Author(s): Ben Westhoff
In this sprawling history, journalist Westhoff follows West Coast rap from the mean streets of Compton and south central Los Angeles to international prominence. Inspired by the first wave of hip-hop, artists such as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Easy E. drew upon the chaos of the crack era to both report on and glamorize thug life. This proved to be a winning formula, and by 1993, gangsta rap commanded the pop charts, encouraging teenage boys around the world to act hard and wear baggy jeans. Yet for the artists themselves, the intoxication of wealth and fame made it difficult to separate myth and realitya a blurring with deadly consequences. With so much territory to cover, Westhoff tends to sketch rather than illustrate. Later chapters on the East Coasta West Coast feud are both textured and vivid, but early chapters on the origins of NWA read like a Wikipedia bio. The compelling narration of Tupac Shakuras conflicted life and death highlights the contradictions that devastated so many of the rappers; narrowing the bookas scope would have given Westhoff more opportunity to consistently reach this level of accomplishment. Despite some shortcomings, Westhoffas impressive research makes this an invaluable overview of the musical influences and legal nightmares of West Coast rapas main players, and his book will stand as a comprehensive guide to an inner-city movement that conquered the world. "Agent: Bassoff, Ethan, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin.
Ben Westhoff is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, Vice, Pitchfork, and The Wall Street Journal. He spent three years as the Music Editor at L.A. Weekly, and is the author of Dirty South: Outkast, Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and the Southern Rappers Who Reinvented Hip-Hop (Chicago Review Press), which Rolling Stone called "packed with lively reporting and colorful social history."