- Hardcover: 672 pages
- Publisher: NAL; First Edition edition (December 7, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0451229290
- ISBN-13: 978-0451229298
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 76 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #622,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop Hardcover – December 7, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Charnas tells the story of hip-hop in this stylish, lavishly detailed love letter to the genre and industry. He follows the money and œthe relationship between artist and merchant—who, in hip-hop, are often one and the same from hip-hop™s early days as a œmarginal urban subculture in Harlem of the late 1960s to its insinuation into—and eventual domination of—mainstream popular music. Charnas makes an elegant case for how hip-hop is the consummate American art form, one that reflects American society in all its volubility and violence—as well as possessing the power to alter it. In its promise of economic security and creative control for black artist-entrepreneurs, it is the culmination of the dreams of black nationalists and civil rights leaders. Charnas spent seven years working for Rick Rubin, famed producer and cofounder of Def Jam Records, and writes with the authority of an insider, the passion of a fan, and the cool eye of someone who has maneuvered through the day-to-day working of the business. Nuanced treatment of the impresarios behind signature sounds and recording empires, and brisk, dramatic vignettes, give this history of a leaderless revolution impressive momentum. (Jan.)
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"A classic of music business dirt-digging as well as a kind of pulp epic."
-Rolling Stone (4-star review)
"As gripping and dense as a prime Jay-Z rhyme...Charnas has done a real service to pop history."
-New York Daily News
"Essential...The Big Payback focuses not on the beefs you know but on the back-room battles you don't."
"[An] exhaustive, engrossing history of the genre"
"In a year that has seen plenty of hip-hop books, The Big Payback stands out as a must-read for any fan - or detractor - of the genre."
"The riveting dialogue culled from more than 300 interviews makes it seem as if Charnas was in the room for every deal that ever went down in hip-hop, and sometimes he was."
"Dan Charnas captures an epic story full of joy and pain, triumph and failure, grace and greed with the skills of a journalist, the wisdom of an insider, and the passion of a microphone fiend. Call The Big Payback a hip-hop version of David Halberstam's The Reckoning."
-Jeff Chang, author, Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation
"With an insider's connections and an outsider's perspective, Dan Charnas has written the otherwise untold story of the business of hip-hop. His cast of characters -- producers, agents, label executives, talent scouts -- is every bit as compelling and dramatic as the musicians themselves. In the tradition of such great music journalists as Fred Goodman and Frederic Dannen, Charnas takes us way behind the scenes. It's an unforgettable odyssey."
-Samuel G. Freedman, New York Times columnist and author of Upon This Rock, Who She Was, and Jew vs. Jew
"The Big Payback is a stunning achievement. Not only does it manage to pack in countless unprecedented anecdotes about hip-hop that you can't find anywhere else, the read is effortlessly smooth. First there was David Toop's Rap Attack, Ego-Trip's Book of Rap Lists, then Jeff Chang's Can't Stop, Won't Stop, and now this book, the one ring that rules them all."
-Cheo H. Coker, co-screenwriter of Notorious and author of Unbelievable: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of the Notorious B.I.G.
"How did hip hop's shoot-from-the-lip outlaws and go-for-broke gamblers become the entertainment industry's new landed gentry? Dan Charnas brings a fan's devotion, an industry insider's savvy, and a reporter's unblinking eye to chronicling a cultural revolution that is as contradictory and complex as the country that produced it. Payback is a bitch."
-Fred Goodman, author of Fortune's Fool and The Mansion on the Hill
Top customer reviews
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I'm one of those who discovered hip-hop through black friends and neighbors living in US military base housing overseas way back in 1982, at the age of nine. Like everyone else you ask: Once you heard it back then, you couldn't put it down and you just had to have more of it. Moving back stateside and into the civilian world, I became that white kid in a predominantly white school system in the 80's and early 90's who listened to anything on the Tommy Boy and Def Jam labels, Eric B & Rakim, BDP, Doug E. Fresh, and all the OTHER tracks on 'License To Ill', 'Raising Hell' and the other joints that went 'mainstream'. The other few in my circle got into mix tapes, collecting vinyl 12" records and using a shortwave radio to try and tune in to DJ Red Alert and other NYC DJ's on Saturday nights. Being into Hip-Hop in the 80's was the best. When you met others who were into it, there was like an unwritten bond; you were part of a club. This was before 'gangsta rap' turned every other idiot into a wannabe thug, and also before Hammer and that fraud Vanilla Ice did their business.
In relation to this book, I worked as the account manager for the MAGIC show in Las Vegas, running the off-the-wall 'Streetwear' section from 1998-2004. I handled the accounts of FUBU, Phat Farm, Sean John, Damani Dada, Wu Wear and watched Rocawear go from a 200 square foot booth to an 1800 square foot space from one show to the other. I handled all the smaller labels as well, from Joker Brand clothing to South Pole. In that time, I also watched a lot of other rappers and celebrities try to ride the wave of Rocawear's success by starting their own lines: From Snoop Dogg to J-Lo to Eminem, name it. This experience allowed me to meet a lot of my 'heroes' from my teen years. Shook hands with LL, Run, DMC, Rakim, Maseo, Q-Tip, Kool Herc, Doctor Dre, Ed Lover, Guru & Heavy D (RIP), Ice-T, Jay-Z, B-Real, and so on. And, I got to meet Russell Simmons. Good times!
I couldn't put this piece of work down, becoming immersed in the histories, especially Hip-Hop's roots on the west coast. Besides all the beef back and forth through all the years about which was better (NYC all the way, baby), I'd always wondered who got it going out there and where Macola records came from in the first place. Now I know.
Highly recommended read for anyone interested in pop culture, especially the economics of it all. Hip-Hop came to rule and still rules, even though the genres golden years, 1988-1998, are now decades behind us. There hasn't been any other 'wave' to grip the country and the world since like Hip-Hop.
Thus begins The Big Payback, a tour-de-force of a book that details the rise of rap music from the burned-out blocks of the South Bronx in the 1970s to the top of the international mainstream music world today. Tracking more than 30 years of hip-hop's history, it gives readers a peek at the origins of all the major players in the genre today-and the pioneers on whose shoulders they stand.
This sweeping narrative reminds readers that hip-hop has merged with mainstream popular music despite the naysayers who, even today, write it off as a passing fad. One need look no further than the obscure DJs spinning in sweaty South Bronx clubs in the book's early chapters to the rap stars starting their own companies by the book's end to realize how far hip-hop has come, and where it may yet go.
In a year that has seen plenty of hip-hop books, The Big Payback stands out as a must-read for any fan (or even any detractor) of the genre.