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Book Review: Dancing with the Devil by Mark Curry

Dancing With The Devil: How Puff Burned the Bad Boys of HipHop
by Mark Curry
(New Mark Books)
5 out of 5 Stars

mark curry dancing with the devil on amazondotcom

Did you ever want to know what it’s like rolling with Diddy and being a part of the world-famous Bad Boy Records? Mark Curry gives you his experience with the mogul in Dancing With The Devil: How Puff Burned the Bad Boys of HipHop. Curry fans away the smoke and dismantles the mirrors with his debut release as an author. What you will find is the good, the bad and gritty lifestyle that Diddy provides to those artists unfortunate to get caught up in the Bad Boy empire.

Although Curry had the talent to carry Bad Boy into the new millennium after the death of The Notorious B.I.G., Diddy dangled a lucrative multimillion dollar career in front of Curry to use him for personal development for Diddy as a HipHop artist. A perfect example of this mimicry is seen and heard in the “Bad Boy For Life” video where Diddy emulates Mark Curry’s style perfectly. Throughout the decade Curry spent getting swindled for his knack for being a superb lyricist and performer, Curry either saw or experienced what Diddy did to become a media magnate. From enticing his artists with riches to doling out terrible contracts to injecting himself on each track and in each Bad Boy video, Diddy did what ever it took to make him richer.

If you grew up listening to HipHop during the Bad Boy era, Dancing With The Devil will give you an intriguing history of rap music during that time from a person lived it. Curry’s attention to detail and ability to weave his personal experiences and research makes this book easy to read and hard to put down. This is more than an expose from a disgruntled artist. Dancing With the Devil is a journey that separates the fact from the fiction. This book shows you the music industry for what it is — harsh and cut throat. If you can go online, Google and YouTube will be your best friend as you journey with Mark Curry through the maze of music, murders and mayhem.

Fans of The Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac will find Dancing With The Devil especially interesting. Curry links together Diddy, Suge Knight and their associates in a way that is sure to get you sitting on the edge of your seat fully attentive to a captivating back story that lead to the early deaths of the brightest HipHop stars the world will ever know. If you thought there was more than meets the eye with Diddy’s situation with Shyne, Curry will lay out what he saw as Shyne’s room mate in one of Diddy’s three-bedroom apartments during the time of the club shooting and Shyne’s subsequent prison sentence. If you wanted to know who wrote the rhymes while Diddy wrote the checks, Curry will give you an inside look at what means to be heard but not seen.

As a biographer, Curry makes this book much more than an expose on Puffy and Bad Boy. He documents his own history, even shedding light on his musical roots. Curry does a great job of detailing his families roots in Gospel, his dad’s connection to early Rock and Roll and his own immersion into the hip hop culture swept across America in the late 70s and early 80s. He even details his experience with the then prepubescent music in Atlanta in the late 80s and early 90s. There is also a section of pictures in the middle of the book that gives you a look in the development of Mark Curry from a little boy to a grown man. It’s almost like Curry invites you into his house to sit down and have dinner with him.

Once you finish with this book, you will have taken a trip that few have the heart to speak about. Dancing With The Devil is more than a one-sided account of a wannabe artists mad at the world. You will have a thorough understanding of why artists such as The L.O.X., Faith Evans, 112, Total, etc. are no longer a part of Bad Boy’s roster. You will hear those Bad Boy classics in a new light once you gain the understanding of why Diddy added his chatter to songs and his presence to the videos.

You might even feel sorry for current Bad Boy artists such as Danity Kane (or what’s left of them), Day 26 and Da Band. The infamous contract signing scenarios take on a new meaning once you are aware of Diddy’s history of jerking people with terrible deals. Curry acts more like a journalist than anything else as he sifts through tons of information and personal experiences to show how the music industry can promise you diamonds with intentions of giving you coal.

Curry’s Dancing With The Devil can easily be considered Bad Boy Records’ version of Fredericks Dannen’s The Hit Men.

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Book Review of Blood Money: The Beginning by Toni Coleman

Blood Money: The Beginning
Toni Coleman
(Seraphim Publications)
4 out of 5 Stars

toni coleman blood money book review on amazondotcom

Blood Money by Toni Coleman is roller coaster ride through a world where the music industry and criminal activities are mutual bedfellows. Jameelah Cole marries her long-time boyfriend, inherits a multi-million dollar record company and gets a huge house complete with two million dollars in cash in its safe. Not bad for a “little girl from Compton”, right? Wrong… Nothing could be further from the truth.

Jameelah’s female intuition leads her to be suspicious of her boyfriend, Michael Mine. Being the CEO of G-Styles, women throw themselves at Michael left and right since its the hottest West Coast record label out. Jameelah is naturally suspicious when Michael rushes to drop her off and go handle some “record company business”.

Michael meets up with the other woman and swiftly swooshes her to his mini-mansion. In the throws of passion, Michael becomes the victim of a serious jack move. His late-night rendevous steps to the side and lets two burglars beat Michael to a pulp and demand the location of the money hidden somewhere within the house.

Gun in hand, Jameelah finds Michael hogtied and hanging onto dear life as the two hooligans hold him hostage. A couple blasts from the shotgun sends the floozy flying out of the room like a ghetto roach and the thugs splattered on the floor like extras in a horror flick. The shots also partially paralyzes Michael, but he survives. That would have been highly unlikely if Jameelah wasn’t a woman that shoots first and asks questions later.

