Music critic and author Dwayne Robinson, a middle-aged black man, has been murdered with a box cutter, and his friend, D, wants to know whodunit.
When Dwayne shows up at the front door of D Security, D's office, wearing a bloody beige trench coat and a blue Yankees cap, clutching a cassette tape and mumbling the Biggie lyrics "It was all a dream," D doesn't know what to make of it.
To police officers, it looks like a gang initiation. Witnesses, who describe the killers as two slim, tall young men, wearing red doo rags and tracksuits, serve to strengthen the cops' belief that the Bloods are at fault.
But D isn't so sure, and the rest of the book follows his journey to find the truth. And it's an arduous journey complete with a wealthy hip-hop mogul, a "hip-hop cop," a hip-hop conspiracy theory website, a contentious book manuscript and more deaths.
Author Nelson George definitely knows his hip-hop history. There were plenty of real hip-hop artists' names used as D's fictional clients. Hip-hop songs, lyrics, pioneers and pondering about the deaths of rappers Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. were scattered throughout the book. The problem is the book spent too much time reminiscing on old school hip-hop and not enough time making readers care about Dwayne's death.
By the middle of the book, I was bored with the reason behind Dwayne's death and more interested in D's love interest, Amina-Warren Jones, and why her husband, Malik Jones, had such a complex past.
"The Plot Against Hip Hop" tried to connect Amina, Dwayne, Malik and a few others together, but the characters had such detailed back stories that they could've all had their own book. Instead of having supporting story lines, every character seemed like the star witness. By the time I found out why Dwayne was killed, I was more interested in a couple other characters. The ending was also too predictable.
There were moments in the book that seemed to be more fact than fiction, including the disturbing consequences of an artist trying to leave a high-powered record producer's label. This graphic scene could've easily been added to Ronin Ro's "Have Gun Will Travel: The Spectacular Rise and Violent Fall of Death Row Records."
Outside of memorable scenes like this, excerpts from Dwayne's fictional "The Plot Against Hip Hop" manuscript were far more fascinating than the actual mystery novel of the same title. The idea of corporate America taking over hip-hop seems a more engaging story, but readers who like a good murder mystery may disagree with me.
Either way it goes, for those who grew up listening to and enjoying hip-hop music, it will be a welcome nostalgic trip from then to now.
The Plot Against Hip Hop
By Nelson George
Akashic Books, 220 pages, $15.95 paperback