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. Queen Latifah, or Dana Elaine Owens, has moved from her early roots as a rapper to having starred in more than thirty films. Emphasized early in the book is Latifah's enormous pride in having her star included in Hollywood's Walk of Fame, the first hip-hop performer so honored. Throughout her biography, Latifah stresses giving back to the community and considers that one of her celebrity duties is to provide a positive image for African American women. Her pinnacle of success was being nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for her role as Mama Morton in the movie Chicago. Although she is now primarily an actress, Latifah tells her readers, "I don't think anything will give me the satisfaction of being on stage and rockin' a crowd." 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 andpublic libraries serving middle school teens.
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