Westside: Young Men and Hip Hop in L.A.

William Shaw, Author
William Shaw, Author Simon & Schuster $23 (336p) ISBN 978-0-684-86506-5
Paperback - 334 pages - 978-0-8154-1196-3
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The has-beens, the almost-weres and the still-might-bes constitute the core of this look at the contemporary below-the-radar hip-hop scene in South-central Los Angeles. The author, a contributing editor to Details magazine, follows a group of disparate young black men on the West Coast rap scene who are looking to music as a way out of the neighborhood. The particulars of their stories are compelling: Kokane is hoping to recover from the unwise professional decision to side with the late Eazy-E over Dr. Dre in a feud between the two; Rah is trying to cope with the murder of his ""sniping"" partner Josiah Brooks (the two were in charge of stickering lampposts for up-and-coming rap artists); Khop is working on making the most of his connection with celebrity rapper Ice Cube; and the neurotic stoner Babyboy is faced with choosing between music and dealing drugs. In perhaps the strangest section, the newly reinvented Rodney King--yes, that Rodney King--talks at an album-release party about his latest role as producer. Unfortunately, Shaw cuts so quickly from character to character that the disjointed portraits don't add up to the sum of their parts. (Shaw doesn't use chapters so much as shorter sections with rappers names as headings.) While the book includes timely snapshots of local characters and an interesting though fragmented demographic history of L.A., too often it reads like a series of magazine articles. (Apr.)
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