3 KINGS by Zack O'Malley Greenburg


Diddy, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, and Hip-Hop's Multibillion-Dollar Rise
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A reported history of the business and businesses of hip-hop.

Talking about the many successes of Diddy, Dr. Dre, and Jay-Z, Russell Simmons says to Forbes senior media and entertainment editor Greenburg (Michael Jackson, Inc.: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of a Billion-Dollar Empire, 2014, etc.), “they just said, ‘Why don’t I do it myself?’ It’s funny that in other industries, people didn’t do it, all the rock stars, they never did it.” This entrepreneurial spirit is the author’s primary concern as he traces hip-hop from its origins in 1970s New York to its current station at the center of the cultural mainstream. Drawing from interviews with several hip-hop pioneers, Greenburg goes in depth on the early years to establish the context in which his titular figures arose. However, forefronting the three iconic moguls proves a bit ham-fisted. While they are the wealthiest individuals to emerge from hip-hop (combined wealth of at least $2.5 billion), the author strains to identify qualities these different men share that might set them apart from other major figures in hip-hop. Greenburg puts forward 50 Cent as a possible fourth king, and he devotes plenty of space to Simmons, the first hip-hop mogul, and other contemporaries such as Nas and Swizz Beatz, who have done well financially. But coming on the heels of The Defiant Ones, HBO’s tribute to the business acumen of Dre and Jimmy Iovine, and Jay-Z’s album “4:44”—among other things, a wealth-management tutorial—this book offers a pleasingly broad perspective of hip-hop as economic triumph. Furthermore, Greenburg’s vivid descriptions—a small sampling includes the “farty bass lines” of Dre’s G-funk period; Suge Knight in his notorious 1995 Source Awards appearance “looking like a gang-affiliated Kool-Aid Man”; and Diddy dressed like “a very fashionable porcupine”—make for engaging reporting that will satisfy neophytes and devotees alike.

A wide-ranging survey of the first four decades of hip-hop that vividly brings some of the culture’s biggest success stories into one place.

Pub Date: March 6th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-316-31653-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2018


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