Fifteen-year old Ray is living in a life of turmoil. He's constantly fighting with his parents --- especially his father --- in their East London flat. At school, it's even worse. His best friends, Tyrone and Prem, have been kicked out. Then Ray threatens a staff member, and he too is "permanently excluded." The only happiness the boys have is listening to music and spending time at the local music shop. The store is run by an older Jamaican, who they affectionately call "Marga Man."
Once the boys are no longer in school, they get into even more trouble on the streets. The reality of their situation hits hard when they are thrown in jail for fighting in a public park, which only angers their parents further. When the school board contacts their families, it seems as if there is only one solution. The boys have been invited to join an alternative education program targeted towards what interests them most: music. All of their studies will be focused on music and the music industry. As part of this experience, they are to work in an actual recording studio. Although some of their parents are hesitant at first, the boys give it a shot.
With Marga Man as their manager, the boys create a rap group called the Positive Negatives. They are swept up into the music industry and become superstars practically overnight. They record an album, perform on television, and are selling out live concerts. At this point, the plot seems to go off track, like a train running out of control. In the first part of the book, the reader is drawn in slowly by the characters of Ray, Tyrone and Prem. As the music takes over their lives, the plot speeds up on overdrive, and the subtleties of each teen are lost.
And then, in an odd and almost confusing twist of events, the issue of gang warfare comes into the story. The Positive Negatives are first being harassed and then attacked by unknown gang members. Now, they struggle to deal with both their fame and the world of the cruel streets.
Author Benjamin Zephaniah is a poet and performing artist in England. His poetry is displayed in the rap lyrics that are scattered throughout this work. If you want to learn more about the world of the rap music industry, then GANGSTA RAP is the book for you.
Reviewed by Kristi Olson on August 7, 2004
- Publication Date: August 7, 2004
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 332 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
- ISBN-10: 1582348863
- ISBN-13: 9781582348865