Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Welcome to Death Row (BOOK REVIEW)

Welcome to Death Row
The Uncensored History of the Rise & Fall of Death Row Records
by S. Leigh Savidge
Xenon Press
Paperback, $29.95
380 pages
ISBN: 978-1-597884068

Book Review by Kam Williams

“In the wake of Marion 'Suge' Knight's move to rip the guts out of Ruthless Records and NWA, Death Row Records.exploded on the music scene in 1993 with the 'gangsta rap' sound that had taken the world by storm. Yet, despite its unprecedented success with stars such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur, it quickly unraveled in a firestorm of rivalries, greed, violence and government scrutiny as Suge Knight's unconventional business methods increasingly mirrored the violent, hard- edged themes of its music...

[This book] is the complete and untold story of the rise and fall of the notorious Death Row Records label, presented as an oral history through first-hand accounts... stories from over 60 former Death Row rappers, promoters, music executives, journalists, producers, managers, publicists, lawyers, and drug dealers—all eyewitnesses to the label's phenomenal success, internal battles and violence, and its inevitable crash.

Interwoven with these histories is the story of how [the author] navigated a surreal world of Crips and Bloods, crooked lawyers and cocaine kingpins, [and] gangsta rappers and thuggish music executives... under the threat of retaliation.” 

-- Excerpted from the Bookjacket

Straight Outta Compton is a runaway hit movie which has made over $150 million at the box-office and counting. Despite the biopic's popular appeal, the flick still has its share of detractors who criticize it for serving up a sanitized version of the rise and fall of NWA.
The problem is that the film repositions the group as civil rights activists rapping mostly about racism and police brutality. In the process, the picture glossed over the fact that many of their lyrics also celebrated misogyny, materialism, black-on-black crime and conspicuous consumption. Furthermore, they were no altar boys in real life, but got involved in everything from beating women to a bloody East Coast-West Coast turf war which would claim the lives of rival rappers. 
For an unvarnished version of just what went down you might want to check out Welcome to Death Row, a compelling page-turner culled from quotes by insiders like Snoop Dogg, Master P, Dr. Dre, Suge Knight, Puff Daddy, MC Ren and the late Tupac Shakur. After reading this illuminating tome, it struck me as tragic that the icons of rap failed to figure out how to peacefully coexist. 
For instance, Tupac, after claiming to have slept with the late Biggie Small's wife, Faith Evans, bragged, “If this was chess, we'd be yelling checkmate!” Biggie countered on a radio show with, “I can't believe New York is allowing Tupac and Tha Dogg Pound to shoot a video in our city.” And you know what happened to 'Pac next.
A riveting post mortem dissecting why gangsta rappers would even consider settling their differences in ways that, well, in ways that real gangstas settle their differences.

To order a copy of Welcome to Death Row, visit:  

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