While laid up in the hospital, two of Michael’s closest business partners plan and plot like vultures over the remnants of Michael’s anticipated demise. Bruce Kelly shares ownership of G-Style records with Michael. Ruthless by nature, this red-haired Irishman will stop at nothing to make the business moves that keep him financially secure and keep his business partners satisfied.

The sexy R&B crooner Alan Wise is G-Style’s flagship artist. He was Michael’s bestfriend when they were petty thugs on the rise in the drug game. Allan becomes rapped up in Bruce’s evil manipulations just like everyone else who is too afraid to cross Bruce’s path. Allan’s loyalty quickly shifts from Michael to Bruce because he believes he is going to take Michael’s place as a partner in G-Style.

At the hospital, Michael not only asks for Jameelah’s hand in marriage but also give her all of the inside details of his business operations. Michael had been working on transitioning his interest in G-Style records into his own record company. Jameelah pays attention but has no idea how what she learns in that hospital will be crucial to her survival both physically and business-wise.

Michael’s untimely passing brings much more than his past lovers out of the woodwork. Micael’s former partner in crime and business, Bruce, begins to set in motion the steps neccessary to make G-Style records a burgeoning music empire. He also feels he now has the room needed to turn the record label into a perfect money laundering operation for his “silent partners”.

As Jameelah sorts through the things left to her by her forward-thinking husband, she happens upon the stash of money Michael was getting robbed for. Jameelah and her best friend Renee hand-count one million dollars only to realize they only made it halfway through the total stash. The money turns out to be more of a curse than a blessing for reasons you’ll have to read in Blood Money.

Unbeknownst to both Bruce and Allan, Michael’s secret marriage to Jameelah gives her control over Michael’s interest in G-Style and its transition to a new record label. Her private attraction for Allan come to the forefront as they meet for a sensual encounter that is deliciously guilty and too complex for either party to truly understand.

Blood Money is the perfect title for this fast-paced, action-packed thriller that will keep the reader off-balanced and rushing through the pages for the next plot twist. Blood Money: The Beginning is the perfect title not only because of the money’s origin but also the resulting outcomes the money generates for those who are connected to it. As the marriage and its implications come into play, all three parties attempt a deadly game of chess full of death, deception and dishonesty never experienced before in Urban Lit.

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Book Review: Good to the Last Drop, by Elissa Gabrielle

Good to the Last Drop
by Elissa Gabrielle
(Peace in the Storm Publishing)
5 of 5 Stars

book review good to the last drop elissa gabrielle on amazondotcom

There are three kinds of books. There is the book with a plot you can predict. Then there is the book where you can’t figure out the plot, but you end up shaking your head in disgust as the scenarios unfold. Finally, there is the book that is totally unpredictable yet is able to provide thoroughly amusing surprises. Elissa Gabrielle’s debut novel falls into the third category. Good to the Last Drop contains a world as strange as the secret lives we lead–all the way to the end.

Good to the Last Drop follows Amber through the first couple of months after her marriage to the love of her life Khalil Devereaux. Khalil cheated on Amber numerous times while they were in college. The fun stops when he meets up with the shameless Shayla McNeil. His involvement with the insatiable Shayla is both intense and inexcusable. His moments of infidelity result in a daughter, Lexis, and a mentally annihilated Amber.

Since that incident, Khalil is a man trying his best to live down the embarrassment of his indiscretions. The distance he keeps from Shayla makes her eternally bitter and perpetually available to Khalil’s sexual advances.This voracious vixen is the type that unknowingly lives up to the phrase “you can take the rat out of the hood, but you can’t take the hood out of the rat”. That same distance makes Khalil a long-distance phone call father; one that Lexis couldn’t identify in a police line up if Khalil’s life depended on it.

Shawn is a college buddy  to both Amber and Khalil. He is really the glue to Khalil’s relationship with both Amber and Shayla. Shawn is the voice of reason when Khalil fails to guide himself. He was the shoulder to cry on when Amber was devastated by Khalil indiscretions. Shawn not only convinced Amber to take Khalil back; he stays in contact with Shayla and even visits Lexis on Khalil’s behalf.  He finally finds the love of his life with Aaliyah, a beautiful model that has a mysterious past.

Gabrielle’s cast of characters are rounded out by Amber’s friends Keisha and Scott. Keisha is a close friend from Amber’s job at a convalescent home. She is a dark skinned bomb shell that works as hard as she kicks it. Scott is the flamboyant diva that has no shame in his game. He is classy in style and quick with the quips. Both friends subconsciously fight for Amber’s attention and time. When in each others presence, they shoot the dozens like nobody’s business.

Gabrielle’s writing style is multifarious. She can make her readers cry just as easy as she can elicit laughter. Sometimes she is able to get the reader to do both at the same time. For example, the scene where Amber visits Khalil’s mother for the first time since being married is classic. Written from Amber’s perspective, this scene was funny and touching at the same time. Amber’s dislike for Khalil’s mother only rivals in hilarity Amber’s apprehension towards Khalil’s fast-talking, crack head sister.

Gabrielle took a very interesting approach to telling the story of Amber Devereaux. Although Amber is the central character, each chapter is told through the perspective of the characters who are closest to Amber. Gabrielle was able to keep each character’s voice distinctive and true to their way of thinking regardless of character’s sexual orientation or gender.

Gabrielle’s characters and their situations will come alive in front of your eyes. The synergistic effect of letting each character tell their portion of Good to the Last Drop was very powerful. The characters’ individual stories gave Good to the Last Drop a totality that simply can not be achieved by the voice of Amber alone. With their stories combined, the characters of Good to the Last Drop created an intoxicating world of inhibitions, intimacies and ironic incidents.

Reviewed by Joey Pinkney

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