New Inner-City Fiction Will Target Rap Fans

Wyclef Jean, Mos Def, Ja Rule to record excerpts from series' first book.

The publisher of a new series of inner-city stories is bypassing the

bookstore to reach his intended audience — he's aiming for hip-hop

record buyers and urban-clothing buffs.

"My goal is to sell books to markets who've never been sold books before,"

said Marc Gerald, who co-owns [S] Affiliated with actor Wesley Snipes.

"I like the idea we can create our audience."

Hip-hop journalists and streetwise authors will write the new pulp-fiction

books.

Def Jam Recordings, which releases albums by Jay-Z, DMX, Ja Rule, Redman

and other rappers known for their edgy, graphic rhymes, will produce

compilation CDs featuring their artists to go with the books. The first

novel, author Ronin Ro's "Street Sweeper," is due in April.

Gerald did not know which artists would appear on the first compilation.

Neither did representatives of Def Jam. Kevin Liles, Def Jam president,

could not be reached for comment.

But Gerald said that Wyclef Jean, Mos Def, Ja Rule and other artists have

agreed to record excerpts from the book, which would be made available

through [S] Affiliated's website, which has yet to launch.

"I felt their music covered the same landscape that our books were going

to," Gerald said, calling Jay-Z's music the "literary equivalent" of the

books.

Jay-Z, whose stories of drug-dealing and lampoons of the street-hustler

image include "Dead Presidents II" (RealAudio

excerpt), was arrested in New York last week and charged with the

stabbing of record executive Lance "Un" Rivera during a Manhattan party.

"Street Sweeper," Gerald said, is Ro's tale of a hitman who accidentally

kills a young girl. Ashamed, he tries to make up for it by taking a job

to kill a major criminal figure and planning to give the money he earns

to the girl's family. Ro is a journalist who has written about hip-hop

for various publications.

[S] Affiliated plans to release five other books next year from authors

Antoine Black, Roland Jefferson, Gary Phillip, Joel Rose and Michael

Gonzalez. The company is spending $500,000 to market the series; Gerald

said he will ship the books initially to record stores as well as clothing

stores that sell items from PNB.

"We just thought we'd be a perfect extension of what they're trying to

do," Shara McHayle-Grinage, PNB vice president of marketing, said. "Their

target audience is our target audience. We're more of a cerebral brand."

Among PNB's items are T-shirts that show historical images — one

shirt displays the 1927 newspaper headline, "Can Negroes Elevate Themselves?"