The Listening: Gone To The Dogs – A London Rap On Race, 1990-96

Sunday 22nd April marked the 25th anniversary of the 1993 murder of Stephen Lawrence in South East London – an event that seemed to crystallize a perfect storm of discontents around race in the UK. Not only did this horrific killing take place, as Lawrence family solicitor Imran Khan put it, “simply because [Stephen] was black”. It did so against the backdrop of an ugly upsurge in far right politics that in September 1993 would see the BNP win their first London council seat on the Isle of Dogs. Lifting a stone on Metropolitan Police institutional racism, the investigation also illustrated the vast chasm in treatment between white and non-white Londoners as they inhabited the world.

As London rap came of age in the early 1990s, this turbulent moment became its sine qua non subject – an uncompromising, immediate window on perspectives that were otherwise ignored. Here, then, is a vivid sonic slice of British history, and a timely reminder as our politics once again swings right.



  1. Express ‘Gone To Da Dogs’
  2. MC Noise ‘Deathwish’
  3. Silent Eclipse ‘The Damned’
  4. Sons Of Nubia ‘Rap’s The Last Means’
  5. Sirus ‘Lyrics Made Of Lead’
  6. Son Of Noise ‘Here’s The Cop’
  7. Demon Boyz ‘Law Abiding Citizen’
  8. Katch 22 ‘Final Judgement’
  9. London Posse ‘Gangster Chronicle’
  10. IC3 ‘Poverty’
  11. WBI Red Ninja ‘Children Of The Grave’
  12. Black Radical MkII ‘Ain’t No Black In The Union Jack’
  13. Blak Twang ‘Fearless’


Note: True to hip-hop’s spirit of plunder, and the ready use of news audio in these records, I’ve edited in various historic news clips for added context.

Sources: Map detail of Isle Of Dogs taken from the Greater London Development Plan, Greater London Council (1984). Image on mixcloud link: school children protesting against the the election of Derek Beackon as BNP councillor on the Isle Of Dogs in 1993. Credit: Andy Walker.

DISCLAIMER: This blog is produced for educational purposes only. If you are the owner of any of the above images or music and object to their use in this post, please get in touch.

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