On Monday, a young and rowdy crowd gathered at The Jump Off in London for an old-fashioned rap battle. Everyone was hoping for a good time, an evening free of any publicly declared threats of back-alley rape of women.
Then this happened:
The man you see intervening (at the 31-second mark) is Nihal Arthanayake. He is a 42-year-old BBC Radio presenter, DJ, and family man. His artistic and professional influences include Mos Def, Bill Withers, Jon Stewart, and Mark Ronson. He hosts shows devoted to discussing and debating the issues facing British Asians. He interviews a wide variety of guests, including Fatima Khan, mother of a British doctor who died while being held in custody in Syria. Nihal has also occasionally stepped in controversy.
He can also rap—and on Monday, he put that skill to particularly good use. During the rap battle, MC Lighte The Boom Box said to his female opponent MC D’Klastro that, “bitch, after this, in the alley, you gonna get raped.” This did not seem to go over well with the audience, and seconds later, Nihal (who was a judge at the event) interrupted the battle, got on-stage, and grabbed a mic. Here’s part of what he said:
What the fuck, you fat idiot?
Didn’t you have a mum? Didn’t you have a sister? Why you so dumb?
Misogynistic prick. Talking, you think you’re sick.
The video of this was picked up later in the week by several news outlets, such as Jezebel, the Independent, and Entertainmentwise. Nihal says that this was the first time he has ever had to halt a rap battle out of pure outrage.
“That was unique,” he tells me. “And, as I haven’t rhymed properly for over 15 years, I proved I was a little rusty, to say the least.”
Nihal says that the response to the video has been positive, save for “a few men [on Twitter] questioning my rap skills…and calling me names for being so sensitive to a rape-based battle rap.” He says he has not interacted with Lighte The Boom Box since Monday’s battle, nor does he wish to.
“I said what I had to say,” Nihal says. “I’m not a white knight (guess I’d be a brown one anyway), nor a hero, nor a feminist. Just a husband and a father who has spoken to many victims of domestic violence in my job as a phone-in host for the BBC…I just thought about the women in my life and that the male MC had betrayed rap music by resorting to something so base and disgusting. I’m not a prude, I grew up on rap music. But raping a woman as a battle lyric—that’s just nonsense.”
“The crowd reaction told you that even in the most urban of environments that type of lyric won’t fly anymore,” he added.