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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

Critic Reviews

“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 Ratings

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  • Story

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.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Tim
  • United States
  • 07-04-12

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Hip Hop

Touches on a lot of what went down. Very entertaining. Great job. A lot of people need to read this book

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A truly exceptional listen.

What a trip! Dan Charnas's saga of the business of hip hop had me laughing, reminiscing and fascinated from the start. I grew up on this music and hearing there back stories of the music of my youth and adulthood was truly uplifting. I found myself sneaking extra listening time while washing the dishes and steaming the songs of the grandfathers and grandmothers of hip hop while working. 5 stars all around!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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awesome read regardless

Even if your not a hip hop fan, the detail of how the business of this music genre is laid bare is a captivating read.
It actually had me looking up biographies of many of the people in the book. Great read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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5 Star Listen for Hip Hop fans

If you are curious about the business behind hip hop and the players behind the scenes that make the engine run, then you will love this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Douglas
  • Atlanta, GA, United States
  • 06-11-15

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A must for anyone in the music industry.

One of the best books I've ever read in my life. First time I read it, second time iistened. Easily worth it.