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Dan Charnas’s massive and meticulous new book, The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip Hop, synthesizes these two approaches to great effect. Chang-like in scope but intent on following the money trail, it reframes the culture by trading philosophy for structure, why for how. Charnas chronicles every aspect of hip-hop’s march, from the rise of independent labels to the complexities of pop radio incursion, the genesis of hip-hop print media to the nuts and bolts of distribution chains and the politics of corporate buy-in. The drama is constant, the corporate beef just as consuming and compelling as the artistic. Not only does Charnas move elegantly from one critical moment to the next, he manages to make the story entirely character-driven, whether the moment’s protagonist is a pioneering radio programmer you’ve never heard of, or a mogul you thought you never needed to read another word about.