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This is essentially two books. The first is a fascinating look at the early years of the gang phenomenon in black Los Angeles, and the second is a long rant about how evil white people are, the evil of America, all delivered in Afrocentric-inspired Black Nationalist gibber. Kody 'Monster' Scott (now known as Sanyika Shakur) joined the Crips street gang in 1975 at the age of 11, in the early days of the wars between the Bloods and the Crips in LA's South Central district. Shakur was deep in it, with his initiation coming through the execution of a rival gang member. It's impossible for someone like me to relate to a life like his. The catalogue of dead friends, the constant violence, the inability to move freely around the city because you might venture on to someone else's turf.
In this book, Scott takes the reader on a fantastically written tour of his life; from the years and years of low-level urban combat on the streets of LA, to the disintegration of his family, the constant battles with the police, prison life, and his conversion to Black Nationalism. It's a compulsive page turner, especially on his 'pre-conversion' years. The quality of the writing is outstanding, as he offers a unique first-person insight into the mentality of LA's gange members. When he reaches the big changeover a lot of the clarity is lost as the book begins to descend into ideological ranting. Shakur's big problem is white people, or 'Amerikans' as he refers to them (what with him being a 'New Afrikan' and all). After a while, if you are white, like me, it gets a bit tiresome reading about how evil you are and how your fellow melanin-deficients are responsible for everything that has befallen Shakur. This is a man who has murdered quite a few people and who has been involved in major criminal conspiracies - laying the ultimate blame for his crimes at the white man's door is sheer chutzpah.