The New York Times

The Best Music Books of the Year

The music star memoir is a special corner of literature where people who probably hated school get to have their revenge. They get to look back at the English teacher who gave them bad grades — because they were daydreaming about music — and say, “Look at me now, lots of people want to read what I’m writing!” I can personally attest to the fact that these books are “written” by the stars because I’ve spent years working on memoirs by the hip-hop legends KRS-One, Nas and Rakim. In most cases, the star isn’t actually typing anything — but they are dictating their story while the writer tries to be faithful to their voice so it absolutely is their book. In my experience, these memoirs are hard to write partly because musicians have conquered a field where success is rare, giving them a sense that it was all predestined.

Autobiography of any sort is at its best when people talk about overcoming life’s problems. But for music stars, their real problems — or at least their relatable ones — lie in those early years when they’re fighting to develop their talent in a world that doesn’t understand their artistic impulses. By the time they succeed — money is flowing and self-esteem is stratospheric and life becomes a cycle of moving from recording studio to bus to stage to mansion, until it’s time to go back to the studio and start all over. There can be the tendency to avoid telling stories that run counter to public image. Pulling your punches is terrible for an autobiography, which should be warts and all, but some stars want to both tell the story and manicure the image.

But hearing the back story from the star’s

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