by Jarold Imes
Lately, I’ve been thinking about 2Pac and Biggie. How what started out as a friendship turned into a bitter rivalry that pitted the East Coast against the West Coast; how what started as an all-star rap war ended with a slew of dead rappers, two unsolved murders, one company in bankruptcy and the lingering feeling that rap will never be the same again. I wonder sometimes what really went wrong with those two, yet I am amazed that those two seemed to have done what many black leaders since the Civil Rights movement have yet to do; bring together people under a common cause to debate and articulate what they believe in.
As Street Fiction authors who are on the rise and taking our rightful place as royalty, I caution that all readers, publishers, and affiliates, all of us, to take a look at ourselves. I would like to think that our literary beefs will stay between lawyers, personal emails, and the occasional diss article or message board post, however, at the rate we are going, if we aren’t careful, we could have our own 2Pac and Biggie.
When I think about the time, I, and other writers, and industry insiders spent defending this genre, pointing out the substance, leadership, and potential growth and benefits this genre can contribute to the literary landscape as a whole, I did not picture publishers outright robbing authors of their royalties. Our current literary leaders letting their personal issues with an author, for a moment, rule over the professional reputation they are supposed to build and maintain. I didn’t envision publishers having to resort to hunting, negotiating, and sometimes using other tactics to make sure the thieving and the conniving honored our invoices so that we could in turn pay our authors what is due. It’s a shame that an author can’t even announce the title for their upcoming publication before another author or publisher outright steals it for his own, knowing that the author spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars promoting the title. Sleeping with another author or a publisher to get a deal was almost non-existent before, now it seems to be a trend.
There used to be a time when readers could read one author’s book one day and another author’s book the next and not have to worry about the drama going on behind the scenes. There was a time when black authors could put their egos to the side, band together and contribute to a critically acclaimed and timely anthology.
Times have definitely changed us, and not for the better.
When I think about the authors who can lay claim to being responsible for the Urban Books and Triple Crowns of today, I often wonder what would have happened if Omar Tyree or E. Lynn Harris had parlayed their success to building successful publishing houses? What kind of literary leaders could Michael Baisden or even ZANE be molding? Many times, I dream that our whole outlook and perspective on publishing would be different. We need to take a look at ourselves before we become extinct. So many people outside of this genre would love to see us blow up and destroy ourselves; let’s not give them the satisfaction.
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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:firstname.lastname@example.org
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