Laura Mayer is an Associate Producer at WNYC.
In the latest episode of KGB's non-fiction reading series, Dan Charnas read from his forthcoming book "The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop." Charnas' book, out next month, examines how hip-hop originated in the ghettos of 1970s New York to become one of the world's predominant pop-culture as well as a multi-billion dollar businesses. Also at KGB, Sara Marcus read from her book "Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrl Movement Revolution." The book tells the brash story of the early '90s music and feminism that became the Riot Grrl movement.
Charnas on how Sylvia Robinson made Sugarhill Gang: "'OK,' she said. 'The three of you are married.' Sylvia informed the three New Jersey rappers that the name of their new group would be The Sugarhill Gang. Sugar Hill being a neighborhood in Harlem. And then she went off to take a nap."
Marcus on the Riot Grrl movement: "Riot Grrl kinda' went down in history largely as a movement in music and punk rock. And it was important to me to kind of balance that story out because it was also a radical feminist punk rock movement of young women. The book is about one third bands, two thirds non-bands. I’m reading to capture that interface between those elements."
Charnas on the creation of one of old school hip-hop's biggest hits, "Rapper's Delite," by Sugarhill Gang: "The song needed, he felt, an explanation. Something that would describe what they were about to do to people across the country who hadn't heard the strange sounds of rapping DJs and MCs. 'Now, what you hear is not a test. I'm rapping to the beat. And me, the crew, and my friends, are going to try to move your feet.' It was a conscious invitation and an unsconcious prediction."
Marcus on how a Riot Grrl coined the phrase (and later popular Nirvana lyric) "Smells Like Teen Spirit": "It's true, Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill spray-painted 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' on the wall after a night of drinking around Olympia and spray painting around the alleys. And I asked her about it and she said, 'There's no story other than I was being a drunk idiot.'"
Click here for more information on the talk: True Story: The KGB Nonfiction Reading Series.