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GANGSTA RAP by Benjamin Zephaniah


by Benjamin Zephaniah

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 1-58234-886-3
Publisher: Bloomsbury

Ray and his trouble-making East Ender friends produce a hip-hop single in their “alternative” academy, and the “Positive Negatives” hurtle toward stardom. But something turns sour as they get threatening messages that seem to be coming from a rival West End group. Fights break out, and a death taints the group’s message: “Let wordy great minds think alike, sweet Hip-Hop be our guiding light.” Zephaniah’s story is appealing, but lacks a narrative arc strong enough to support its drama. Though he handles conversation well (and the American editors have happily left it untouched), the rest of the narrative feels like a very long report, with some odd POV switches. Readers engaged with the subject will likely overlook these flaws, though they may not forgive Zephaniah for leaving out the most important part: the lyrics. Except for a couple of brief passages of uninspiring warm-up raps, readers don’t get to experience any of the artistry of the medium. This will still be appreciated for its subject and setting—but there’s no music here. (Fiction. YA)