My top five books of 2011
This is the year that more than ever, publishers represented what was really happening in British culture. The urban landscape has taken a battering in the media and beyond in 2011, from cries of young inner city youths and their lack of cultural identity, to questions about young male literacy rates. On the flip side, many authors have embraced that very demographic which has been explored at length this year. And it has been explored. With that in mind, I’ve picked the best of the books that explored urban culture this year.
‘Don’t call me urban! The Time of Grime’ – Simon Wheatley – Northumbria Press
One of the greatest accomplishments in the last few years has been the steady rise of one of the most prominent urban subcultures , Grime, manifesting itself firmly as an artform to be recognised. But it isn’t just music that’d being talked about; photographers have also emerged out of the urban ether and one of them, and perhaps the most important is Simon Wheatley. Firmly seated at the helm of the Grime scene, camera in hand, Wheatley spent months cataloguing moments of Grime history, hanging out with young people and artists, and getting some of the most iconic images of the past few years, exploring poverty, relationships with authority, and some classic moments- watch out for a a baby-faced Dizzee Rascal, MC Crazy Titch before he served prison time, and some great action shots of police.
Find it here: http://www.dontcallmeurban.com/
Manifesto- Andre ‘Zoom’ Anderson, self published
19 year old Andre ‘Zoom’ Anderson has always had a taste for the written form. So here, he brings it with a conceptual twist. Admitting that in his formative years, he “never felt like the curriculum at school was something I could identify with” he set out to make his voice heard in his own style. Written entirely on his Blackberry, Andre delved into the world of ‘hyperactivism,’ a term he believes is necessary for the next generation, told in long stream-of-consciousness-like ramblings about the world around him. Written during the Summer riots, the book is a fast paced, graphic and a sometimes confusing look at the world through a young man that is, well, exactly that. It is perhaps one of the most authentic representations of a generation who are hyper aware, and ready for change – an urgency felt through the almost commanding use of capital letters throughout. Oh, and the last 50 pages are left blank for you to finish off your own manifesto. Get writing.
To get yourself a copy, contact Andre on https://twitter.com/#!/ZOOM4YOU/
Protest Stencil Kit- published by Laurence King publishing
This book comes with a warning before you’ve even opened it: ‘Stencils are powerful weapons, use them responsibly.’ And with a welcome like that, how can you not enjoy the tongue in cheek beauty of one of the best art books of 2011. No doubt inspired by the stencil graffiti artist, and now pop cultural icon Banksy, the toolkit denotes classic symbols from the great protest movements of the century, from globalisation to global warming and the environment. The pages can be torn out, and thought it doesn’t specifically encourage you to grab and spray can and knock yourself out, its graphics sum up the spirit of the year. Well worth a look.
Summer of Unrest series-Random House
The year has culminated in Time magazine naming its ‘Person of the year’ as ‘The protestor’, and for good reason. This year will be remembered as a time when tempers flared on our tiny little Island, and rage fuelled some of the most potent international protests the world has seen. From Wall Street, to Egypt, to Syria and Tottenham, the world found its voice. Random House took the events on board and commissioned writers that were expert in their fields to write on various thrilling subjects, in eBook form. I was asked to co-write the last in the series, Generation Vexed, an exploration into the London riots and urban culture, alongside a host of prestigious writers. Journalist Dan Hancox explores the student demos in ‘Kettled Youth’while Mehdi Hassan takes on the coalitions debt policies in ‘The Debt Delusion’. Powerful writing, and a truly fascinating and brave series (if I do say so myself). Proof, if ever you needed it, that activism is alive and well in the literary world.
Generation Vexed, Kettled Youth, The Debt Delusion, Revolution Road, Activism or Slacktivism, and Tahrir: 18 days of Grace are all available to buy as part of the Summer of Unrest series on http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/lp/summer-of-unrest
Hip Hop: A cultural Odyssey
Sometimes a culture comes along and shapes the world in such a powerful way, that there needs to be a weighty book to document it accordingly. That weight, (15lbs, to be exact,) has come courtesy of one of the most impressive compendium of hip hop culture to date. For anyone who grew up with the delights of a fresh-faced LL cool J, Busta Rhymes and Queen Latifah before she modeled for L’oreal, this is gold dust. The book celebrates afrocentricity, post colonial culture and the foundations of the movement, through graffiti artists and breakdancers to producers and hip hop heavyweights. Despite its hefty price tag, the book is perfect coffee table decoration, with stunning photography of almost every person who has contributed to the scene. What I love most though, it it’s deconstruction of the optimistic struggle of the early days, through to battling against the stigma of misogyny, bling culture and violence, and has shown itself as a culture to be respected. Enjoy, just don’t let anyone actually drink coffee anywhere near it.
For more information, get it here: http://www.hiphopculturebook.com/
Kieran Yates is the author of ‘Generation Vexed’, which is available now on AmazonTagged in: books
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