Disclaimer: I’m not a Grime fan, I mean there’s the odd track I like, but by and large I don’t really follow the scene. That said I still I can appreciate the roots from which Grime emerged because I was and am still a Jungle and UK Garage fan.
I also like cultural history, so for me, this enthusiastic, energetic, humorous, ‘fanboying’ journey through a section of UK Black music history was like a fantastic joyride with an ‘Amen Break’ enthused soundtrack playing in the background.
Reading through the track list, which is best read alongside listening to YouTube or Spotify at the same, just to get the full effect, I began to get a fuller understanding the resonance Grime has amongst Black teens in the UK and now increasingly in the US. Boakye’s insightful examination does much to illuminate the cultural relevance of Grime and its journey from the marginalised underground to the mainstream.
The book’s examination of the hypermasculinity prevalent in Grime did not really illuminate anything new for me. Society places heavy expectations on men and boys to ‘be bold. Take risks. Make money. Get girls. Win acclaim. Be clever. Be strong’, and is reflected in Grime’s machismo posturing, aggression and problematic lyrics which include misogyny and homophobia.
Boakye does not offer any solutions – nor is he expected to – but he does acknowledge and lament the hypermasculinity in music and the obvious issues it causes within communities.
Even though the premise was to examine Black masculinity, I still would have liked more about women in Grime. There is a scattering of mentions of female MCs such as Shystie and Lady Leshurr and how, Shystie in particular, cut through the typical examples of male aggression with her message of female empowerment. It would have definitely been interesting to explore this further, especially in this current climate. But perhaps that’s a topic for another book.
All in all, Hold Tight is a riveting read about a genre of music defined by how unapologetically Black and British it is. Even the writing style reflects this. It doesn’t matter whether or not you are a die-hard Grime fan, just being a music lover alone will ensure that you enjoy this book.
Review by Priscilla Owusu
Find out more about Jeffrey Boakye here.