F-Urban:changing identities in black music

by Brian Aboringong

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Urban music in London has several connotations. Guns, talent, and hoodies are some of them. However, a record label executive, Sharifa Marshall, wants these connotations changed in the interests of the genre.

“Urban music in London has very negative connotations,” said Marshall before adding, “No one really understands it and many don’t really want to.”

According to the manager of the F:Urban Division of the Faculty Music Media, a record label, the negative connotations that accompany urban music have caused the genre to be stigmatised by the media.

The music executive said the idea of the Faculty Music Media setting up the F-urban division was a risk.
“At the time, I really didn’t think about the several connotations the term F-Urban has,” she said.

F-Urban defined

According to Marshall, although the term sounds derogatory, F-Urban stands for Faculty -Urban, which in her opinion could mean several things.

“F-Urban is also a statement. It could be F-Urban literally, F-Rock, or even F-Categorisation of Music. Period,” she affirmed.

Marshall noted that the label aims to crossover different genres, styles and faces of music, fusing them together to create something new, except for the underlying hip hop beat.

She said the label is putting together a compilation CD to be released in October, which will mirror the record label’s philosophy.

“We are bringing together a variety of artists, some who have never thought of appearing on a hip hop track in this CD. We want a collective force of talent to establish a new sound.”

“Clean Music”

Marshall is concerned about the lyrical content of material in the current Urban music industry .

“While authenticity is a very hard thing to get these days, many of the materials on urban radio are either too personal and insulting or too commercial and unrepresentative of black people’s music,” she said.

Both singer and songwriter, she wishes everything on the compilation CD will be “clean.”

“If we’re going to make our own music, why would we label it with the most dirty thing you can ever think of? Grime?” she asked.

Marshall said the music industry is far from being limited to talent or money. “It shapes people’s views on race, politics and most things that consumers don’t even realise,” she observed.

A musical childhood

After eight years as a singer and songwriter, Marshall noted that her passion for music is traceable to her childhood.

“My mother is a singer-songwriter and we always had music playing around the house,” she recounted. After working in the music industry as a singer-songwriter, her decision to study Commercial Music at the University of Westminster was meant to gain in-depth knowledge into the business side of music.

But that decision, she said, steered her away from performing to actually managing other artists at the Faculty Music Media, which she finds more fulfilling. She said the University of Westminster’s Faculty Music Media focuses, amongst other things, on commercial music exploitation.