HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL: THE SPECTACULAR RISE AND VIOLENT FALL OF DEATH ROW RECORDS Ronin Ro (Doubleday, $23.95) Brimming with murder, mayhem, extortion, and drug use, this history of what was formerly America’s premier gangsta-rap label often reads more like a true-crime story than a music-biz expose. In truth, it’s a bit of both, an intrepid mass of reportage that clears up much of the chilling apocrypha surrounding the decade’s most successful sociopath, Death Row CEO Marion ”Suge” Knight, and the empire he built on the backs of ghetto kids hungry to rap – in some cases literally for food. For those interested in the genesis of the East Coast/West Coast hip-hop feud, the skinny on Tupac Shakur’s troubled life and early death, or the real story behind Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle, it’s all here. And while Ro’s just-the-facts-ma’am style makes for dense going in places, Have Gun is meaty (and bloody) enough to enthrall both pop sociologists and armchair thrill seekers. B+
Posted March 27 1998 — 12:00 AM EST
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