We’re all familiar with the title Singer/Songwriter, but how about the term Songwriter/Author? Over the years, many artists have used their musical position to speak out on subjects close to their hearts, using the stage as a soapbox to air their social and political views. When the boundaries of music could no longer sate their need for expression, some artists have taken a slightly alternative route, trading their mic for a pen and deciding that a book was the best way for them to really tell their own story. This new breed of author has enjoyed life as a successful artist and now wishes to engage their fans in a new way, sharing an entertaining message for an audience who don’t necessarily want to dance.
Mark Curry, former ghostwriter for P Diddy, who was signed to the Bad Boy record label for 8 years, said, “Writing a book is like writing fifty rhymes and putting them all together”. Better known for hits like ‘Bad Boy for Life’ and ‘Come with Me’, Mark decided to write a tell-all book about his experience with Diddy, as a forewarning to others entering the sometimes shady music industry. Mark left Bad Boy Records in 2004 when he felt that his business dealings were not being handled correctly. Alongside the cautionary tale of his experience in Dancing With the Devil: How Puff Burned The Bad Boys of Hip Hop, Curry also reveals the details of key events in the fast-paced, controversial (and sometimes deadly) world of Hip-Hop. He gives us a close look into the life of iconic artists such as Tupac, Biggie, Mary J Blige, 112, Mase, The Lox and other Bad Boy label mates. Throughout the book Mark reveals details about the East coast/West coast feud, which claimed the lives of Tupac and Biggie, along with many other surprising revelations. Despite the title, the book is by no means full of doom and gloom – it’s also full of fun and fascinating stories from a camp we were all so influenced by in the 90’s.
Swiss So-Solid’s offering, Spot the Difference: Raising Your Game to Reach Your Full Potential, doesn’t dish any gossip in the way Dancing with the Devil does. This is a serious book – one I’d recommend you read at least twice. It’s intelligent, motivational, practical and very relevant for anyone seeking a level of consciousness. Swiss who enjoyed British chart success with So Solid Crew, wrote the book after noticing that some young black individuals were not achieving as much as others and what he describes as the lack of unity amongst young black people. He steers the reader away from the ‘crab in the barrel’ mentality and advises that the black community should help each other to progress. Very early on in the book Swiss expresses ways in which we can be solution focused rather than drone on about the problems, calling for great black community leaders to speak out about the real problems faced by black people today, and not remain underground where the ones doing great works within the U.K seem to remain. He very articulately advocates self-development, improvement and achievement.
Swiss’s streetwise wisdom gives readers something to refer to again and again. The platinum selling So Solid Crew who had a number one hit with ’21 Seconds’ have had their fair share of controversy, which curtailed the success the young, talented, breakthrough artists may still have been enjoying today. Swiss addresses gang culture and black history giving real life examples of historical and modern day heroes. Included are scenarios that may occur when a young person decides to take a positive path in life as he himself has done, and includes questions that peers may typically throw as curveballs, along with excellent responses to keep bad company at bay. This book says what every parent wants to tell their child, but in a manner young people will be very receptive to.
Malice of The Clipse has dedicated his life to Christ since we last saw him. Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind, And Naked is the title of his book and its also how he describes the state he was in before dedicating his life to God. You may know him better for hit tracks such as Hip Hop anthem ‘Grindin’ produced by The Neptunes, or remember him for his catchy verse on Justin Timberlake’s ‘Like I Love You’.
Click here for video excerpts from Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind, And Naked.
Jaja Soze of PDC has also turned his attention to books in a story penned by Tim Pritchard. ‘Street Boys’ tells Jaja’s biographical tale along with the story of the lives of six other young kids he grew up with, who were all exposed to inner city crime – guns, gangs and violence – on one of Britain’s toughest council estates. The story describes JaJa’s journey from looking out of his kitchen window and seeing drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes to ending up as a kid leading a street gang. Street Boys is a powerful and important true story of courage, determination and hope — of creating a family from your friends and starting again when the world is against you.
PDC has successfully shed the label of being thugs and gangsters, and work proactively with schools and community groups to deter young people from entering the life they were once forced to lead. With many forthcoming music releases in the pipeline PDC still look set to take the industry by storm.
After reading all four books you’ll realise that Hip Hop isn’t just about bravado. These Hip Hop Lyricists have written great books that proudly stand alongside the best in any bookshop. Writing is a skill that can be transposed to any format and after all, lyricists are natural storytellers. I enjoyed the story each of these songwriters had to share and I look forward to film versions of them all. Reading these stories reminds me of an interview with Ice Cube I once came across, where he said someone told him that, ‘if you can write a rhyme you could write a movie’. That small statement led to him writing box office smash ‘Friday’ and all its eventual spin offs. It just goes to show if you have a story to tell, whatever your background, you can be a writer. All you have to do to share your message, is pick up a pen and write.