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The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop | [Dan Charnas]

The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop

An original journalist for The Source, Dan Charnas built a celebrated career in the rap industry. In The Big Payback, he chronicles the rise of the hip-hop culture and shows how it became so powerful in a matter of decades. Charnas also profiles many of the movers and shakers in this burgeoning cultural movement, offering unprecedented access to an industry that continues to shake the globe.
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Publisher's Summary

An original journalist for The Source, Dan Charnas built a celebrated career in the rap industry. In The Big Payback, he chronicles the rise of the hip-hop culture and shows how it became so powerful in a matter of decades. Charnas also profiles many of the movers and shakers in this burgeoning cultural movement, offering unprecedented access to an industry that continues to shake the globe.

©2010 Dan Charnas (P)2011 Recorded Books, LLC

What the Critics Say

“Nuanced treatment of the impresarios behind signature sounds and recording empires, and brisk, dramatic vignettes, give this history of a leaderless revolution impressive momentum.” (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.6 (76 )
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  •  
    Chief Break Everything Bethesda, MD, United States 04-13-12
    Chief Break Everything Bethesda, MD, United States 04-13-12 Member Since 2015
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    "So much love"

    If you have any interest at all in hip hop, you'd be doing yourself a huge favor by listening to this book. It's incredibly detailed, offering snapshots of pivotal moments in the rise of hip hop from beats in clubs and kids rapping on the street to the extremely successful and ubiquitous art form it is today. Although it's over 27 hours and nearly 700 pages in print, I only wish this was longer. The drama between some of the industry's leading figures not only gives context to lyrics that might not otherwise make sense, and imparts a deeper understanding of artists' identities - it's also makes for a lot of interesting narratives. Even if you think you know a lot about hip hop history already, you will almost certainly learn something new, and there's a perspective here you can only get from hearing it all in the context of the time and place in which it happened. Oh, and it's really well-written and narrated. Definitely recommend this one.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim United States 07-04-12
    Tim United States 07-04-12 Member Since 2011

    I don't write book reports.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Most Comprehensive Book"

    Even though I may not like Hip Hop as much as other genres, this is the most comprehensive book that I ever read on a particular subject. No matter if you like Hip Hop or not, you will love this book because it's the most interesting read in a culture that is so popular among all ages.

    Reading about how the legends got started in the scene was the best, like Run DMC, Beastie Boys, House of Payne, Dr. Dre, and the business, like Def Jam Records. The most interesting part is how they got into the mainstream so quickly, by changing the tunes on the radio overnight, by turning into a rap and pop station the next day.

    In stead of reading thugs, pimps, and hoes, you will read the business side of this pop culture and how they become the 800 pound gorilla in music, fashion, Hollywood, and whatever else that they label as dope.

    If you want to understand how Hip Hop got started, this is a infinite title that you have to pick up either in print or audio.

    I gave it 4 out of 5 stars just because toward the end, the book became a bit too political with President Obama. It seems like that the President will bust a rhyme as he tries to get reelected for a second term, but that would be tight. It could happen, as the nation saw President Clinton played his saxophone on stage.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phillip Chesapeake, VA, United States 05-14-12
    Phillip Chesapeake, VA, United States 05-14-12 Member Since 2014
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    "The Best book on Hip-Hop Culture and Industry Ever"
    If you could sum up The Big Payback in three words, what would they be?

    Detailed, Insightful, Epic


    What did you like best about this story?

    The has views from all sides


    What about Kevin R. Free’s performance did you like?

    Award Winning


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, but every free minute it was played till the end.


    Any additional comments?

    If I were teaching a course on Hip-Hop History this would be mandatory reading.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cj 07-16-15
    Cj 07-16-15 Member Since 2011
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    "Great backstories of the Hip-Hop culture"

    A lot of these stuff I knew about, but I didn't know the in-depth backstories and the history of the individuals. Great history book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David 06-16-15
    David 06-16-15 Member Since 2015
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    "The most in-depth history of hip-hop!"

    Loved it, didn't want it to end. Did a great job of covering so many topics and historical figures, loved the way the story flowed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas Atlanta, GA, United States 06-11-15
    Douglas Atlanta, GA, United States 06-11-15 Member Since 2015

    I like to read but listening is better.

