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Reviewed by Robert Gabriel, February 17, 2006, Music

Triksta: Life and Death and New Orleans Rap

By Nik Cohn

Alfred A. Knopf, 211 pp., $22.95

British journalist Nik Cohn earned his stars and stripes chronicling American subcultures in his screenplay to 1977's Saturday Night Fever. This time around, the ambitious scribe delves deep into the marginalized world of New Orleans rap as Triksta traces his attempts at producing a bounce album. Waving the prospects of a Dreamworks contract under the noses of hungry rappers, Cohn builds rapport with local hot boys, including Marrero's Choppa, who ultimately recognize the halfassed reality of Cohn's so-called industry insider status. Admitting a fear of black folks may be an honest declaration coming from a visiting Londoner, but it also points to Cohn's voyeuristic intent as a carpetbagger who can't discover something without exerting a self-serving, capitalist grasp on it. While the author provides an ample overview of bounce culture, his reliance on the easy identification of the "Triggaman" beat and tendency to fall back on preconceived stereotypes doesn't make him more of an expert on the topic than any given New Orleans high schooler. In the end, Triksta doesn't draw any significant conclusions, leaving the reader to take or leave Cohn's apparent impression of NOLA rap as lazy, unfocused, and unnecessarily murderous. Granted, the author obviously feels a certain affinity for the music and the city that he seeks to capture with his crafty words and insights. But Cohn's Heart of Darkness fantasy relies far too much on his own hang-ups to be any sort of definitive document on what it means to pridefully "Back That Ass Up."

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