Hold Tight by Jeffrey Boakye is one of the most original and exciting works of non-fiction you’re likely to read this year. A mix of music journalism, popular culture, gender, race studies, criticism and politics, it was causing a stir amongst reviewers and booksellers long before it even landed in bookshops. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. Essentially a book about what it means to be black, British, and born after 1980, it taps into viral public discourse about race and millennials in a post-Brexit, conservative UK.
But all that is really an aside. The main subject of Hold Tight, the thing that holds all of this together, is music. Specifically, this is a book about Grime. Celebrating over 50 songs that make up the very DNA of Grime, Jeffrey Boakye explores the history of the genre, what it means, and why it has such a resonance in the UK today. And beyond that, he examines the ways in which the media writes about Grime, and the way the music and the culture surrounding it represents masculinity. You might think that sounds like a lot for one book to cover. It is. But Boakye writes with such intelligence, humour and gravitas that the narrative is seamlessly enjoyable. At times it is funny, at others so insightful it makes you revaluate your own view on what music can mean.
And let’s not forget the #Grime4Corbyn campaign that has made it into the headlines these past couple of months. The labour leader’s popularity is soaring exponentially, and it might be fair to say that Grime is one of his most effective backers – it has been credited with encouraging more young people to go out and vote in numbers that haven’t been seen in decades. For that reason alone, Hold Tight couldn’t be more timely or relevant. The recent election has thrown a spotlight on Grime that wasn’t necessarily there before, has taken it from the underground and given it proper mainstream influence. As Grime’s impact on popular culture grows, so does the readership potential for Hold Tight.
Jeffery Boakye is an English teacher from Brixton, who now lives and works in East London. He is close enough to the Grime scene to know it inside out, but also distant enough to write with accessibility for those who may not be part of the scene – or even those readers who know nothing about Grime to begin with. We can expect interest among London readers to be especially strong, given Boakye’s locality, but on a national level, the review interest is already pouring in. While music outlets such as SBTV, Mixmag and Vice’s Noisey have already been shouting about Hold Tight, it has equally been picked up by mainstream media like The Guardian, The Financial Times, The New Statesman and The Independent, with reviews due over the coming weeks. Add to this that the book is being published by one of the most exciting and innovative new indie publishers in the UK today, Influx Press, Hold Tight is set to become one of the most electrifying releases of the year.
Hold Tight is published by Influx Press on 6th July 2017 (£9.99, p/b, 400pp, 9781910312254)