As I noted in my recent review of Impossible is a Dare, one of the perks of working for a publisher is getting to read books before they’re out, enjoying them or not, and saying what I think. This review is of a book by someone I had heard of incidentally and now will be watching more closely. As ever, as the book is published by my employer, feel free to ignore my ability to be neutral.
For those of you who, like me, are not particularly conversant with youth culture, music written in the last three years (I still like U2, and prefer their earlier stuff), or indeed rap/grime, Guvna B might need some introduction. Apparently, he’s a double MOBO award winner, based in London, and has shared stages with Tinie Tempah, Wretch 32, Kirk Franklin and Lecrae, as well as being covered by the BBC, Sky News, and Channel 4. He’s also worked with worship types like Matt Redman, Hillsong Music, Nick Brewer, and other artists.
This is his first book – Unpopular Culture – and it is a real (good) departure for SPCK, a publisher best known for broad Christian Spirituality, Tom/N. T. Wright, Rowan Williams, and Church resources. This is a book by someone under 30, part of the Hillsong style of churches (As I understand it – could be wrong), written for people younger than that. It has short chapters, bold styling, and a clear message.
This is a short book. It is readable, with chapters that offer hard-hitting, bite-size chunks, and a blend of good mainstream Christianity with occasional flashes of brilliance and one or two moments where I raised my eyebrows (probably because I’m a disgruntled under-30s person who has too many theological opinions for his own good). Guvna B blends his personal story – growing up in London, meeting Jesus, going to university, getting married, winning awards, achieving success in worldly terms) brilliantly with this idea that popular culture is not all its cracked up to be. A strong message of identity in Christ, and a life sustained by scripture and the dynamic presence of God breaks through the story of someone who has ‘achieved’ a lot. The humility of Guvna B is present – and his humour.
I don’t rate books – because numerical or grading sliding scales are too blunt a tool. If I did, I’d probably give this a 9/10 for young people/students, and a 7.5/10 for people 25+. This is a surprising, fresh, readable book, that communicates the Christian faith whilst also telling a story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it – and I look forward to seeing what God does with it. I’d recommend it as a gift from parents/youth workers to children/youth, but also to people like me wanting to understand and engage with forms of culture we might not naturally sit in. Guvna B’s heart for God, worn on his literary sleeve, shines through beautifully.