Ever since N.W.A. emerged with their hit single "Fuck Tha Police," gangsta rap has been part of mainstream American life, but it is Queens-born rappers Curtis Jackson (50 Cent) and Jeffrey Atkins (Ja Rule) who have taken the phenomenon to a worldwide level. In this fascinating book, Ethan Brown, a New York City music journalist, dredges up the real-life figures 50 and others modeled themselves upon, revealing a world of rivalries and ruthless killings; it's not surprising that contemporary hip-hop, obsessed with authenticity, has striven to emulate it. Drawing on wiretaps, court reports and firsthand interviews, Brown introduces us to Fat Cat, a drug kingpin who turned dealing into a family business, and 'Preme, a suave old-school rapper from a breakaway sect of the Nation of Islam. Growing up around such figures in the '80s, hustlers who left the game to become rappers never quite left their adulation for these street legends behind and this book shows how deadly (and costly) their nostalgia has been.
Queens Reigns Supreme: Fat Cat, 50 Cent, and the Rise of the Hip Hop Hustler
By Ethan Brown
(Anchor, 239 pages)