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    "Must Read if interested in Hip-Hop, Music, Culture"

    This was one of those rare books that I went into prepared to be disappointed but came away feeling like it was better than I even hoped.

    I'm a fan of history, music, and hip-hop. Over the past 5 years or so I've become fascinated by the history of rap music. I had been looking for a book on the topic and finally decided to give this one a shot. It was fantastic. I didn't want it to end.

    Charnas tells of the genre's history from before the beginning, through the early years, covering all of the different eras. The book is not just about facts and data; Charnas does the whole thing through stories. Charnas was there to experience much of the history that he writes about, but I have to say that he did a commendable job of telling both sides of any story and not being biased.

    I do have one warning for prospective readers: while the stories of rappers and hip-hop icons are told brilliantly and covered extensively, much of this book deals with the business side of hip-hop. Many hip-hop fans will be fascinated by the sagas of Sugar Hill, Tommy Boy, Def Jam, Source Magazine, etc., but just a warning for those who feel like they might be bored by that side of the game.

    There's a lot about record companies and distributors and radio stations and contracts in this history. But while that stuff may not always be as interesting as the artists and records, it is very important because the story of hip-hop is one that deals with breaking down doors and pushing through obstacles. Hip-hop is a culture; a way of life. This book treats it as such.

    It took me a while to get used to Free as a narrator. Early on I wasn't really feeling it and wondered why Charnas hadn't just done his own narrating (he does an introduction to the book). However, I eventually came to really enjoy Free's style. In particular, I thought he did a great job with the dialog. There are a lot of quotes and conversations in this history, and I thought Free was excellent at bringing those voices to life while not overdoing it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert North York, Ontario, Canada 05-18-14
    Robert North York, Ontario, Canada 05-18-14 Member Since 2015
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    ""Flava In Ya Ear""
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would recommend this to anyone with a love for Hip Hop or an interest in understanding it. It's the ROOTS for the Hip Hop Generation.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Big Payback?

    Hard to pin-point a most memorable moment. It's like picking a favourite child.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    I haven't finished this anthology yet. But it is packed full of great stories that call upon sparks to engage conversations.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Certainly laughed. Brings a little personality out in those society puts on pedestals.


    Any additional comments?

    A must read! This should be show cased. It connects the dots of so much of what is happening now in fashion (New York's Eddie Plein as the godfather of the grill) to the rise of Harvard's Obama and the connection to the Source magazine. Thank you for creating an audible version of this book, it without question will put some flava in ya ear. Well written, researched, and delivered.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eric Beehler 04-17-14
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    "The story behind Hiphop's ascent"
    If you could sum up The Big Payback in three words, what would they be?

    This is the story behind Hiphop's ascent into mainstream America through the business side of music. From the nearly impossible major labels to the moguls we associate with Hiphop as much as the emcees, this tells it all. It is engrossing and really sheds light on how far a subculture of America had to go to become part of world culture.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The stories of small independent labels, radio personnel fighting to play rap, and the rocky relationships between all of the players like Russel Simmons and Sean Combs.


    What about Kevin R. Free’s performance did you like?

    Good delivery and passion.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    It was enlightening to hear how some of my favorite artists and the music they created actually came to be. Stories about the early years were my favorite parts. The final chapter puts it all in perspective.


    Any additional comments?

    The performer does have some mistakes in pronunciation of some Hiphop aliases, but nothing I can't overlook.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JAMIE 12-28-13
    JAMIE 12-28-13
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    "The true history of a culture"
    If you could sum up The Big Payback in three words, what would they be?

    Entertaining, Honest, Gripping


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Big Payback?

    The stories about Def Jam


    What does Kevin R. Free bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He breathes life into the lines and sang certain lyrics.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Hip hop history


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cornelius Collingswood, NJ, United States 12-26-13
    Cornelius Collingswood, NJ, United States 12-26-13 Member Since 2014
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    "The Best Hip Hop History Book Ever!"
    Any additional comments?

    This was the most comprehensive hip-hop book I've ever read! If you're a hip hop artist, purist, educator, or simply a casual fan, this book starts you from the embryo and guides you to hip hop's middle age in a one seamless arc.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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