GANGSTA by Ronin Ro

GANGSTA

Merchandizing the Rhymes of Violence

KIRKUS REVIEW

 One disillusioned hip-hop journalist's chronicle of the rise and decline of a musical form and a culture he believed in. ``Gangsta rap is destroying hip-hop,'' Ro asserts. Between 1992 and 1995, gangsta rap was relentlessly hyped and--with its romanticization of violence and ghetto life--had a disastrous influence on the attitudes and actions of many young people. Ronin measures gangsta rap against hip-hop's golden age in the 1980s, when it seemed to Ro that blacks and Latinos would finally seize control of their music, ``learn [their] history and unite to become a political force to be reckoned with''--and he finds the new music wanting. Pre-gangsta rap was supposed to provide a positive influence for its listeners and to discourage gangs. With gangsta rap, however, the new role models were negative stereotypes, created by artists who celebrated a way of life that they didn't actually live. Ro ``rides shotgun'' with the rappers and looks behind the scenes--from Mellow Man Ace and former NWA member Dr. Dre (and his famous protÇgÇ Snoop Doggy Dogg) in L.A. to 2 Live Crew frontman Luther Campbell in Japan and Kay Gee of Naughty By Nature in New Jersey. Again and again, his discussions with these performers reveal that they don't live up to their own stereotypical gangsta or pimp images; they're just normal (though occasionally misguided) people trying to make decent lives for themselves. The artists are not the true culprits, Ro argues, but merely accomplices. The problem lies with the largely white-owned and -run record companies who exploit the sales and profit potential of gangsta rap. Ro delivers his main criticisms with clarity, but the petty personal issues he raises (including shots at magazines he has dealt with and some former friends in the business) take away from the seriousness of his message. A well-aimed but not totally credible call for responsibility in an influential industry.

Pub Date: July 12th, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14344-3
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1996




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