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Check the Technique

Writing books on music these days is a lot riskier than it used to be. With fanzines, magazines, and the internet exposing us to everything we could ever ask for about musicians, it´s becoming increasingly harder to tell fans something new in book format. Hip-hop writer Brian Coleman understands this, but as a lifelong music nerd, Coleman realized he had a premise that couldn´t fail. The majority of hip-hop records of the ´80s and ´90s were created without liner notes, and the stories behind those albums were never presented to the listener. New Times recently spoke with Coleman to get the inside scoop on his experiences writing Check the Technique.

Outtakes: How did you get interested in writing this book?

Coleman: I just always wanted to know more. The more work I did as a journalist, it started to piss me off that nobody put liner notes in the records. I knew all these records by heart, but didn´t know a goddamn thing about them. So it was basically feeding my own selfish interest in learning more.

The first chapter of the book is on 2 Live Crew.

I´ve always loved Miami stuff. What stood out to me, among many things, was Luke... not as a producer or MC but as a DJ, an A&R man, and as a musical visionary. As it relates to the South, he was Master P long before Master P, that´s for sure. I think Ghetto Style DJs has never gotten their due. So to me, it was great to learn more about that. People treat 2 Live Crew like they were a joke. They were funny, but there´s a difference between being funny and being a joke.

After gathering all of these stories, how do you approach putting it all on the page?

I´ve always come at it as a fan. I´m a fan first and a writer second. I didn´t want to present it in too academic a way, because academic approaches lack energy and love, they are often detached.

Some people have argued that this book is heavy on East Coast hip-hop?

I grew up in the Northeast, and I´m very self-conscious of my East Coast bias. But it´s important to have Common and the Geto Boys in there. And Cypress Hill and Ice-T, so, yeah, geography is important. There is a lot of back and forth... Beastie Boys recorded in Los Angeles. DJ Muggs was from Queens, Ice T was born in New Jersey, so there´s lots of cross-country pollination. I wanted to present it all on even ground. "Check the Technique" is available from Villard Books. For more information, go to

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Jonathan Cunningham

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