An exploration of the much-derided English suburbs through rap music.
There are many different Englands. From the much-romanticized rolling countryside, to the cosmopolitanism of the inner cities (embraced by some as progressive, multicultural enlightenment and derided by others as the playground of a self-righteous metropolitan elite), or the disparagingly named "left behind" communities which, post-Brexit, have so interested political parties and pundits, demographers and statisticians.
But there is also an England no one cares about. The England of semi-detached houses and clean driveways for multiple cars devotedly washed on Sundays, of "twitching curtains" and Laura Ashley sofas; of cul-de-sacs to nowhere and exaggerated accents; of late night drives to petrol stations on A roads, fake IDs tested in Harvesters, and faded tracksuits and over-gelled hair in Toby Carverys; of questionable hash from a "mate of a mate" and two-litre bottles of White Lightning from Budgens consumed in a kids playground. Much derided. Unglamorous, ordinary; cultural vacuity and small "c" conservatism. A hodgepodge. An—apparently—middling, middle-of-the-road middle-England of middle-class middle-mindedness.
Part poetry anthology, part academic study into placemaking, and part autoethnography, The England No One Cares About innovatively brings together academic discussions of the ethnographic potential of lyrics, scholastic representations of suburbia, and thematic analysis to explore how rap music can illuminate the experiences of young men growing up in suburbia. This takes place by exploring the author's own annotated lyrics from his career as a musician known as Context where he was referred to by the BBC as "Middle England's Poet Laureate."
George Musgrave studies the psychological experiences and working conditions of creative careers. He collaboratively undertook a major research project entitled "Can Music Make You Sick?" about mental health and the music industry, exploring the links between anxiety/depression and precarious work, and cowrote a bestselling book on the subject. He has worked on ethical decision-making by music managers and wellbeing in the gig economy, and his research has been featured on BBC News, Pitchfork, Mixmag, GQ, The Financial Times, BBC Introducing, The Grammys, and Billboard among others. He is also a musician, signed with EMI/Sony/ATV.
Beautifully written and thoughtfully conceived, The England No One Cares About is sociology as urgent as a rap lyric.
Professor Les Back, University of Glasgow
An emotional music autobiography of great courage which complicates how we understand class, identity and belonging.