Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Root for the Villain

J-Zone Root for the Villain (2011)
I know this one's a bit outside the perimeter fence in terms of that which I would ordinarily scrutinise here, but it was a Christmas present; M.R. James' ghost stories were boring me shitless; it's probably not significantly further outside the perimeter fence than Turbulent Times as was inspected a few months back; and if anyone's actually reading this without access to the first four Spice 1 albums, then clearly there's no harm in a little edumacation on that score, particularly as there's no extra charge; so shut up.

J-Zone is a failed hip-hop artist in terms of selling truckloads of records and lighting cigars with hundred dollar bills whilst broiling in a microphone shaped jacuzzi, but as someone responsible for a good few entirely respectable tunes, he remains a contender regardless of reputation. I first came across the guy not through his music but when he began writing the Ign'ant column for Hip Hop Connection magazine, thus obliging me to carry on buying the fucking thing despite half the page count being given over to De La Soul every three months. Ign'ant celebrated all of the stuff that had become marginalised as the province of pugilist thickies in the remainder of the magazine, the stuff with which I was self-medicating in order to keep myself from quite literally going postal at work. Ign'ant rated its classic albums by quota of cusswords, drive-by shootings, and alleged kidnappings, immediately acknowledging that sometimes that sort of shit ends up on a record because it upsets you, and because it's funny that you're upset. Ign'ant is one of the greatest bits of writing to ever appear in a periodical, so when I learned that our boy had come up with a whole book of this shit, I knew just what to ask Santa.

Root for the Villain is probably an odd mix in some respects, thoughts and essays on rap and hip-hop served in an autobiographical sauce, with some other stuff at the end once we've run out of life story; but it's all gripping, fascinating and often shit-the-bed funny without even really trying. Rap publishing seems to be a bit of a minefield judging by the few things which have made it onto my own shelves, possibly because the harsh, cold daylight of written text tends to reveal that which is obsessed with keeping it real as generally keeping it less real than claimed; but J-Zone keeps it so real that it hurts when you sit down. There's no showboating here, just honest tales of digging in the crates for obscure Kool & the Gang eight track cartridges and taking a beating from your own octogenarian grandmother; now th8t'z gangsta, as Tim fucking Westwood would probably say because he read it somewhere.

J-Zone put the aforementioned grandmother on the cover of his first album, by the way, and chapter twenty-three asks Are Men the New Women?; and if that doesn't give you some idea of how badly you need to read this book, then screw you.

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