Early on, authors
like Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim captured hip-hop’s street sensibilities
scribing books that explored the seedier side of urban living in the ’60s and
early ’70s. The Life of Goines has be resurrected this year for a new generation
of hip-hop fans that have really been consuming the his work for years.
A new book, “Low
Road: The Life and Legacy of Donald Goines” by Eddie B. Allen Jr., is
slated to drop on October 22, 2004. The book will delve into the world of the
writer and also offers a number of personal documents, interviews and other
zigzags through Goines’ turbulent life as the son of a middle class family
in Detroit to his young death. As a youth the budding author opted to join the
U.S. Air Force at the age of 15 instead of joining the family business. While
in the armed forces, he became addicted to heroine and eventually became a criminal,
with a number of jail bids.
Inspired by the
aforementioned Iceberg Slim, Goines started writing.
His life as a writer
is a different story from his rocky life in the system. Some of Goines’
more vivid tales can be found in his books “Dopefiend: The Story of a
Black Junkie,” “Whoreson: The Story of a Ghetto Pimp,” “Black
Gangster,” “Black Girl Lost” and “White Man’s Justice,
Black Man’s Grief.”
Earlier this year,
DMX starred in and produced the Goines-adopted film, an action thriller, in
which the Yonkers-bred rapper played King David, a gangster seeking redemption.
"Never Die Alone" is first of Goines 16 books to reach the big screen.
The hip-hop community
in particular has embraced Goines for his lucid, universal tales of the streets
in Detroit. A former convict, pimp and drug addict, Goines wrote all of his
books between 1970 and 1974, the year he was fatally shot.
A pioneer of street-hop,
Kool G Rap considerers himself the “Donald Goines of Rap,” for his
own ability to use rap music to weave intricate stories.
Rap, they weren’t talking about selling drugs in the street, murdering; they
weren’t doing nothing relating to the streets. They were talking about making
new dances,” Kool G Rap told AllHipHop.com. “But with Donald Goines,
I took what I was seeing and tried to make it visual like him.”
Many concur that
rappers like G Rap, Nas and others were directly influenced by what they may
have read in the prose of Goines.
“Kool G Rap
really brought the cinema to hip-hop,” said Grouchy Greg Watkins of AllHipHop.com.
“But obviously Goines was crafting book after book that revealed the hood
to the reader. After getting out of jail, [Goines] had a work ethic similar
to what we saw with Tupac. Goines put you right there in the action.”
Goines’ book, “Black Gangster” (1972), had an accompanying
soundtrack over 20 years after its release. In 1999, the aforementioned Chaz
Williams of Black Hand Entertainment brought together original tracks from hip-hop
artists, like Jay-Z, WC, DMX, Mic Geronimo, Ja-Rule and others, to create a
backdrop for the book, which originally was meant to be a movie.
“I was familiar
with [Goines] from back in the day. His books transcended from then to now.
I wanted to bring the book up to par,” said Williams, who works with Sony
Recording artist Grapf. “Nas, Nore and some of the Wu Tang members had
mentioned him in their songs. I got some of the hottest artists to read the
[“Black Gangster”] and told them to give me back [songs that expressed]
what they were feeling.”
might not be the direct descendants of a writer like Goines, but you can never,
ever deny that he didn’t have a profound influence on them. You have rappers
like Nas and Royce Da 5’9” who both have songs called “Black
Girl Lost” [like the title of Goines’ book],” said Big Ced,
the editorial director of TheIndustryCosign.com. “Donald Goines helped
create a blueprint that many street-oriented artists today mimic while creating
their lyrics. Like many rappers today, Goines lived much of what he wrote about,
In a recent interview
with Film Monthly, DMX said he related to Goines’ characters, citing his
own well-documented legal ordeals.
“I had actual
events and issues to draw from. I think that is the theme of my life. Right,
wrong, good, bad, heaven, hell. I think you have to know both in order to honestly
choose one. So I’m familiar with both sides of the fence. That was the character.
All right, be a grimy ni**a for a minute, then f**k around and get a conscience.”
What was the intent
of Fox/Searchlight Films and DMX’s own Bloodline Films in bringing Goines
from the cult status to the masses?
know, we definitely wanted to capture the feeling of a cinematic version of
reading a Donald Goines novel," said Director Ernest Dickerson. "If
you’ve read any of his novels, sometimes you feel like you have to take a shower
after reading one of them.”
And even though
he died 30 years ago, his legacy thrives.
was for the streets [in the '70s] what the rappers are today. They speak about
what is going on. When there wasn’t rap, he was speaking on what is going
on in the hood,” Williams said. “And he spoke in the people’s language.
He was in the streets, of the streets and spoke for the streets.”