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Touré Guide: A Different Hip-Hop

Touré, the single-named author of Never Drank the Kool-Aid (Picador; softcover, $15), doesn't have a problem getting close to his interview subjects; he gathers tales over games of hoops with Prince and Wynton Marsalis and proves that proximity is everything when it comes to getting to the core of stars' psyches. Fired from his internship at Rolling Stone for delegating legwork to other interns while he chatted up the staff (he was hired back on as a writer and contributing editor years later), Touré deconstructs every inch of the pop culture sphere.

Although Kool-Aid compiles his works from the New York Times, the Village Voice, Playboy, and other highbrow pubs, Touré's approach isn't so much that of a journalist as an essayist-he expounds on far-flung topics while bringing in his own worldview and personal anecdotes. In "Are Gay Rappers Too Real for Hiphop?," a Times piece on rapper Caushun (from Kimora Lee Simmons' Baby Phat label), Touré flips the script on how weve come to define hip-hop star. (Caushun is a 25-year-old celeb hairstylist by day, and hip-hop's "homosexual Jackie Robinson" by night.) It gets even weirder when he dissects the career of Simmons' husband, Def Jam kingpin Russell, following his maturation from sexual playboy to positive-message purveyor and hip-hop mogul.

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