Never Drank the Kool-Aid: Essays
Picador, 2006 (2006)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
previously enjoyed Touré's fiction -
The Portable Promised Land
- very much, but had not read any of his other work. The author is a journalist who's written articles on a regular basis for
Never Drank the Kool-Aid
includes a collection of these short pieces, mainly focusing on hiphop, and Touré explains his title early on as '
a great piece of modern slang that means buying into what someone else tells you. It springs from the story of the 1978 massacre at Jonestown, Guyana
' where cult followers were persuaded '
to drink cyanide-laced punch.
n his Introduction, Touré provides a history of hiphop and its influences, and discusses his approach to interviewing. The celebrities that Touré meets with and/or writes about range from rap artists to record execs and national political figures - from Eminem, 50 Cent, DMX, and Tupac to Jennifer Capriati, Michael Jordan, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice.
ouré talks about Eminem as '
a family man
' who's been raising a daughter, niece and half-brother, and compares him to Madonna, suggesting that '
both work with the idea that "if I can make some people hate me, then that will make those who like me love me that much more intensely."
' Of 50 Cents, Touré says, '
In a heartbeat he can switch from the charm of a soft-spoken choirboy to a teeth-clenched ice-grill
', and that being shot in the face helped his career by changing his sound! Touré calls DMX '
', and he quotes Biggie Smalls' lyrics that reveal vulnerability in his drug dealing experiences. He tells us that '
An MC is a poet. A rapper is a performance artist.
Ships Passing in the Night
', Touré speaks of Barack Obama and Colin Powell '
who make whites feel that progress has been made, that academia and the military are avenues to success for everyone, that racism is ending and equality is here.
' He speaks of Beyoncé as '
a Black girl who's not so overwhelmingly nubian that white people don't appreciate her beauty.
' In '
The Next Queen of Soul
', he questions Alicia Keys about how it felt to do a NY photo shoot '
just a few hundred yards from Ground Zero
' after 9/11. Touré interviews '
world's number three
' tennis player, Jennifer Capriati. And he is harshly critical of Condoleezza Rice as a
, concluding, '
She's done extremely well for herself living with her head inside the lion's mouth ... I just wonder how lonely it is in there.
ne of the final (and lighter) pieces in this witty, insightful, and thoughtful collection calls for a celebration of the fact that '
Bling-bling Makes the Dictionary
', advising that for slang to survive, '
Ya gotta fill a void in the language.
' Though, not knowing the musical or cultural context, a lot of
Never Drank the Kool-Aid
was over my head, I recommend it to anyone seeking to fill a void in their understanding of the African American experience.
Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.
Find more NonFiction books on our
or in our book