PanWashington PostAuthor Justin Tinsley takes on the formidable challenge of telling the story of one of the most gifted, legendary and iconic rappers to ever hold a mic ... \'What the hell could I say about the Notorious B.I.G. that hadn’t already been said?\' Tinsley recalls asking himself ... Not much, it turns out ... It Was All a Dream could’ve been an opportunity to reflect anew on his brief life and unparalleled talent, or to examine how his music is relevant to our current conversations on race and entertainment. Regrettably, readers looking for new insights or original appraisals will be disappointed ... It Was All a Dream...struggles to distinguish itself from earlier accounts — despite personal interviews with consequential figures from Biggie’s life ... Tinsley leans heavily on existing documentaries, previously published interviews, and biographies ... Tinsley broadens his scope to observe what the country was going through while Biggie was growing up...and how these developments affected Black urban communities, most acutely in New York ... Tinsley deftly notes how the Reagan administration’s War on Drugs became a war on lower-income Black families ... Soft-spoken and diffident, Biggie gets lost within the pages of It Was All a Dream, upstaged by more purpose-driven or brassier peers ... As It Was All a Dream reminds us, even the most massive and most beautiful talents must someday be laid to rest.
PositiveThe Washington PostQuestlove is more curator than historian, more aficionado than analyst. He remains the inveterate music nerd, always quick to name-drop, share anecdotes and demonstrate the breadth of his incomparable knowledge. But as productive as he has been in recent years, and with such a consistent and sweeping output of work, even Questlove can’t help but occasionally repeat himself ... As it happens with even the best storytellers, Questlove unfortunately—and one hopes unwittingly—at times plagiarizes his own work [from previous books] ... Notwithstanding these pardonable oversights, Music Is History is an entertaining, informative and far-reaching work, meticulously excavating American culture and history with the eye of a seasoned cratedigger.
Laura Jane Grace
PositiveThe Portland MercuryGrace sets her memoir apart by describing her experience with lifelong gender dysphoria—Grace finally came out as transgender just four years ago ... Grace takes a few obligatory shots at former bandmates and label execs, but she mostly aims at herself, believing that all of her self-perceived narcissism, arrogance, and rage came from her dysphoria. Half of Tranny is made up of Grace’s journals, which she’s kept most of her life. The other half—presumably the parts cowritten with Ozzi—is composed in dry 'memoirese,' lacking the lyricism that has endeared Grace’s music to thousands of fans across the world. But what the memoir sections lack in original voice, the journal entries make up for with illustrations of the magnitude of fear and confusion she’d been living with for so long ... Though Tranny is not entirely reinventing the rock memoir, it does offer a new perspective, and it comes at a critical time for a nation that is still wrestling with transphobia.
PositiveThe Portland MercuryDespite the unevenness and occasional meanderings of The Lonely City, Laing is a brilliant and moving writer; her desire for communion is at times heartbreaking. Art, she contends, is an enduring way to connect with the world, to not feel so alone among so many others.