Review Blog

Apr 05 2018

Gangsta rap by Benjamin Zephaniah

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Bloomsbury, 2018 (2004). ISBN 9781408895009
(Age: 14+) Recommended. Themes: Violence. Gangs. London. Schools. Music. Rap. Ray is always in trouble both at home and at school. But after the latest escapade, Ray and his friends Prem and Tyrone are suspended. When their headmaster decides to give them a second chance, that of forming a rap group, they see this as a dream come true. Through a special program, they are taught the business of the music industry, how to record an album, and how to lay down a track. Taking the name Positive Negatives, after all their training at the program, it is not long before they have signed a record deal and gain gigs. But readers know this will not last, and their dream soon becomes a nightmare as violence gathers around them. Without warning, their new careers seem lost and their perceived futures as well as their lives are on the line. But they are determined to show that crime and rapping do not necessarily have to be paired and so fight against the influences set to overpower them.
Reading other reviews on Good Reading shows a wide variety of responses to this book, first published in Australia in 2004. Some thought it poorly written and violent, while several questioned their teachers having given it to them to read. But most admired the theme of the book, giving an insight from someone who has been there. Zepahiah, a highly esteemed rapper, poet and writer in England, has a wide following, and with the re-release of several of his books, the current readers can make up their own minds.
He writes from personal experience which makes his books seem real, and his international success as a performance poet makes him well known to kids who will pick up this book. And the wonderful new cover is sure to attract readers.
Fran Knight

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