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by Nelson George

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-61775-024-3
Publisher: Akashic

When his mentor is stabbed to death outside his New York City office, an old-school bodyguard investigates the roots of the hip-hop community’s predilection for violence.

Some authors know their territory all too well. This might be the case with music critic George (Thriller, 2010, etc.), who mines the hip-hop community for a noir novel that serves equally well as time capsule. It starts with a bang as bodyguard D Hunter protects a rap star at a fundraiser before returning to his office to witness a murder. There, D finds his mentor, journalist Dwayne Robinson, slumped at his door with fatal stab wounds, muttering, “Remix. It’s all a remix…Biggie was right….It was all a dream.” While D is no Easy Rawlins, George has done the work to flesh out his uneasy detective into a credible character. D is a hard man among the trigger-happy stars of the hip-hop universe, but his fearsome appearance is softened by his underlying terror at being HIV-positive. Doing his violent digging, D discovers that Robinson was a contributor to a marketing memorandum on how not only to cash in on hip-hop culture, but how to control it for profit and cultural sabotage. “So it didn’t take much skullduggery to control hip hop,” D discovers in a lost notebook. “It was just a matter of helping the most volatile people in on the game rise to positions of prominence. Eventually they’d sabotage themselves and, in so doing, bring down scores of others.” George is an ace at interlacing the real dramas of the world—the crack epidemic and the government’s part in it, not to mention the pivotal murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. But the book’s slim length and flyweight depth could make it an artifact of this particular zeitgeist in American history.

Playas and haters and celebrity cameos fuel a novel that is wickedly entertaining while being frozen in time.