Hip-hop literature — "hip-hop lit" — has been rising in popularity in recent years with its gritty, hard-hitting tales about ghetto life.
But some critics argue the novels are not really cautionary tales but exploit drug use, pimping and poverty. Others argue that some works are poorly edited and the lack of polish detracts from the genre's literary credibility.
Still, the criticism may not deter hip-hop lit's fans. Here are excerpts from three hip-hop lit novels (taken straight from the published works, without editing). You be the judge.
Road Dawgz by K'wan (Triple Crown Publications, 2003)
K-Dawg made it to his building without bumping into anyone else he knew. He couldn't believe how Nikki had come up. She had always been a down ass chick, but she was never much to look at. Now Nikki was all that. However, K-Dawg had never been stupid. He had been down for a while, and Nikki was transparent to him. She was a street bitch. Be that as it may, she might still prove useful; she was sure to have the scoop on the who's, who's in the hood. Even if the information he was sure to pump from her bore no fruit, he could still tap that ass. It was a win-win situation in his favor, as it should be.
As the rusty elevator inched open, K-Dawg's nostrils were assaulted with the rancid smell of human urine. Yep, he was home alright. The elevator moved along at a snail's pace. K-Dawg was a little annoyed, but he didn't stress it too much. It was better than riding an elevator shackled to twenty other men.
On the fifth floor, a scruffy-looking character got on the elevator and took a spot in the corner. He wore a pair of beat up Reebok's that looked like they had seen far better days. His Colombia was torn, and it was patched together in certain places with duct tape. His stench was enough to make K-Dawg cover his nose.
K-Dawg couldn't believe how this dude could run around smelling like that, but there was something about the filthy cat that rang a cord in his head — something he couldn't quite put his finger on
The character must've felt eyes on him, because he turned around and stared at the young man just inches away from him. That's when it finally hit K-Dawg.
The character in the elevator was his childhood friend, Flip.
A Hustler’s Wife by Nikki Turner (Triple Crown Publications, 2003)
With Bengee's new Columbian supplier, he was able to step it up to the next level, a level that the Richmond's hustlers hadn't seen in a few years since the late 80's. He was large. He was Virginia's and North Carolina's major supplier. Riding high on his success, Bengee got very arrogant. One of his childhood friends owed him some money and when he went to pick it up, it was $5,000.00 short. Bengee put the guy in his car, took him up on Midlothian Turnpike, right at Cloverleaf Mall's intersection, and stripped him down of everything, but his tiger striped briefs. Bengee created a sign and made him put it around his neck: "I am a man who does not pay my debts off." Bengee made him walk up and down the mall's intersection. The whole experience was humiliating to this guy because people were riding pass, honking the horn, waving, pointing and laughing.
Flamboyant became Bengee's first name. He now stepped out from the background and wanted to be seen. Whenever he brought a new vehicle, he rode all around town with cases of toilet paper in his car. When he pulled up on the scene, and people would be in awe over the automobile, he'd just reach behind him in the backseat and throw a roll of toilet paper out of the window, so they could wipe their mouth from drooling or s----ing on themselves. He'd go to the clubs and put locks on the bars, so if you didn't know him or somebody in his crew, you were not going to be served a drink. He talked down on the small time nickel and dime hustlers.
Big money had turned Bengee into a monster.
Yarni realized that Bengee was turning into a person that she didn't even know. He became preoccupied with a whole lot of other things. He still came home every night and they still ate dinner together, if he wasn't out of town. But, it was clear to Yarni that Bengee was going to slow up or blow up, and he was 1,000 miles and running. He wasn't slowing up because he was in too deep, and loving every minute of it. For the first time, Bengee didn't have anything mapped out, a goal, an aspiration, and not even a getaway plan. He was living each day as if there was no tomorrow.
“Everything Ain't Fa Everybody” by Shannon Holmes from The Game: Short Stories About the Life (Triple Crown Publications, 2003)
Dressed in a red-hot mini skirt with a matching leather jacket and six-inch stiletto pumps, she looked every bit like the hooker she was desperately trying to portray. Unbeknownst to everybody accept family and friends, Maria was seven months pregnant with the couple's first child. But looking at her one wouldn't be able to tell. Her pregnancy agreed with her. And besides that, men, tricks and johns were too busy lusting off her bodacious body to closely examine her stomach.
This entire operation was Maria's idea. With the baby on the way she wanted to stack all the money she could while she still could. Pretty soon she'd be way too big to even think about doing things like this. She came from a family where breaking the law was a way of life. It was accepted and maybe even expected. Both of her brothers and her father were currently sitting in various prisons in upstate New York for their parts in various crimes. Maria was taught the art of pick pocketing, or jostling, as it is known in New York, by her brothers. She in turn taught her then boyfriend, Ken-Ken.
Growing up as kids and living in the same building, these two couldn't stand each other. They argued constantly. Several times they almost came to blows. Older people in the building predicted that one day they would be a couple since they always fought like one. Sure enough, as they headed into puberty their hormones took over. They suddenly stopped fighting each other and became attracted to each other. Some called it animal magnetism because they couldn't stay away from each other. So after years of fooling around, dating, break ups and make ups, it was decided by Maria's mother that they should get married. The couple agreed and they got hitched downtown in City Hall. It was a small simple ceremony with only a select few friends and family members in attendance.
Ken-Ken hated the idea of having his woman in on a caper, having her in harm's way. But he had no choice. Maria insisted that she be included. They were a family that did everything together, literally. And besides, she was critical to the success of the trap. She was the bait.