VOYA - Rollie WelchThis biography series is a solid addition to collections lacking basic information about hip-hop celebrities. The brightly packaged twenty-five volumes give a nod to both female and male artists, and talent ranges from legends Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac to contemporary performers Chris Brown and Mary J. Blige. Although visually alluring, there is something of a bait and switch going on here. Many of the living performers mentioned are now mainstream or have gravitated toward acting careers. Pictures scattered throughout the series are a far cry from what would appear in Vibe or XXL, giving each volume a visual PG-13 effect. Older teens who are hardcore hip-hop fans might dismiss the toned-down series as only suitable for middle school readers. Usher Raymond IV, a protege who quickly became known by only his first name, won talent contests at age seven. Entering his teens and wishing to promote a positive image, Usher balked at P. Diddy's designs to make him more street, or edgy, by using offensive lyrics. The author makes sure to note that although Usher was busy traveling as a teen celebrity, the artist graduated from high school. Details about Usher's personal life include his failed romance with Naomi Campbell and his feud with Napster, the online music source that was posting his works before they were officially released. Teens may flip past the exhaustive listings of Usher's many awards. Although juvenile in tone, this series provides a behind-the-scenes look at enormously wealthy and charismatic celebrities while portraying hip-hop in a positive light. It is recommended for both school and public libraries serving middle school teens.
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