There needs to be a bit of background for readers unfamiliar with this genre before launching into the review. This book could actually fall under a few different genre’s but not be limited to them. Street Lit, Urban Fiction and /or Prison Lit has been around since people starting writing books.
The hell you say. How can street lit or urban fiction be old? Ever hear of Oliver Twist? Dickens was most certainly a purveyor of the urban experience of his time. In the United States, W.E. B. Dubois, Langston Hughes and Paul Laurence Dunbar, to name a few, were writers of the urban experience. In the United States, this genre has been dominated by African Americans but there are new writers coming up from other groups living this experience: whites, Latinos, Asians, Russians – whoever is writing and living the experience.
This genre also has a few contemporary names that those already in the know about street lit will recognize. Robert Beck aka Iceberg Slim has a very strong following in this genre. His books are deep down gritty and realistic using street talk, real depictions of violence and the black market economy and strong characters drawn from the urban neighborhood experience.
More contemporary still are the writers Omar Tyree, Sister Souljah and Terri Woods. More and more writers are populating this genre all the time as the urban experience morphs and changes. The common elements in all are the depictions of the experience of the characters as they are exposed to poverty, violence, the operation of the black market economies in their communities like drugs, human trafficking and gambling and the reality of public housing, homelessness and lack of resources.
I preface this all for readers because I think this genre is underrepresented in most bookshops and it is definitely misplaced when it is ordered because I don’t think your average bookstore buyer, librarian or reviewer has bothered to read the books. I have picked up several Sister Souljah books in the bargain bin and have had cashiers say “This looks interesting. Have you read these before?”
The Game Don’t Change is as gritty as they come. Written by Jamal Green aka Mazaradi Fox, while he was in prison, the story is set in Jamaica, Queens (Fox’s stomping ground) and North Carolina.
The main character is DeMarco Jones. His aim is to be THE main player in the coke game in Queens. He is a young gun and his rise is fast and furious. After escaping from Tryon Residential Center where he is doing a bit for robbery, he moves back with his family in Queens.
His aunts have a small but profitable game in play and they stake him to get started. He builds a small but loyal crew and then is able to secure a supplier in Miami so that his distribution is direct, thus allowing him to grow his game and become the main player.
In order to remain safe and expand his empire, he floats back and forth between North Carolina and New York. In both locations he has a loyal crew, an extended list of help (attorneys, bail bondswoman etc) and family that have his back.
DeMarco is a shameless womanizer. There is no way around it – the dude has two baby mama’s by the end but the amount of sex he is having and the quantity, graphically depicted – you have been warned – virtually guarantees that there are more kids out there!
To find out how it ends, I am going to make you buy the book. But I will share what I know of the author which should entice you to dip a toe in the genre and buy the book. Mazaradi Fox decided that after his eight year stint was up, he wanted to focus on music. 50 Cent signed him to G-Unit Records. Right on the verge of success as a new recording artist and budding author in street lit, he was killed in 2014.
I found the book difficult to rate because it is the raw work of a new author. The first book of a new author. We will never get to see how this book compares to other work he might have written had he lived and how he could have grown his craft. The book very graphically depicts sex. That will not be everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, I wish there had been more detail of DeMarco growing his empire but given that he was doing eight years in prison while writing this, I can understand the thinking behind the writing. I have a family member that has been in for over 30 years so I get it. I am guessing that the work was passed around the joint for review too and to that end, I can tell you street lit is ENORMOUSLY popular in prisons. In fact, Iceberg Slim’s books dominate in there and are read until they fall apart. Likewise Sister Souljah.
A solid three star effort. And I sincerely hope that readers explore street lit, urban fiction and prison lit. There are some magnificent writers in these genres and I would like to see them better represented in bookstores and libraries. And for writers in these genres, please come out and speak to readers about your work and style and introduce some of the young and under educated readers about the wonderful writers like Hughes, DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston and others who have not gotten their due through the years.