It’s possible you’ve heard the term ‘roadman’ being thrown around in recent times. With the announcement of UK artiste Stormzy coming down to Malaysia this March, it’s evident that music originating from this subculture has amassed a fairly decent following on Malaysian shores.
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UK rap and grime phenom @stormzy is making his Kuala Lumpur debut for his ‘H.I.T.C’ World Tour. . He’s headlined Glastonbury last year and well-known for taking a stance in social issues in his lyrics (remember that viral video?) . Stormzy live in KL is presented by @upfrontmy in collaboration with @collectivemindsasia. . Get your tickets now at linktr.ee/upfrontmy . #Stormzy #hiphop #rap #ukhiphop #grime #KL #UpfrontMY #UpfrontxStormzy #StormzyMY
But the term ‘road’ goes much deeper than just rap music or previously unheard of slang terms like ‘peng’ and ‘ting’ or a combination of the two. If you cringed after reading that, you’ve probably studied overseas in the UK (specifically London), to which I say:
Lucky you for going to uni abroad.
Unfortunately, not every Malaysian is blessed enough to have lived or pursued higher education in the urban cities of England, so ease up on those of us who are just recently finding out about this intriguing lifestyle and all the extra stuff that comes with it.
Don’t get all high and mighty now (cos man know you ain’t road blud).
Sorry, couldn’t resist..
So what exactly does ‘road’ mean?
If the video above hasn’t given you any indication of what being ‘road’ entails, online slang database Urban Dictionary provides a more in-depth definition of the term:
Still confused? If you TLDR’d the definition above, essentially the term ‘road’ as the name suggests refers to the streets. Not literal ones, I mean that in a metaphorical sense. Hence, the origin of the word ‘roadman’.
Think of youths hanging around some densely populated areas in (but not limited to) London, who mostly just hang back while cautiously scanning their surroundings at the same time and shaking hands with random strangers every couple of minutes before retreating to a nearby ‘chippy’ (fast food establishment).
Drug dealers – for those of you who still don’t follow. An obvious stereotype but that’s how the general public and media perceives ‘road culture’.
While it’s important to note that not all ‘roadmen’ necessarily partake in the selling of narcotics, many have been associated with violent crimes that have lead to deaths and disarray within the UK. A large number of these incidents have been documented and a lot of times are caused by one group insulting another via rapping then posting a video of it online to mock and taunt their rivals.
Influenced by the Chicago Drill Rap scene, this form of music has appropriately been dubbed ‘UK Drill’.
These days many of our local youths have started to add British slang to their vocabulary:
These are but a few examples of the growth in the usage of UK slang words within Malaysia and while it is apparent that these conversations are light-hearted nods (which go a little overboard at times) to the entire ‘road subculture’, many still do not know nor bother to understand the origins of these words.
Besides popular lingo, fashion styles deemed ‘road’ have also traversed cultural barriers from the UK all across South East Asia and even the world (with little adjustments made here and there depending on each country’s climate).
Some might accuse these kids of cultural appropriation, but really it seems like just a bit of fun amongst friends (especially with the release of UK television series Top Boy on Netflix). This has been done since the birth of pop culture, not just in Malaysia but globally too and can be said for any other subculture with specific jargons of their own.
Backtracking to the topic of Stormzy (despite not being a drill artiste per se), he is one out of a thousand rappers that came up from this kind of environment thus in turn bringing this subculture to relatively mainstream audiences alongside legendary artist Skepta and the group 67. As a bonus, have a listen to another London-based artist named MoStack who happens to be my favourite UK rapper:
As easy as it is for us outsiders to crack jokes about this subculture of people, it’s vital for us to understand that many who live this lifestyle rarely ever choose to be in it and simply do so as a means of survival. We all gotta eat and keep the lights on somehow. To quote a wise man:
“Every city got a hood.”
Think JUICE when it comes to pop culture.