So it turns out it was a lot of kerfuffle over nothing. Westwood was not fired as many reported, but instead his presence on the Beeb has been somewhat downsized: he will no longer present 1Xtra’s Drive Time slot.
The justification of wanting to keep its youth stations fresh, particularly 1Xtra, is understandable. Corporations are forever chasing the teen market. Whether their decision was right or wrong will soon be determined. What was shocking however was the lack of respect shown across tweets and blogs at the news of Westwood’s change in situation.
Do not get it twisted; Tim Westwood has done more for urban music in the UK than any other artist or DJ.
Here are 5 reasons why Westwood is a hero:
Westwood has seen it all. He ran a London night in the 80’s where Run DMC would hang out if they felt homesick. He produced for and signed UK legend Rodney P’s 1st group, London Posse. He was there in the studio when your favourite 90s rapper was recording their debut album. He brought over Jay Z, Busta and Lil Kim in 1997 to tear down the Nottinghill Carnival. Eminem spat hit first UK freestyle on his show. He was 1 of the founding members of Kiss 100. He had the 1st rap show on Radio 1.
Forget the previous points if you want; answer this question instead… how many other DJs have vocal drops from Biggie and Tupac?
The guy knows the scene inside out and has watched it develop. He is the John Peel of urban music.
His long term presence in the scene means that he has a pull in Hip Hop unlike many others, and I’m not just talking UK here. The world over he is a key figure in Hip Hop and artists know that. Some of the freestyle sessions that have happened on his show rank pretty highly in Hip Hop’s classic cipher list:
Eminem and D12 over Mobb Deep ‘Got It Twisted’
CamRon freestyle from 1998
Kano going HAM
The interesting thing is that rather than Westwood using this power for an ego trip, the way it manifests itself brings us to the next point.
Rappers give interviews to Westwood that you’d struggle to find anywhere else. In a world of agents and PR spin, he somehow manages to get under the skin of rappers… in a good way. It may be that being overseas rappers feel a little freer than back home but there is a reason you see his interviews syndicated on blogs the world over.
Check this interview where Drake starts doing impressions.
Or the Diplomats getting drunk in London with him:
Ultimately Westwood is a very funny, charismatic person. I’ve been lucky enough to meet him a few times and he could not be a nicer guy.
Hip Hop does not reward the meek and shy. He knows he’s a little ridiculous; a 54 year old middle class white guy in a young urban world, but he also knows that 25 plus years of experience at the top means he’s on a level with these notoriously guarded rappers. Why should he be any less Hip Hop than the latest 18 year old Swag upstart? He was promoting the scene before their parents were old enough to fornicate.
He has watched Jay Z go from being Jaz-O’s hype man spending a summer recording in London in the late 80s to becoming not just a business man, but a business, man.
He’s like an old friend and MCs react accordingly; whether he’s making fun of D Double E for being skinny or Wiley for being a bit scatty. He knows how the industry works and isn’t worried about poking a little fun at people, and immediately creates a priceless rapport
Occasionally in the past few years you’ve seen him move out of the Hip Hop vertical and enter the mainstream media, and time and time again he’s stolen the show. Check out some of the Chris Moyles breakfast show moments.
The passion he brings to the music is unparalleled. If you’re a Hip Hop lover and have been to a Westwood party, you have had an incredible night. Fact.
He may now be better known for his distinctive voice but people seem to forget that Westwood actually used to be a bit of a turntablist back in the day and was a prominent figure around the DMC Championships in the 80s. The man can really DJ. This shouldn’t be a surprise; you couldn’t call yourself a DJ in the late 80s/90s and never be called on it. He is part of the Hip Hop culture in the purest way.
It would’ve been very easy to become a KRS One-esque hater of everything new but Westwood has moved with the times. From Boom-Bap to G-Funk to Jiggy to Crunk to Grime to Trap to Swag. If you want to know what’s hot right now, listen to his show. He gets that it’s the music of the youth and the day that changes is the day the genre dies.
He has also had the humility to listen to some of the criticism and addressed it. For a long while the main barb thrown at him was that he didn’t support real UK Hip Hop, which seemingly overlooked the fact that 90’s UK Hip Hop didn’t know what the f*ck it wanted to be and ended up sounding like knock off Rawkus. When Grime came through he recognised it was genuinely fresh and shared a lot with Dirty South Hip Hop and has been a heavy supporter.
He’s the man that led to this classic freestyle tag-team of a teen Dizzee with Wyclef. Radio gold dust!
If you’re an Indie kid or a DnB head, the likelihood is that you won’t like him. In fact, you may ‘hate’ him. BUT if you’re an urban music fan from the UK, I’d love to hear a genuine explanation of why you don’t like or at least respect the guy.
Personally so many key Hip Hop memories over the past 14 years have been directly attributed to him: Fake ID-ing it into his Stratford Rex Parties, hearing Juvenile ‘Ha’ for the 1st time and wondering what planet it was from, listening to Dre and Eminem’s Brixton show from 1999, following the LOX vs State Prop beef, listening to old Bigge/Tupac interviews, hearing a young Dizzee and Wiley take what would become Grime to the mainstream, sharing the moment Boy Better Know tore down the studio with a freestyle session, etc, etc.
Ask your favourite rapper or Grime MC if Tim Westwood is the man and the answer will be yes. In fact let me leave you with a few quotes. I’d love to know which other DJs in the scene are getting respect from this broad a group:
Snoop Dogg –
"You can't come to the kingdom and not see the prince"
Pete Rock –
"Tim's like a hip hop brother to me, man. He's always treated me with respect and I pay him with high regard"
"I'm a big fan of Tim. The guy is a one-off. No one does what he does"
"Everybody wants someone when they blow up, man. But he takes an artist before anybody knows who they are and blows them up. He had my back even before The Fugees, you know what I'm saying? Shade is just shade, Tim is hip hop through and through"
Nikki Minaj (on Twitter after hearing the rumours of the sacking) -
"Ur kidding right? Wtf” "Noooooooooooooo
“Tim Westwood is such a big part of my UK experience!!!!! He's a f**king superstar!!!! Best interviews hands down!!!! Wtf?!?!"
"DM ur nmbr. U need to come to the States! Ur a f**king gold mine. No one in their right mind fired u."
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