How were you personally first exposed to hiphop, and at what point in your life did you decide to make that transition from fan of the music, to living a life based around it?
I grew up in a suburb of Honolulu, so like a lot of kids around the world, I heard "Rappers Delight" when I was 12, and of course memorized the lyrics, just like all the other kids did. When "Double Dutch" came along, that was also the craze, and we all heard Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, and Run-D.M.C. But I think that I really started realizing that rap was part of something bigger when the movies Breakin' and Beat Street came out. It made me want to learn everything I could about it--so I sought out Wild Style and Style Wars, and those two movies changed my life. It wasn't just the music--it was the mind-blowing revelation that right here were kids of color my age who were changing their world with language, rhythms, colors, movements, and ideas. To this day, I listen to all kinds of music, but hiphop has been so much more than just music to me. It's an intimate part of my identity, just as it is for millions of others around the world.
Since corporate businesses have consistently been late to understand the value and importance of hiphop culture, did you have any difficultly pitching the concept behind Can't Stop Won't Stop to book publishers?
Publishing is normally the last branch of the entertainment industry to get pop culture, so it wasn't easy to convince folks to get with the book, especially since I was trying to bring hiphop and politics together. People still think it's just a music book, but that's only half of it. But I've been blessed that my editor, Monique Patterson, at St. Martin's Press, really understood the book and became its champion. A writer only needs one editor to get it, and I was lucky enough to get that.
If you could eliminate one word from the hiphop lexicon that has been borrowed by pop culture, what would it be?