Book Review: ‘The Plot Against Hip Hop’ by Nelson George

Before I say anything about this book, I have to admit that I am not a fan of rap. It’s a legitimate form of music and art that I’m just not into. However, the story and possible insight Nelson George’s The Plot Against Hip Hop offered (and the fact that it’s on the high quality Akashic label) intrigued me to pick it up.

George gives us a truly unique tough guy hero in D Hunter, a security expert specializing in the hip hop community. Street tough with a harsh personal history (his brother was shot by the police and Hunter is HIV positive), survival has made him knowing and respectful of life. He also shows a love for the music that he grew up with and that pays his bills, yet has a clear eye of the personalities involved.

When hip hop critic and historian Dwayne Robinson is murdered, he gets a copy of a cassette tape into D’s hands before he dies. When the police write the killing off as gang related, D is in search of a tape player. The mystery leads him through the hip hop world from street thugs to power players. There are hip hop cops with dossiers on artists, hangers-on, fans, conspiracy theorists, marketing execs, and astute journalists. George gives a wonderful look at and has great respect for the music and its power.

In many ways the music is also a character in the book. It has a past and interacts with the characters. George seems to argue that it is as much of a murder victim as Robinson, using the mystery to investigate the intersection of art, culture, commerce, and politics.

Nelson George is an authority on the world he takes us through. He has written collections of criticism on African American artists. I hope he continues in the hard boiled genre as well. He is a man with a lot to say and has created a great hero to say it with.

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