PAYBACK PRESS FEATURE
wise and fast-moving thriller' and The Nigger factory. at biting satire and heady brew of poli- tics. education and racism. will hopefully both be launched in Attgttst with the author in atten- dance. Other titles in the Payback pipeline include a biography of Charlie Mingus. a jour- ney through the world of Jamaican posses and a history of fttnk.
Bttt what of Canongate‘.’ Are Alasdair Gray. The Seams/t (IrilfGttizle and the Kelpie series to be forsaken for funk. jazz. rap and a new NYC
downtown loft location? ‘Certainly not.‘ rctorts Byng good—naturedly. ‘Canongate is totally committed to literature and being based in a key city like Edinburgh] In fact Byng's commit— ment runs deep when it comes to Canongate. After the company’s second experience at the hands of the receivers in October “)94. Byng and Canongate rep Hugh Andrew pttt together a package to salvage the respected Scottish pub- lishing house. Byng has promoted himself from publicity officer to joint MD attd re-structured
the company. which although distributed by previous owners Albany. is firmly independent again.
As to the future. it's looking bright according to the enthusiastic man at the helm. ‘We‘re def- initely a global publisher now which is such a positive aspect of Payback Press. It means I have as many dealings with peOple in New York as I do in London and that can only be a positive thing for a small publishing house like ours.‘ Respect is rightfully due. Ll
. H. liernando J r's book The New Beats
has to be one of the most accessible cri-
tiques of hip hop music you’re likely to
read. It examines the music‘s beginnings in Caribbean culture. its gestatory period in the ghettos of late 70s New York and its rise to prominence and big bttcks in the 80s and early ‘)()s.
It makes sense to place this book in the con- text of the rap literature that has preceded it. simply because the hip hop canon is a small one and any addition cannot avoid the influence of wltat has gone before. Most books dealing with this music have erred towards deconstructing its origins and roots. reading the music as an expla- nation of the black American experience. Rap Attack by David Toop (Serpent’s Tail) and Black Noise by Tricia Rose (Wesleyan University Press) are among the best and both offer smart explanations of hip hop’s emergence from the debris of New York‘s chronic 7(ls economic breakdown.
NWA’s mixture of tough lyrics and rebel stance struck a chord with a wide cross-section of both black and white American kids and sold in bucketloads.
The New Beats doesn‘t quite match the suc- cinct interpretations offered tip in these two books. bttt does offer a simplified version of the accepted story broken tip by photographs and suggested playlists of the most crucial sounds. lts explanation of reggae and 70s funk inspira- tions. and detailing of the first flttsh of ‘old school’ hip hop (l979—l984) reads like Fernando paying his dues. What The New Beats does well is to tour the modern era. pointing out the major events along the way.
Hip hop has snowballed in stages. firstly as an underground movement in the 70s. then as a novelty item in the early 80s. In 1984 Run DMC radicalised the music by making it harder. the first group to represent the true drum-driven sound of the streets. The next stage came with Public Enemy and their injection of radical black politics into the genre. This is where The Nett' Beats gets going. exploring the dynamics
of the group. interviewing its producer Eric Sadler and showing the way in which Public Enemy forced rap music to be taken seriously. This cultivation of gravity was paralled by rap‘s awkward mutation into a billion-dollar busi- ness. Nothing better represents this economic shift than the ascendence of Def Jam record- ings. the black-owned record company that was and still is the Motown of rap. Accordingly Fernando gets Bill Adler. Def Jam‘s publicist. and the label’s co-founder Rick Rubin to tell the story.
A schism occurred in rap music after l988. Previously it had been critically and commer- cially governed by liztsl (‘oast bands. namely New York players like Public Enemy and KRSl. But after .\‘\\"A exploded onto the scene with ‘Straight Outta Compton‘ (Ruthless Records.) the power base shifted. NWA‘s mix- ture of tough lyrics and rebel stance l‘l‘uck tha police‘l strttck a chord with a wide cross-sec- tion of both black and white American kids and sold in bucketloads.
all the money. Ci-funk's popularity forces lr‘ernando to devote a chapter to it. His method is to travel to Watts in California to hang out with a local gang that seem to be treading a line between music and villainy. and to talk to local luminaries like Kant. Ice Cube and Cypress Hill iii order to give a realistic explanation of the motivations behind LA‘s low-slung sound.
New York regained some lost status in 1989 when De La Soul bloomed their daisy age. a clever combination of folk. fttnk and fun that emphasised peace over confrontation. True to form. Fernando Jr uses the words of their pro- ducer Prince Pattl to get to the bottom of the group‘s quirky style. He talks to engineers. pro- ducers. rappers. Dls. hustlers, wannabes. fail- ures. and record company ex :cutives to create a vivid picture of the scene.
The book never shys away frotn hip hop‘s countless run-ins — Public Enemy’s anti-sema- tism. the censorship of Ice T. the inﬂuence of the Nation of Islam (and their rogue offShoot the Five Per Cent Nation) and the vexed subject of sample stealing. Despite the nature of their trade. rappers are a fairly uncommunicative bunch. bttt Fernando has worked hard to make sure that the important voices are heard. Because he does all this so well The New Beats is a valuable portrait of hip hop‘s last ten years. and is. in the words of Afrika Bambaataa. ‘one of the great hip hop books of the 9()s’. Cl The New Beats by S. H. Fernanarla Jr at £9. 99, B l aes People by LeRol Jones at £7. 99 and Black Talk by Ben Sir/ran at £8.99 all published by Payback Press (m 2 7 April.
This was the begin- ning of the (i-funk era — the rise of West Coast hip hop. a slick. violent sound that mixed the smooth slop of Funkadelic and Zapp with tales of LA gang life. now reach- ing its apogee with the superstardom of Snoop Doggy Dogg and Warren (3. Fernando Jr is a
New Yorker. a
Brooklyn boy. This "TheNéwBeats is important because is the most
of the rivalry exhaustive study between East and Dune birth and West Coast hip hop. ; development or The East developed Hip-H0p culmm the sound and con- yejpubjishew tinues to get the crit- mm ics‘ votes. The West
Coast sells all the
records and makes
The List 2l Apr-4 May 1995 13