At a crossroads in his life, itinerant writer and music dabbler Cohn dives into the messy realm of the New Orleans rap scene.
At a crossroads in his life, itinerant writer and music dabbler Cohn (Yes We Have No, 1999, etc.) dives into the messy realm of the New Orleans rap scene.
The author had nursed an abiding love of the Crescent City from the first time he discovered New Orleans jazz as a young Londoner. He lived there off and on beginning in the early '70s, but when a ten-year-old black boy spit on him one day in 2000, Cohn realized “the climate had changed.” Aging and afflicted with hepatitis C, he didn’t simply turn from New Orleans in disgust; instead, he headed further in to confront his fears and rediscover just what it was that kept him coming back to this poverty-ridden city, crumbling long before Katrina’s catastrophic arrival. Gaining entrée to the roiling local rap culture by saying he wanted to write about it, Cohn ended up falling in love with the whole scene, eventually becoming (in affectingly tragicomic fashion) a producer of sorts. The chronicle of his adventures is a rowdy celebration of the anti-tourist Crescent City, a town of falling-apart projects where every block has its own nascent rap label and promising young stars fall victim to violence, or to apathy. The author spends plenty of time painting a self-deprecating portrait of himself as an “Anglo-Irish Russian German South African Jew” and outsider, even though the rappers he moved among were impressed that he was writing a book and, more importantly to them, that he had contacts at record companies. He captures with vivid strokes a gallery of other characters: an entire universe of strivers and dreamers celebrating the very same ghetto life they were fighting to escape.
A unique and intoxicating blend of personal and urban history, music-biz thrill ride and unintentional elegy for a way of life now wiped from the earth.