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Arts&Culture/Books DatePosted:4/17/06

A Day With Touré
by Rodney Dugue


Hip-Hop Historian Touré

Recently at the Hueman bookstore in Harlem, Touré the highly intellectualized critic, arrived promoting his new book Never Drank Kool Aid   The gathering was well attended by admirers, fans, and just curious folk who were interested what he had to say. Touré comes off as an affable, likeable figure who exudes confidence and an unusually high degree of familiarity tinged with svelte appeal. He and fellow author Jeff Chang, who had his own book on display, Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A History of Hip Hop Generation , entertained the crowd with an arsenal of spontaneous and sometimes choreographed yet effective dialogue that elicited uproarious laughter from the crowd. Touré fielded questions about 50 Cent's "stupid" comments regarding Hurricane Katrina to his inspiration behind the compilation of his latest book. He also found time to poke fun at the semantics of popular rappers, "An album and a movie is not a movement... You have a product to move", was one of many exchanges between Chang and Touré that the crowd was privy to hear. Touré also gave the crowd some of his more personal moments in his journalism career like when he was a passenger in DMX's vehicle and at the mercy of DMX's reckless and unique approach to driving. After the showcase, I got a chance to catch up with a Toure and ask him a flurry of questions.

Harlem Live: Before we talk about your latest work, let's carve to the meat of the interview. What are

your thoughts on the current state of Black America i.e. the recent article that appeared in the NY Times? Give readers reference who aren't familiar with the article.


Touré: Well, I feel like we've read that story in various ways over the past few decades, but it made me sad to see that blacks and black men have it so tough right now.   A subsequent Washington Post article called "Marriage Is For White People" gave me pause just like the state of Black America story. It talked about how blacks are the least likely to get married, especially black women.   Marriage is the root of family, so if we're not getting married en masse, then what's the future of the family in the black community?  

HL: What was the inspiration behind the title, Never Drank the Kool Aid ?

Touré: Drinking the Kool-Aid means believing what someone else tells you.   To say I never drank the Kool-Aid, I mean I never bought into the philosophies of the people I was interviewing.   I never did the sort of worshipful coverage you often see in the Source or like Ed Bradley did with Tiger Woods a few weeks ago on 60 Minutes.   I always tried to look deeper into my subjects. Did drink the kool aid orginate with the mass suicide w/ the rev Jim Jones back in the late 70s where they drank cyanide laced purple kool aid? (Wikipedia it)

   HL: What do you hope to accomplish with the release of this book?

Touré: I love books.   To create a book that others love is amazing.  

Touré's latest book

HL: Bear with me, as we go on a slight tangent...Damon Wayans attempted to patent the word 'nigga' for use on clothing, merchandise, and books. What is your initial reaction to that?

Touré: Damon has been trying to patent the word nigga (not nigger) and there's a fundamental difference.   I can see why that old pejorative would not be acceptable to the Patent Office, but to many nigga is not a pejorative, it's a beautiful word.   But I wouldn't expect the Patent Office to have that sort of subtle understanding.     

HL: Nas or Jay? I'm only kidding. I would be insane to ask you that (lol) ((Again, give reader reference)   

Touré: Jay won the battle with the Takeover.   He made the best record, so he won, no doubt.   (And "Super Ugly" smashed Nas, too.)   Them working together now has no impact on the outcome of the battle, doesn't change it, doesn't it mean Jay won because Nas is "working for" him.     

HL: You once wrote an article on Michael Jackson for the NY Times, what do you think of a potential collaboration between the King of Pop and the Poster Boy of Ignorance aka 50 Cent?   (which by the way is very likely after DJ Whoo Kid spent quality time with MJ)

Touré: Michael Jackson's recording career is over.   Let it go.  

HL: Where would you like to see yourself 10 years from now?

Touré: I'd like to have some kids, be happily married, have a good talk show on the air, and have a few more books published.   I've got a novel almost finished now and another book about hip hop just being born.   

HL: And my last question, will we ever get to hear another album from Rakim?

Touré: No.   I highly doubt that.

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