It Was All a Dream

Most mysteries, written at the speed of sound, suffer in lazy, cheap, and bad writing, which has its charms, mostly in the fun of spotting all the examples of lazy, cheap, and bad writing. The Plot Against Hip Hop suffers in none of these ways, despite treading in dangerous waters by incorporating real-life hip hop into its fictional plot: the murder of a music critic. Jay-Z shows up in the second paragraph, and other hip hop notables -- including Grandmaster Flash, Suge Knight, Nas, Lil Wayne, and Soulja Boy; everyone, basically -- are spread thickly throughout the book. They are observed, commented upon, moved around, even talked to. Fortunately, writer Nelson George, as a music critic, filmmaker, and producer with an impressive body of work centered around African-American culture, is more than up to the task. What we get is a literal history of hip hop meshed with the book's "secret" history, which concerns corporate America and other nefarious outfits -- we won't give it away -- all driven by a gripping murder investigation. In the end, the revelations come fast, even incorporating some real-world quandaries. Who killed Biggie? What was really behind the crack epidemic? It's all in there. The great American rock novel is still up for grabs, but the great American rap mystery is cut.
Thu., Dec. 1, 7 p.m., 2011

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