Hold Me Down—the album, liner notes, and audio liner notes—provides an example of how rhetoric can influence music composition, specifically musical projects engaged in social justice as an intended outcome of the artistry. The album intentionally opens up conversations about healing from trauma and practicing hope whereas the liner notes explore how rhetorical theory (i.e., affect theory and genre theory) can guide a creative process of inquiry. Like other musicians interested in interrogating forms and reimagining them (e.g., DJ Spooky’s Rebirth of a Nation is a great example), I interrogate my lived experiences and reflect on my identity and positionality as a musician and rhetorician as I do this work.

The larger scholarly engagement of Hold Me Down is about how songwriting and songs themselves can be a method for healing and practicing hope, or what Ginwright (2018) explains as “healing-centered engagement.” What listeners find in the album are stories and themes that focus on this broader story. In the liner notes, the audience will be invited to explore an intellectual archive of compositional practices that interrogate genres (i.e., forms), including stories about how the songs emerged and were developed.

In sum, the intellectual project of Hold Me Down explores two main ideas in the context of social justice engagement with music:

–The first is to explore compositional strategies that can topically and artistically reimagine the style and form of American roots music through an exploration of its ideologies and histories.

–The second is to use these reimaginings as inspiration for telling stories about healing from trauma and engaging in healing-centered practices.