The Best Memoirs: Hip Hop Edition

Dre-Compton.jpg

Here I am with another edition of the Best Memoirs series, this time focusing on memoirs I've read from the hip hop community.  Ever since I started reading memoirs, I can't seem to get enough of them in the last few years.  Recently, I have begun reading memoirs written by or about some of my favorite hip hop and R&B artists. 

These memoirs have been the most relatable and interesting memoirs to me because I am probably most familiar with the music and the time period covered in these books.  So, now when I need it, I find that I feel like I'm really getting the story behind the music.

Keep The Faith by Faith Evans

I've been a fan of Faith Evans since she entered the music scene as a solo artist in the mid-1990s.  I was in high school and fell in love with her melodic voice and songs.  Some of her best songs are often the records that were not even released as singles.  What I have always respected about Faith is that she is a songwriter and writes most of her own songs and has also written for others.

I found that she was always classy, sensitive and honest in her interviews and whenever she shared her story in interviews.  I was expecting the same in her book and Faith delivered.  She shares everything about her childhood, musical background, relationships and her trials and tribulations in the music industry.  She tells her story behind the rumors and gives the background and inspiration behind most of her musical compositions.  I was especially excited to read about the inspiration to some of my favorite songs.

Faith ends the memoir at a good point, but has so much more to live that I expect another memoir, or two, from her in the future.

Rollin' With Dre: The Unauthorized Account by Bruce Williams /Long Road Outta Compton by Verna Griffin

I came across these two memoirs about Dr. Dre (or Andre Young), producer and artist, by two people who are closest to him---his mother and his (reputed) best friend.  As Dr. Dre has not written a memoir to date, these books are the closest thing to it.

Long Road Outta Compton, written by Dr. Dre's mother, gives the clearest background about Dr. Dre because she shares her family and personal history and discusses Andre's childhood growing up in Los Angeles and Compton.  She shares his early love of music and his growth and development as a talented producer and artist.

She shares the challenges that she had in her own life, both personally and professionally and the affect that it had on her family, as well as some of their personal family tragedies.  She also shares Dr. Dre's musical journey and how his success impacted his family and the closeness that they have.  It is more of a family memoir and a great read.

Rollin' With Dre, written by one of Andre's best friend, Bruce, offers the flip side of Long Road Outta Compton.  Bruce writes about his life before and after his friendship with Dr. Dre.  He shares the back story behind the fallout with NWA and Ruthless Records and later at Death Row Records.  He talks about meeting Snoop Dogg when he was a young, shy teenager and watching him blossom into a superstar.

Bruce also talks about their relationship with Suge Knight, Tupac Shakur and others, as well as life at Aftermath Records.  The author attempts to clear up a lot of rumors and misconceptions about Dr. Dre and I think that he did a pretty good job of that.  So much has been said about Dr. Dre that any fans really interested in the real deal would be advised to read both of these books.

Time Served: My Days and Nights on Death Row Records by Simone Green

Simone Green was an in-house photographer for Death Row Records during its heyday.  She came to Los Angeles from Detroit to break into the photography industry.  She found her niche in Black Hollywood and eventually into the offices of Death Row Records.  She witnessed first-hand the formation and blossoming of the iconic label and was responsible for some of their most famous photographs.

Featured in the documentary, Welcome to Death Row, Green details the on-goings in Death Row behind the scenes as well as her personal relationships with some of its most famous artists and producers including the notorious Suge Knight.  Most scandalous was the vicious beating she received at the hands of a group of female goons at Death Row---at the request of Suge Knight.

Based on all accounts, including this memoir and other commentary made in interviews and documentaries, it appears that vicious beatings and other aggressive behavior was a regular occurrence at Death Row.  

Simone Green escaped with her life and dignity and continues to reap the rewards of owning the rights to her photography.  She regularly reaps royalties of the pictures she took of an iconic label at the height of its popularity.

Let's Talk About Pep by Sandy Denton

I am a big fan of Salt and Pepa (and Spinderella). I remember singing and dancing to some of their biggest hits as a kid and pre-teen. When they broke up, I was devastated but not as devastated as Pepa. Later on, when they reunited for their reality show, I made sure to watch every episode, and even watched the entire season of Pepa's spin-off show.

So, I picked up this book as a fan, but also for the inside scoop. I'd heard so much about Salt and Pepa over the years and wanted to know about their beginnings and also the real reason for their break-up. I also knew that Pepa had struggled with her love life and wanted to learn more about that. But I was in for so much more.

Pepa openly shares a lot about herself, her family, her childhood, her troubles, love life etc. She is very honest and you get a real feel for her. The voice of this book is very conversational. It reads almost as though Pepa is talking to you herself.

Parts were very funny, other parts were sad and some were very emotional. She's gone through a lot and I learned so much more about her and about being a woman than even I had expected. I really enjoyed this one and I definitely recommend it for all the S&P fans.  Now, if only Salt and Spin would come out with a book. 

Of the hip hop memoirs I've read, these are the best that I've read so far.  Of course, now that I'm reading more memoirs and more hip hop artists are writing their own books, I have a lot more reading to do...

Until then, keep reading.

Naj