Would the iconic hip-hop group Run-DMC be as great had it bore its original name, Runde-MC? Is it a surprise that the group hated the name that helped make it famous?
Or how about this: Russell Simmons' first foray as a fashion guru was carefully crafting the group's image of sneakers, jeans, and fedora hats.
All of these juicy details and more are revealed in 'The Big Payback: The History of The Business of Hip-Hop' by Dan Charnas, who began his career as one of the first writers for 'The Source' M=magazine. He also worked as a talent scout and promoter for Profile Records, the legendary rap label.
'The Big Payback' delves deep into the history of the multi-million-dollar industry that sprung up a housing project in the South Bronx and Harlem. Today, its influence spans across the globe from Africa to China to Japan.
"The 'Big Payback' tells the tale of how hip-hop made this improbable leap,'' Charnas writes in the opening of the book. "It is the story of executives and artists, entrepreneurs and hustlers who together surmounted incredible odds and opposition out of a belief that hip-hop would one day be as powerful as any American pop culture that preceded it.''
He goes on to say that hip-hop changed our culture. Indeed it has. "The commodification of hip-hop fostered a multiracial generation of young Americans brought up on a culture forged largely by black youth, and transformed the racial dynamic in the United States,'' he writes.
He arguably notes that hip-hip helped the nation elect its first black president. This bold history provides a lot of food for thought, including whether the rap/hip-hop culture has lost its diversity as its has become more mainstream.
Reading 'The Big Payback'' does make you long for the old-school rap. But it also makes realize why early rap was so gritty-the industry was downright gritty. Dig in. The book is 638 pages of entertainment and history.