Book Review: 'Raw' tells classic rags-to-riches tale
"Raw: My Journey into the Wu-Tang" (Picador), by Lamont U-God Hawkins
Another celebrity memoir has graced the genre, and this time it's from a lesser-known member of the multiplatinum rap group Wu-Tang Clan.
"Raw: My Journey into the Wu-Tang" by Lamont "U-God" Hawkins tells a classic rags-to-riches tale, from drug dealing on the streets of New York City during the crack epidemic in the 1980s to fame and fortune. It's a nostalgic look back on hip-hop music and the wild times in New York City before it became a playground for the rich.
Like many rappers, U-God's rough childhood influenced and shaped him. U-God was born to a single mom, and the pair lived in public housing in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the same neighborhood Mike Tyson comes from. During his childhood, U-God moved with his mother to the Park Hill projects on Staten Island. Still, it's in the projects where he met some of his future Wu-Tang clansmen.
"Death was always a part of my life," Hawkins writes. "I remember the first time I saw somebody die. I was only about four or five years old."
For children like U-God in the Park Hill projects, opportunities other than selling drugs were scant. He learned to sell crack, manage others underneath him in the chain of command and the beginning of rap.
In a refreshing departure from the typical ghost-written celebrity memoir, it seems much of U-God's own voice was retained. There's ample slang, cursing and sexist language - to the point that some readers might be turned off. But as the title suggests, the book aims to give a raw account of Hawkins' experience.
Hip-hop fans will appreciate plenty of behind-the-scenes looks at the lifestyle of a rich and famous rapper. Once Wu-Tang became known worldwide, there was ever-present booze, women and partying with other celebrities.
Yet, the book isn't an entire recount of years spent traveling the globe and partying in mansions. There are rivalries among bandmates over money and recording time. U-God also discusses some personal trials like the shooting of his son and the overdose of clansmen Russell Tyrone Jones, known as Ol' Dirty Bastard.
So, if you like hip-hop music, memoirs or even modern history, it's worth giving "Raw" a read.