The Big Payback

Dan Charnas, Author of The Big Payback: Interview on The Sound of Young America

Dan Charnas

Dan Charnas is a veteran of the hip hop business and one of a few early writers of hip hop journalism. His newest book is The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip Hop.

JESSE THORN: It’s The Sound of Young America, I’m Jesse Thorn. My guest on the program is Dan Charnas. He’s held basically every position there is to hold, outside of artist, in the world of hip hop; and has made the transition from a record company guy to writer. His new gargantuan book is, I think, one of the better books about hip hop I’ve ever read. It’s called the Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip Hop. Dan Charnas, thanks for being on The Sound of Young America.

DAN CHARNAS: Thanks for having me.

JESSE THORN: The obvious question is: there are all these books of hip hop history, such as Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop and Brian Coleman’s Check the Technique and a million others; why did you think it was important to write a book that was specifically about the business side of hip hop?

DAN CHARNAS: That’s a really good question. I want to note that Jeff Chang’s book Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop was really one of the big inspirations for writing this book, because what Jeff did was - - he really wrote the first linear history of the culture and more specifically of the generation. None of the great books of hip hop really talked about how the records were made; not in terms of how they were made in the studio, but how the artists got signed, how they got developed, how they got pushed out into the world. But then the larger question of how did this obscure street culture that nobody knew about from the streets of New York become, within 30 years, the world’s predominant pop culture and a multi-billion dollar business. You can’t tell that story, which is a great American story, without talking about the business people.

Click here for a full transcript of this interview.

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