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It's Not About a Salary


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Cross takes his title from ``Gangsta gangsta,'' the classic rap by the group NWA, in which a refrain couplet claims: ``It's not about a salary / It's all about reality.'' This is in no sense yet another lightweight, disposable publication glorifying one ephemerally popular artist. Indeed, Cross accomplishes in one volume what no other book on rap music has done. First, he provides a knowledgeable and detailed history of the idiom, going back to Slim Gaillard and beyond, to the nations of West Africa. Second, he provides a formidable collection of primary sources: interviews with pioneers of the Los Angeles rap scene as well as hiphop's established aristocrats. The depth and openness of the interviews makes it obvious that the subjects are comfortable with Cross and respect his understanding of their creations. As the best available work on a music genre that's here to stay, this book belongs in most academic and public libraries.-- Bill Piekarski, Southwestern Coll . Lib ., Chula Vista, Cal.

This examination of race and rap music in Los Angeles begins with Cross's look at the societal underpinnings, including civil unrest and mistrust of authorities, most notably the Los Angeles police. In an essay that attempts to combine both academic and ethnic street sensibilities, he notes, for instance, the influence of the Watts Writers Workshop, founded after the 1965 riots. More illuminating, however, are the interviews with seminal figures such as the Watts Prophets (one of whose members, Amdee, says, ``We realized that disco music was drowning out spoken word . . . we wanted to bring the word back out in front''), as well as more current rappers, including Cypress Hill, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy E. Cross shows that in less than 20 years hip-hop has grown to encompass both outrage and entrepreneurship in an ever-changing synthesis of pop art and intellectual discourse. However, Cross, an Irish-born writer and photographer, spends too much time establishing his credentials for being ``legit'' in this predominantly nonwhite universe. Perhaps more insightful are his photographs of some of the rapper's homes, which more subtly illustrate their origins and sentiments. (Feb.)

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