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

Posted Apr 12 2006

The London-based Shaw writes about his encounters with various young Black males, trying to make a career in the L.A. hip-hop scene.

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Cover of WestsideThe London-based Shaw writes about his encounters with various young Black males, trying to make a career in the L.A. hip-hop scene. He makes no bones about being an outsider, weaving his own perspective into the stories. Reserving judgment, he establishes relationships with dozens of aspiring rappers, street promoters, and managers, recording their failures and successes, both personally and professionally. Beyond these young men, he sets a context, exploring the history of Los Angles, the pervasiveness of gangs, and how demographic shifts due to immigration shape these young men's environment. For cultural outsiders, he defines everything from blunt to C-walk, while going into great detail about events such as MC battles. Many of the young men have failed to achieve commercial success at the time of this writing, but some, including Ice Cube's protege KHOP have done well. Super stars and ghetto celebs such as Eminem, Julio G, GURU, Kool Herc, and Rodney King also make their way into the book. More than hip hop, this book is about young men trying to define themselves in a society that doesn't always have their best interests at heart. If there's a downside to this book, it's that Shaw mentions so many people that it can get confusing and you don't learn as much about them as you'd like. On a more personal note, one can only hope that Shaw has maintained some relationship with these men after they allowed him into their worlds.

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