Finding quality literature about hiphop is almost as difficult as finding quality hiphop about literature. There are exceptions, as evidenced in And It Don't Stop: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years and Jeff Chang's engrossing history, Can't Stop Won't Stop. But for those attempting to delve into writings on contemporary hiphop, your options can frequently feel limited to puffy Source-style profiles, or lingo-riddled, hyper-linked blog entries. Unlike emcees, hiphop writers have never become entities unto themselves, creating a cult of auteur, backed up by booming thoughts and flowing prose. With the arrival of Never Drank the Kool-Aid, a collection of previously published essays by the author known simply as Touré, the genre of hiphop writing may have finally found its crown prince.
In this decade-spanning collection, Touré emerges as one of hiphop's truest fans, as well as the form's most intelligent critic. The book's title refers to a critical ideal that the author explains on page one of the introduction. (Like most emcees, Touré has no problem pointing out his own strengths.) "I never bought into the philosophy of the rappers, singers, and celebrities I wrote about. I wasn't there to help extend their brands and the story they were selling. I was there to try to understand who they were beyond the image they want us to think they were." Like the best emcees, Touré backs up his boasts with skillful evidence.
Throughout the course of the book, the author maintains a frequently adversarial relationship with his subjects, even while demonstrating and explicating their distinct cultural importance. When Prince autopilots his way through an interview, Touré challenges him to a game of one-on-one. He asks 50 Cent point blank if he ever felt bad selling crack to young black men. In several essays, he explores the homoerotic undertones in rap music, and most dramatically, he questions Suge Knight until the thug impresario threatens his safety. At no point, however, do we lose sight of the fact that Touré lives and breathes hiphop; in fact, he loves it too much to let it be smothered beneath the weight of its own hype.check out the week's LIT EVENTS