Art of W.A.R.
(Writing and Reading for
a new Generation)

by Jarold Imes
Urban Book Source
Februaru 2006


When I’m reminded of hip-hop, the first thing that comes to mind is the diversity. No two rappers talk about the same thing in their message. Kanye and Common are our conscious rappers tackling social issues head on. The Roots are our modern day hip-hop version of Earth, Wind and Fire. Snoop and The Game rap about the joys and pains of gang life. Luke is known for his ‘odes to women. Lil’ Wayne’s tales of coming from the projects to getting paid are common draws shared by many of today’s youth. Eminem’s rhymes are therapy for the young white youth whom have embraced our culture. See, like I’ve said before, no two rappers talk about the same thing. This thing we call hip-hop is a unique and dynamic platform in which everyone from the ghetto youth to the suburbanites can express themselves.

To the dismay of our critics, I’m going to break down how and why many of us who write street/urban/hip-hop are different. Starting with myself, I’m one of the few conscious writers in the genre who does it on a consistent basis. I’m the attorney who looks at how our environment has shaped and affected us. Antoine “Inch” Thomas’ first effort, Flower’s Bed gives a no holds bar account of one young woman’s conquest to overcome her past as a survivor of molestation. Meanwhile, Street Life by Jihad gives a wake up call for those settling for growing up in the ghettos and forces us to do something positive in our lives.

As much as I respect K’wan as an author and a person, you could never ever read my work and his and say you’ve read the same story. Never! That is an insult to both of us. Although at one point and time I was the only black publisher dedicated to producing science fiction, fantasy, and horror (Martin Maasai, 2002-2005) K’wan has a unique way of infusing more and more of it’s characteristics into his works. For those of you who prejudged Gangsta and Road Dawgz go back and read them again. Put your biases aside and see what I’m talking about. Even newcomer Travis “The Black Poe” Fox has a dark, cynical side that is prominently displayed in his works.

Contrary to popular belief, Victor L. Martin’s tales are more action/suspense than they are erotica and Jason Poole’s Larceny has true crime written all over it. Kind of an urban “who done it” flair that they as well as Tony Lindsey and Roy Glenn feed the legions of their dedicated fans. They are our generation’s Walter Mosely, who in his own right can claim responsibility for laying the foundation for many of our works. Either of the writers mentioned could easily make the transition to mystery or even black westerns. We are the original cowboys so why not?

Leondrei Prince and Renay Jackson are our answers to the “gangsta rap” phenomenon. Their gritty and oft explicit tales of gang violence, drugs and sex could be best rest to any early Snoop Dogg or NWA album. Teri Woods and Sistah Souljah, ironically, are credited with the rebirth of this genre by supplying the blue prints to the business and storyline. Shannon Holmes’ gang members are memorable and often compared to real people.

Many writers could effortlessly make the transition to erotica or romance, with tales that would make your average Arabesque, Danielle Steele or A. N. Roquelaure story blush. The ideal sexual fantasy using “real” people have more appeal than the made up unrealistic plots in many erotica stories today. People read the novels and leave satisfied with the encounter; many have been known to try a few ideas with their mates.

But what is the element that makes us street, urban or hip-hop? Undeniably, many would argue it would be the drama. From Carl Weber’s tales featuring the middle class to Kashamba Williams gossiping on the ghetto fabulous; drama has been the number one cliffhanger that keeps a lot of readers in the loop. Let’s be real, as “The Young and the Restless” continue to wait (sometimes impatiently) for the next novel that is going to take them to “Another World,” we have become the “Guiding Light” to entertain the masses for the “Days of Our Lives.”

So whatever your take is on street/urban/hip-hop literature, all can agree that these stories often portray a segment of the population that seems to be left out of common day literature. Did I cover every writer… no… and any writer mentioned here is free to (and has) moved from one segment of the genre to the next. As these writers find more creative ways to combine genres and styles, one can only wonder what they will think of next.


Jarold Imes is a contributing writer for The Urban Book Source and author of Hold on Be Strong; he is the creator of online soap opera: Hold on Be Strong (www.holdonbestrong.com), send emails to:jaroldimes@yahoo.com


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