on to reveal how she used to have to wait for a black member of staff to come on duty at the children’s homes in order to have her hair washed or combed or for the right cream to be used on her black skin. “But these days people are more exposed to things and everything should be more accessible,” she added.

This is particularly poignant as a study conducted last year by the Institute of Social and Economic Research at Essex University revealed that ten per cent of children are now of mixed or multiple heritage, and are six times more likely to be mixed-race than adults.

“People mix more, and are more exposed to different cultures… it’s all more accessible,” said Selina on whether she believed this to still be as large a problem. “When I was younger, there wasn’t much representation. If you weren’t in a black family, you weren’t really seeing much of black people beyond the athletes.”

She went on to suggest that it would now be a lot easier for families of a different race to their adopted children to have contact and support as well as the increased ability to gauge what issues affect different nationalities or ethnicities.

This is reportedly something social services help with. “Culture and race are a very important part of the assessment process,” revealed the manager of Diverse Care – a small, independent fostering agency based in Leytonstone, East London. She went on to reveal that as well as training carers on diversity issues; monthly checks are also conducted to ensure that the cultural needs of the child are met.

In addition, the spokeswoman revealed that if a child is placed with a family from another ethnic group, provisions can and are made for their cultural needs. “We ensure that there are links within the community that will be able to provide the child with the proper food and language skills,” she revealed, going on to provide an example of an African child who was recently placed with Asian carers. “We looked at the community in which they lived. We found other African people, an African church… people who could help instill in him a sense of his own identity.”

This is, however, harder in some areas than others, as she went on to reveal -citing in particular the example of carers who live in predominantly white areas where there aren’t really any other ethnic groups present. “Then there is an element of isolation,” she explains. “But in places like East London where we are based, there are people of all ethnic backgrounds. So no one will stick out.”

But, regardless, identity will always be something an adopted child struggles with, regardless of whether or not their adoptive parents come from the same culture or faith as them. Diverse Care’s spokesperson supported this notion, suggesting that there are always identity issues – even in mixed race families where the children are not adopted. “A lot of them see themselves as black rather than white. There is no firm identity of ‘oh, I am mixed race’ – a lot of them don’t know what to identify themselves as.”

This is further evidenced by Antonia’s experience: “I had issues with identity as a teenager. I would stare at myself in the mirror and not know where I got what from. Do I have my mother’s eyes? Why are my ears so small? I definitely have my dad’s nose…”

This issue with identity and in trying to find out who we are is arguably something all teenagers go through, regardless of whether adopted or not. Selina, now a mother of two supports this, arguing: “even within families, as soon as we hit our teen years, we start forming our own beliefs and culture anyway.”

The extent to which this differs depends on the attitude of the parents, as well as the society in which the child is raised.

“He always felt out of place,” said Hajar on her half Saudi, half Phillipino cousin who had been adopted by her grandmother in Saudi Arabia.

“I think if he grew up in London he wouldn’t have faced half of the issues that he faced,” she said, on the cousin who now perms his hair and has changed his name in an effort to appear more Arab.

Having grown up in a Bedouin, tribal society such as Saudi Arabia, Hajar went on to explain the differences in adoption legislation in the Gulf. “All the rights they give the child in the west isn’t the same at all. Its just that they live under your roof, you take care of them, you raise them, they go to school,” she explained.

Adoptive legislation in the Gulf region tends to resemble more of a foster-parent relationship. This is signified in the term itself, with the corresponding Islamic term for what is commonly called adoption: “kafala.” This, essentially means, “to feed.” The rules surrounding this relationship specify that, among other things, an adopted child retains their own biological surname and cannot inherit from their adoptive parents.

Seif’s sense of identity was made all the worse by society’s exclusion of him. “When we used to go play in the playgrounds people would say to him ‘what are you doing here, Phillipino child’ to his face… Society especially made him feel like an outsider,” she recalled.

But this type of identity crisis is not limited to Gulf countries with strict legislation and societal standards. Diverse Care’s spokeswoman went on to reveal that such cases do also arise in more Western countries such as the UK. She cited the example of a black African boy who just couldn’t accept his identity or his culture; revealing how he had bleached his skin and changed his name in an effort to find his identity, before eventually ending up in counseling.

“If you’re going to adopt someone okay, but try and do it in the right way so that they grow up to be the best person that they can be. It’s up to the person that’s adopting the child to make sure of that. To make sure they’re growing up in the right environment so that their ethnicity doesn’t have to clash with the families,” Hajar argued.

But in taking into consideration the importance of the child’s identity and their sense of belonging, what can be done to ameliorate the plight of children in care? And will the new legislation have an impact on the actual process of adoption?

Many argue no. “I would imagine that it would come more down to budgets and things,” suggested Selena. “It’s just one less barrier to making sure they get the right family and getting children off the books quickly.”

The manager of Diverse Care doesn’t really think the new legislation will hold much weight, either. “Most agencies will continue to match carer and child because we believe that’s in the best interest of the child,” she explained. “We believe children’s needs come first, and culture and race play a very important role in the identity of the child.”

“At the end of the day, we’re all human beings,” argued Hajar. “Look at Angelina Jolie for example – she’s got the United Colours of Benetton… at the end of the day we’re all human beings.”

The lesser of two evils? A loving home. Every time.

Ban on cosmetic surgery advertising or regulation?

