Misc. Reviews

Trojan War: Carmen Bryan's blank slate

In It's No Secret: From Nas to Jay-Z, From Seduction to Scandal — A Hip-Hop Helen of Troy Tells All, Carmen Bryan does more than wield the longest book title known to man. As someone whose name was smeared in one of hip hop's biggest lyrical battles, Bryan attempts to return some of the embarrassing blows that she was dealt.

The book speaks of her sexual relationships with rap stars Jay-Z and Nas (with whom she has a daughter), as well as basketball hotshot Allen Iverson. These trysts resulted in the former Def Jam receptionist getting dragged into the middle of a very public rapping match in 2001. ("Me and tha boy A.I. got more in common than just ballin and rhymin/ Get it?/ More in Carmen," Jay-Z sneered in one of the kinder lines about her on a track called "Supa Ugly.")

Bryan has a right to share her side of the story, but unfortunately, she's not very eloquent. Her claim to "tell all" in Secretis a misnomer. Save for some colorful sentences about Iverson, Bryan gives few intimate details about the sexual encounters, which is frankly the only reason why curious readers would pick up an exposé in the first place. (Those looking for trashier rap-world scenarios should be directed to Karrine Steffans' Confessions of a Video Vixen, though it, too, mostly just alludes to the juicy bits.) Bryan's candor is usually misplaced, as when she reveals Jay-Z's habit of flossing his rear end with a washcloth in the shower. That's simply too much information.

Secret was likely ghostwritten (one clue: In the liner notes, Bryan profusely thanks freelance journalist Vanessa Satten). While the penmanship won't win awards for technique, whoever did author these admissions certainly captured a sense of superficiality. Bryan makes little attempt to hide that when it comes to people, she often judges a book by its cover. Her own work is pretty on the outside, but the fact that she performs poorly between these printed sheets — well, that's no secret.

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