Hold Tight: Black Masculinity, Millennials And The Meaning Of Grime is a new book from school teacher, music critic and author Jeffrey Boakye which looks at grime as a significant moment in the history of British music. Based around a track-by-track breakdown of 50 genre-defining grime tracks, Boakye explores the stories behind each track and puts them in the social and political context of the time. He also looks at how they relate to the concept of masculinity, dissecting tracks like "Moschino", "Creeper", "Next Hype", "Too Many Man", "Rhythm & Gash" and "I Can C U" to look at the ways that masculinity is expressed. Though the tone is often light-hearted, and despite never claiming to be an "insider", Boakye writes entertainingly and knowledgeably about subjects clearly close to his heart.
As much as anything, this book is an engaging analysis of grime from a personal perspective, which just adds as another reminder of grime's cultural significance. Ahead of the book's release on July 6th, we've got an exclusive extract that sees Boakye share a memory of Tempa T's riotous "Next Hype", before approaching it from the vantage point of a critic, how it compares to his other tracks, the almost cartoonish masculinity and the tantalising sense of danger. Scroll down below to see how Jeffrey looks back on the grime tune most likely to make you smash up your own house.
"Next Hype" — Tempa T (2009)
‘Son,’ I’ll say with a grave look in my eye. ‘If you don’t tidy your room and eat all your vegetables, he’ll sneak into your room in the night while you’re sleeping…’
‘Who will sneak into my room, daddy?’
‘Tempa. Tempa T.’
My son will gasp and pull his duvet up to his eyes in fear.
‘That’s right. And Tempa T will flip your mattress and search for the cash. And kick your HDTV off the stand. And he’ll even take all of your CDs.’
‘Not my CDs!’
‘And you won’t get ANY of them back.’
Then I’ll creep out of his room and whisper ‘Tempz!’ in the middle of the night, to freak him out.
On Halloween, I’ll get an Incredible Hulk costume from the kids’ section at Sainsbury’s and spray-paint it West African brown. Then I’ll make a high-top out of cardboard, sellotape it to my son’s head and send him to school as Tempa T. And I’ll teach him to say things like “boy off the ting” and “WOOOYY”.
Years later, he’ll persuade his uni mates to dress up in matching Tempa T outfits and ironically go out on a next hype. They’ll go to the local park and chase down a man flying a kite. The police will be called and my son will spend a very non-ironic night in a prison cell.
On his wedding day, my son’s Best Man will relay this anecdote to the cheers and grins of an assorted collection of close family and friends. This will mark the first and last time that ‘Next Hype’ will make it on to a wedding playlist.
In 2009, Tempa T turned the angry, unstable, permanently aggressive, ridiculous, furious hype-man into an official Grime archetype and in doing so, he made it tacitly OK to be violent and silly at the same time. A caricature of aggression, he announced his arrival on the scene with ‘Next Hype’, growling his way through a series of ridiculous threats and promises of bodily violence, sugar coated with an undeniable playfulness.
Yes, ‘Next Hype’ is violent, but unlike so much Grime before and so much Grime since, it invokes a level of exaggeration that almost tips into sarcasm. Tempa T showed us that Grime didn’t have to limit itself to kitchen sink grittiness, offering an outrageous, overblown and ultimately funny slant on the anger and aggression that society so often associates with black boys. The video reinforces this, where even the most plausible acts of violence are lampooned into snippets of pantomime. The ridiculousness of chasing a man down for flying a kite in the park is juxtaposed with the very real prospect of a group of weapon-wielding boys chasing another group of boys at night, but we are invited to smile through both scenarios like a Tom and Jerry sequence. Also, the addition of Tim ‘pre-ironic UK godfather of rap’ Westwood sets a comedic tone from the off, in the one-time-only role of Tempz’s line manager at Pars R Us.1
But, all that said, it’s not purely silly. Arguably, the energy that fuels ‘Next Hype’ is drawn from the same well of protest and political agitation, with anti-social behaviour a close cousin to anti-establishment behaviour. As Tempa T explains:
‘It’s not about the [lyrical] content, it’s about the energy and aura... The persona I portray gives a voice to those who use it as a way of expression.’
-The Guardian, February 2011
Despite a limited back catalogue, Tempa T remains a relevant figure in the scene, having carved his own lane as Grime’s go-to noisemaker. It’s hard to imagine Lethal Bizzle’s testosterone-fuelled ode to the insanity workout, ‘Rari WorkOut’, without Tempz’s musclebound presence. And it was a serious no-brainer to get him shouting about lions, gorillas and bears on the all-star remix of Solo 45’s ‘Feed Em To The Lions’.2
Ultimately, ‘Next Hype’ earns its place on the list because it somehow signifies a scream and sigh of relief at the same time. Like professional wrestling, or Death Metal, or any other genre that turns dangerous things into entertainment, it takes a few of the teeth out of belligerence without sacrificing the energy behind the bite, offering a relatively safe space to vent anger and frustration. However, this kind of anger-based dance music just might be inviting anger as well as channelling it. Sonically, ‘Next Hype’ stands as a moment of roid rage but ideologically, it might have more focus than that metaphor suggests, releasing Grime from the pressure to inflict pain with its punches whilst simultaneously encouraging us to step into the ring.
1. I’m guessing Pars R Us would be where one would go if one felt the need to be brought down a peg or two by being insulted, or dissed, by a paid professional. I don’t imagine this business model would be particularly successful in the real world, outside of Tempa T’s imagination. On an unrelated note, it’s really easy to dismiss Tim Westwood as a figure of derision, because of his ridiculous affectations and, well, whiteness. But the reality is that Westwood is a crucial, crucial figure in the establishment of hip hop in the UK. He fought for the cause in those years when the cause wasn’t being supported, opening doors for a lot of artists, UK and otherwise. Respect where respect is due. That’s why he’s the manager. Note: Westwood would go on to reprise a similar role in the video to Roll Deep’s ‘Shake a Leg’. Note: Westwood also picked up the Legacy Award at the 2016 Rated Awards, in recognition of his long and celebrated career in black music.
2. Classic Tempz. He more or less just shouts about animals in the jungle for 16 bars, not really even bothering to push it that far into metaphor territory
The launch of Hold Tight: Black Masculinity, Millennials And The Meaning Of Grime takes place tonight (June 27) at Rough Trade East, and has a panel discussion with Kieran Yates, Krucial Kidd, Doc Brown and, of course, Jeffrey Boakye.