No one wants a dry hip-hop book, and Patrin’s work is thoroughly engaging from first needle drop to last.

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BRING THAT BEAT BACK

HOW SAMPLING BUILT HIP-HOP

A thorough and occasionally raucous history of hip-hop’s boundless sonic dimensions.

It’s difficult to think of another book that devotes this degree of research, thought, and passion to the sonic elements of hip-hop, from the pioneers who scrambled to assemble their booming sound systems for raucous parties in 1970s New York to contemporary moguls who earn riches unfathomable to their musical ancestors. The book is about sampling, but it encompasses so much more. Patrin organizes his study around four seminal figures: Grandmaster Flash, who turned the act of scratching into an art form; Prince Paul, the postmodern prankster who brought ingenious levity and a collage master’s imagination to the genre; Dr. Dre., the ambivalent gangsta rap soundscaper whose biggest enemy may be his own perfectionism; and Madlib, “the underground experimentalist and record-collector antiquarian who constantly broke the rules of what the mainstream expected of hip-hop.” Along the way, the author provides lessons in what sampling means to both its most daring practitioners and its aesthetically conservative naysayers. It’s clear where Patrin’s sympathies and interest lie: This is the work of someone who sees sampling as not just an art form, but also a jumping-off point for discussion about art and entertainment in the postindustrial age. Repurposing is the name of the game, and the artists featured here have figured out a multitude of ways to practice their craft. In their own way, they’re not just musicians; they are also anthropologists, historians, and alchemists. “If sample-based hip-hop has one particular irony,” writes the author, “it’s that it often relies on manipulating the music of the past, and in ways that could only be accomplished by the state-of-the-art technology of the present.” If that sounds heady, know that the text is also compulsively readable. The subject is sampling, but the narrative is as much cultural history as audio exploration.

No one wants a dry hip-hop book, and Patrin’s work is thoroughly engaging from first needle drop to last.

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2020

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An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

RAGE

That thing in the air that is deadlier than even your “strenuous flus”? Trump knew—and did nothing about it.

The big news from veteran reporter Woodward’s follow-up to Fear has been widely reported: Trump was fully aware at the beginning of 2020 that a pandemic loomed and chose to downplay it, causing an untold number of deaths and crippling the economy. His excuse that he didn’t want to cause a panic doesn’t fly given that he trades in fear and division. The underlying news, however, is that Trump participated in this book, unlike in the first, convinced by Lindsey Graham that Woodward would give him a fair shake. Seventeen interviews with the sitting president inform this book, as well as extensive digging that yields not so much news as confirmation: Trump has survived his ineptitude because the majority of Congressional Republicans go along with the madness because they “had made a political survival decision” to do so—and surrendered their party to him. The narrative often requires reading between the lines. Graham, though a byword for toadyism, often reins Trump in; Jared Kushner emerges as the real power in the West Wing, “highly competent but often shockingly misguided in his assessments”; Trump admires tyrants, longs for their unbridled power, resents the law and those who enforce it, and is quick to betray even his closest advisers; and, of course, Trump is beholden to Putin. Trump occasionally emerges as modestly self-aware, but throughout the narrative, he is in a rage. Though he participated, he said that he suspected this to be “a lousy book.” It’s not—though readers may wish Woodward had aired some of this information earlier, when more could have been done to stem the pandemic. When promoting Fear, the author was asked for his assessment of Trump. His reply: “Let’s hope to God we don’t have a crisis.” Multiple crises later, Woodward concludes, as many observers have, “Trump is the wrong man for the job.”

An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982131-73-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Fans of Seinfeld will eat this up, and aspiring comics will want to study how he shapes his seemingly effortless humor.

IS THIS ANYTHING?

“All comedians are slightly amazed when anything works.” So writes Seinfeld in this pleasing collection of sketches from across his four-decade career.

Known for his wry, observational humor, Seinfeld has largely avoided profanity and dirty jokes and has kept politics out of the equation. Like other schooled jokesters, perhaps most famously Bob Hope, he keeps a huge library of gags stockpiled, ever fearful of that day when the jokes will run out or the emcee will call you back for another set. “For the most part, it was the people who killed themselves to keep coming up with great new material who were able to keep rising through the many levels,” he recounts of his initiation into the New York stand-up scene. Not all his early material played well. The first piece in this collection, laid out sentence by sentence as if for a teleprompter, is a bit about being left-handed, which comes with negative baggage: “Two left feet. / Left-handed compliment. / Bad ideas are always ‘out of left field.’ / What are we having for dinner? / Leftovers.” He gets better, and quickly, as when he muses on the tininess of airplane bathrooms: “And a little slot for used razor blades. Who is shaving on the plane? And shaving so much, they’re using up razor blades. Is the Wolfman flying in there?” For the most part, the author’s style is built on absurdities: “Why does water ruin leather? / Aren’t cows outside a lot of the time?” It’s also affable, with rare exceptions, as when, taking on a mob boss persona, he threatens a child with breaking the youngster’s Play-Doh creations: “Nothing wrong with sending your child a little Sicilian message once in a while.” One wishes there were more craft notes among the gags, but the ones that are there are both inspiring and gnomic: “Stand-up is about a brief, fleeting moment of human connection.”

Fans of Seinfeld will eat this up, and aspiring comics will want to study how he shapes his seemingly effortless humor.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982112-69-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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