A GUARDIAN, OBSERVER, PITCHFORK, NPR, METRO AND HERALD SCOTLAND BEST MUSIC BOOK OF 2018
‘The definitive grime biography’ NME
’A landmark genre history’ Pitchfork
Beginning at the start of the new millennium in the council estates of inner London, Inner City Pressure tells the full story of grime, Britain’s most exciting musical revolution since punk. Against seemingly insurmountable odds, grime’s teenage pioneers sent out a signal from the pirate radio aerials and crumbling estates of London’s poorest boroughs that would, 15 years later, resonate as the universal sound of youthful rebellion, as big in the suburbs as in the inner city.
By 2018, the likes of Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and Skepta have long since become household names. But have the conditions that produced this music now gone forever? What happens to those living on the margins when those margins become ever-smaller spaces? And what happens to a rebellious, outsider sound when it is fully accepted by the pop cultural mainstream? Inner City Pressure tells the astonishing story of a generation dancing, fighting and rioting against the forces gentrifying the capital.
I can't claim to be an aficionado of grime music or know much about this particular youth culture, but it was a book that caught my eye and having seen the genre character assassinated by the right wing tabloids over the years, I thought I'd have a closer look and get the view from the other side.
Hancox writes about more than just the music and the main players in the genre, some of whom I've heard of. I might be middle-aged but I don't live in a cave..... Stormzy, So Solid Crew, Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, Tinchy Stryder. Others are less familiar.
There's a lot about London in the past twenty years and the changing face of the capital.... Cameron, Labour, Tony Blair, Boris Johnson, urban renewal, poverty, surveillance, underground scene, tower blocks, public transport, Grenfell, Theresa May, sexism, machismo, musical rivalries, collaborations and support structures, pirate radio, police powers and abuse, riots, protest, kettling, Corbyn, Canary Wharf, public transport, tuition fees, Lib Dems, Nick Clegg, ASBOs, benefit cuts, child poverty, education, changes to support structures, Form 696, racism, profiling, opportunity - or lack of, persistence, drill music, mainstream acceptance, Garage, Jamaica, Africa, reggae, origins, family, hierarchy, MCing, rapping, beats, "hug a hoodie", public perceptions, and a helluva lot more.
I might have benefited from a print version which I could have run in tandem with some music samples from the artists mentioned throughout the narrative, but that wasn't really an option as this was an audio book. I'm not a student of music so a lot of the jargon about the construction of the music and the pace of it - 140 beats, 16 bars, blah blah blah was just kind of white noise to me.
I liked the information which was imparted. It was educational, informative, angry and an effective counter argument to the shallowness and distorted viewpoint of the mainstream media's depiction of the grime scene.
Looking back I think most forms of youth culture get vilified before ultimate acceptance ...... rock n roll, hippies, punk. The point of acceptance might just signify the death of something exciting, energised and vibrant.... possibly.
Narration was good, though the pronunciation of a word or two which recurred during the narrative slightly irritated me.... MACHISMO - is it said MUH-KIS-MOW or MACHISMO? A minor gripe.
Overall very good and a bit of a change from my usual reading.
4 from 5
Dan Hancox is a journalist and writes for The Guardian and other publications. Undoubtedly he does a helluva lot more than that. Narration was by Ash Hunter.
Read - (listened to) September, 2019
Published - 2018
Page count - 352 (10 hours 51 minutes)
Source - Audible after allowing my Edelweiss ARC download to lapse
Format - Audible