jihadThe Resurrection of
Street Fiction

by Jihad
January 2009



So often and for so long we, as African-American authors, have been pigeon-holed into very few categories. Let's be real, Mr. Charlie publishes what has been proven to sell: mainstream, baby-momma (daddy)-drama, and romance. Now over the last decade, Mr. Charlie has added Christian Fiction thanks to Victoria Christopher-Murray, Erotica thanks to Zane, Urban Erotica, thanks to Noire, and Street Fiction thanks to Teri Woods.

Street fiction: dead? I don't think so. Saying street fiction is dead is like saying poverty is non-existent. Street fiction is the re-emergence of the Harlem renaissance era. Look at Chester Himes, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Claude Brown, James Baldwin, and others.

Yes, there are a lot of authors writing poorly edited and meaningless street tales, as there are a lot of authors writing poorly edited mainstream, Christian Fiction, and Erotica stories. Let me give you some names of some Street Fiction authors that should be mentioned in the same light as Toni Morrison or Alice Walker: K'wan, Y. Blak Moore, Sister Souljah, Keith Lee Johnson, and Treasure Blue.

It is so easy to focus on the negative, and there are some atrocious stories, but I would much rather see us writing, than stealing, drug dealing, and killing. There's no glamour in having gone to prison, it's a stage that many black men go through unfortunately, but if we write about the life that we have lived, then just maybe we can prevent others from following in our footsteps. I did time in prison, a lot of it, and I was the first to write and publish a street fiction book, in August of 2000, (Wake Up Everybody: The Life of a Player) later renamed Street Life, since the days of Donald Goines. And it was the Street tales of Goines and Iceberg Slim that captivated me enough to keep my fingers turning pages. These books inspired me to read and I moved on to write about my life and the streets, for the sole reason of preventing our youth from following in my footsteps. You see, there are boys, girls, men, and women that are reading, that would have never picked up a book if it weren't for the Vickie Stringer's and Nikki Turner's of the world. Illiteracy has taken a heavy blow because of Street Fiction. What we need to do is help those who want to write and teach them the craft.

I've watched and listened to Nick Chiles and so many others degrade the art form of Street Fiction, and it is sad. It reminds me of Delores Tucker and the Reverend Calvin C. Butts who so adamantly campaigned to stop Hip-Hop in the early 90's. But, let's take a look at Hip-Hop. Look at Nas, Common, Kanye West, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Q-tip, Grand Puba, Public Enemy, Krs-1, Rakim, Outkast, Gnarls Barkley, Paris, Tupac, and so many others that are teaching, and preaching about conscious, political views, and a history that Pastors and schools are not teaching and preaching. If Hip-Hop ended, millions of people would not take any time to reflect on issues such as the diamond trade, which was brought to the consciousness of many solely because of Kanye's song Diamonds are Forever.

So, let's lift the Street Fiction up that is good and relevant. The bad will eventually be weeded out, and hopefully these authors that really love to write will begin studying the craft. But we have to stop assaulting Street Fiction. Instead, assault bad writing and bad editing; Assault these mainstream publishers that won't sign someone if they write conscious street fiction, but will sign someone writing inconsequential garbage, solely because they've sold a lot of books in the past.

Love and Life.


Jihad is the author of Street Life, Babygirl, Riding Rhythm, MVP, Preacherman Blues and Wild Cherry.


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