The dictionary definition of cosmetic surgery is: “surgery performed to improve the appearance, rather than for medical reasons”.

Despite its lack of medical urgency, and despite the recession – this is one field that has been found to be steadily increasing. In fact, it has recently come to light that there has been a 6% increase in plastic surgery in the past year in the UK alone. Research suggests that in 2011 more than 37,500 cosmetic surgery procedures took place.

Around one third of these were breast augmentation surgeries. Particularly worrying at a time where breast implants are in the news for all the wrong reasons. Jean-Claude Mas, head of Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) – which at one time was the third biggest global supplier of breast implants – has recently been placed under investigation on a criminal charge of causing bodily harm.

In December of last year women were warned that substandard PIP implants were more likely to rupture than other implants.

In the wake of this, surgeons from the British Association of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) have argued that all adverts for cosmetic surgery should be banned. Nose straightening and breast enlargement are medical procedures, they argue, and therefore advertising should be banned as it is for prescription medicines.

But would this really have an effect on the number of procedures that are performed each year? Haneen Al-Dhahir argues that it wouldn’t. “It’s one of those things that if you want it done, that’s pretty much it,” she said. “Just like smoking.

“Seeing celebrities or general figures you would want to look like would be enough of an advertisement,” she went on to argue.

BAAPS however suggest that, “the pendulum has swung too far”. They go on to say: “In no other area of surgery would one encounter Christmas vouchers and 2-for-1 offers… it is time for change.”

With this in mind, perhaps the question is not whether the banning of advertisements would or would not reduce the number of surgeries carried out, but rather the importance of tightening the restrictions surrounding them.

This comes in the wake of research that suggests that private cosmetic clinics are employing ‘unqualified’ surgeons to carry out breast implants, nose jobs and tummy tucks. Many trained in the UK do not appear on the General Medical Council’s (GMC) specialist register, due to the fact they have only reached a basic level of training and qualification.

This is in addition to an influx of cosmetic surgeons who have qualified in Europe before migrating to the UK. The two main professional organisations of plastic surgeons in the UK – based at the Royal College of Surgeons – argue that although qualified with diplomas and certificates, these are not necessarily an indication of reaching the same exacting standards as in the UK. And yet these surgeons are accepted onto the specialist register by the GMC.

“I’m very concerned indeed that they are not on the register,” said Tim Goodacre – a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford. “That should be a bare minimum for independent practice in this country.”

Fazal Fatah the president of the BAAPS argued that: “the EU regulations are a significant problem. You can’t differentiate between any graduate in Europe”. This is in comparison with the stricter rules in the US, where medical qualifications gained in one state are not always accepted in another, and doctors sometimes have to sit new exams in order to find work across the border.

This is particularly relevant considering the significant difference between the number of cosmetic surgeries that are carried out in the US as opposed to those in the UK. Research suggests that in 2011 alone, more than 13 million cosmetic procedures were carried out in the US.

But, the US is a lot stricter on the regulations surrounding their cosmetic surgery procedures. This raises the question of whether it would not be more important (and feasible) to ensure that the surgeries carried out were safer, rather than to try and limit them.

Research suggests that the US is a lot stricter on the number of different fillers that can be used in cosmetic procedures, as well as in the amount of information that is required before and after the surgery. In the US, for example, there are less than a dozen injectable products. This is in comparison with over 100 products on the UK market.

Therefore, perhaps educating individuals on the negative aspects of cosmetic surgery, as well as tightening the regulations surrounding it to attempt to ensure that they is as safe as possible, is the bare minimum.

Photo: thinkpanama
As written for:

Give Arabs something to tick.

There are around 500,000 British Arabs living in the UK. So why is it I have nothing to tick?

It wasn’t until I brought it up in class the other day that I realised how strange it is that despite the fact that there are thousands of Arabs in the UK, there is no such classification. When explaining to a room full of journalists that there is no ‘arab’ on the sheer amount of forms that we as human beings are inundated with, they were shocked.

“So what do you do?” they asked… “What do you tick?”

“Well it depends on my mood” I replied. Its shocking actually. Sometimes I tick African, sometimes Asian, sometimes mixed race. It all depends on how tanned I am and what I’m feeling that day.

There are around 500,000 British Arabs… How can we have nothing to tick?!

This question is particularly pivotal considering how important ethnicity and belonging to somewhere, or something is. Living in a multi-cultural society it is important not to forget your roots and where you come from. Traditions and cultures that are handed down from generation to generation don’t go away, regardless of what colour your passport is.

And although perhaps we are all working towards a more united culture… It is as important to celebrate the differences as it is to celebrate the similarities.

So can you give me something to tick please.

Starbucks to create 5,000 jobs with drive-through coffee in the UK.

Coffee giant Starbucks has recently announced plans to expand its drive-through business in the UK. Not only will this create 5,000 jobs, it will also save lazy, coffee-hungry (and therefore tired) people from getting out of their cars.

The 30 year old company has nearly 9,000 stores and over 8,000 licensed outlets in more than 50 countries. It is now aiming to expand its drive-through branches in the UK from 9 to 200.

The announcement, which comes two weeks after official figures revealed youth unemployment had exceeded one million, was welcomed by Prime Minister David Cameron, who said it was a “great boost to the British economy”. This is particularly pivotal as the majority of Starbucks Barista’s are under 24 years of age.

Now all we need is a Starbucks delivery service for those who are too lazy to even get into their cars.