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"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 protégé 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.
Posted December 3, 2000
Each page of Ronin Ro's first book is tight, well-written, clearly ahead of its time. Unlike his many imitators in books and music magazines, Ronin Ro has a good handle on the material, draws upon classic literary traditions for inspiration and elevates the hip-hop journalism genre he helped create during the early 1990s to a new plateau. In this first book, which St. Martin's Press should reprint, readers see Ronin create the slang that has became the cornerstone for rap magazines Vibe, The Source, and XXl ('laced,' 'streetlevel,' 'ditty,' and 'singsong' are among the terms he created ). We see the earliest use of the first person narrative style he dropped once others tried to use it. We see a side of Ronin noticeably absent from his Death Row book (save for a few choice passages in that behemoth)-- him backing pathological liars into a corner by relentlessly presenting them with the facts. Before every dolt with a computer jumped on the bandwagon with inferior rap books, Gangsta laid out the blueprint they all continue to follow-- that is, until Ronin presents yet another approach with a new work. Gangsta is often imitated but never quite duplicated and I for one hope Ronin Ro's next work marks a return to the literary style he used in his first, and in my opinion, most powerful work.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 6, 2010
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