TWS Book Club: Kanye West Owes Me $300 & Other True Stories From A White Rapper Who Almost Made It Big by Jensen Karp

Cover design by Christopher Brand

On the back (paperback edition): 

When 12-year old Jensen Karp got his first taste of rapping for crowds at his friend’s bar mitzvah in 1991, little did he know that he was taking his first step on a crazy journey—one that would end with a failed million-dollar recording and publishing deal with Interscope Records when he was only 19. Now, in Kanye West Owes Me $300, Karp finally tells the true story of his wild ride as “Hot Karl,” the most famous white rapper you’ve never heard of.

Full of rollicking stories from his close brush with fame, Karp’s hilarious memoir is the ultimate fish-out-of-water story about a guy who follows an unlikely passion—trying to crack the rap game—despite what everyone else says. It’s 30 Rock for the rap set; 8 Mile for the suburbs; and quite the journey for a white kid from the valley.

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I have to say that I have been wanting to read this book for quite a while. Hell, I’ve wanted to read ANY book for quite a while. It’s sort of the reason I started this whole damn Book Club thing, really. But, Jensen Karp’s book has been on my mental “must read” since before it was even officially released.

I first came to know about Jensen via a couple of podcasts that I enjoy. I have caught him on a podcast with Kevin Smith (Hollywood Babble-On?), an episode of the short-lived Julian Loves Music, and a truly hilarious appearance on my favorite podcast of all time, All Fantasy Everything (featuring our dear friends Sean Jordan and David Gborie). I always find him to be charming as hell, and extremely witty. And as our beloved Kevin Smith would say, he is an amazing Twitter follow. He is spot on with this description. I’ve also spent countless hours avoiding actual work by falling down the YouTube rabbit hole of his show Drop The Mic, which is an absolute delight.

So, with knowing what sort of comedic sensibilities that Jensen would bring, I was excited to dive into the history of the greatest hip hop artist who barely was, Hot Karl. And what a damn tale of very early highs and even earlier lows. Karp’s experience as a young white rapper who was essentially being shelved by a record company to continue the already forged path for another well known white rapper who shall remain nameless throughout the rest of this conversation. Okay, it’s Powder P from that “Ghetto Cowboy” video (it’s not). But despite the odds, Jensen managed to have quite an experience, that even though almost ended in a drug overdose in a Jamaican hotel room, he still manages to tell in such a fun manner that it is very easy to locked into his story.

 

 

It becomes complex in nature whilst reading the book, if you already know that Jensen Karp has managed to find success beyond a career that ultimately failed him. You’re rooting for Hot Karl throughout the entire story, but knowing full well that it simply isn’t going to work out. Yet, he would still move on and be just fine. As a matter of fact, he would go on to achieve a feat that just about every teenage boy growing up in the 90’s would have killed to do: locking down Topanga from Boy Meets World and aiding her with the seed of life. I’m kidding (I’m not). As mentioned before, Jensen has had a tremendous career in television and radio and beyond and should be very proud of all his accomplishments. But god damn, if there aren’t a couple of million 30 somethings who are jealous as shit right now, haha.

One obvious curiosity that will arise from reading this book will obviously be to check out the sound of Hot Karl that Karp describes. And thanks to the advancements in streaming music, you can actually just go right out and do that! Hell, you can even accidentally download both The Great Escape and I Like to Read and have continue to randomly pop up on your phone at very awkward times. And as a decade long music blogger who has had a weird divinity towards white rappers (for reasons I probably know, but don’t really know how to explain) I will say this….it’s not bad! It’s some truly original shit, that had it been released 10-15 years later, closer to present day, it might have taken off. And in hindsight, it was completely unique in comparison to the other very famous white rapper who will remain nameless (Powder P from the “Ghetto Cowboy” video), and was worthy of its own place in hip hop history. So, go and check them out after reading the lyrics and inspiration that Karp describes in great detail throughout Kanye West Owes Me $300.

In the end, what we have here is an absolutely brilliant memoir about a very specific time in history that we will never have again. The old door of the music business was closing, yet the new door was barely visible. And Jensen Karp managed to find himself smack dab in the middle of it, which would earn him a $1 million record contract that would go nowhere. But, it did leave him with an incredible story to tell, and for that, we are very excited. Of course, it is much easier to enjoy a tragic story when you know in the end, he turns out fine. Sort of like The Basketball Diaries, but with less heroin-based train station blow jobs, and more sexually transmitted eye diseases. I think that sums it up.

 

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I hope you enjoyed the first installment of the the TWS Book Club. Hot shit, I know I did. And I am very excited about our next installment. We’re going to do a little bit of fiction for next month.

The next installment of the TWS Book Club will be take place on March 21st, 2019. We will be discussing A Cat, A Man, and Two Women by Junichiro Tanizaki.

 

 

On the inside cover (paperback edition):

Considering all I have sacrificed, is it too much to ask for one little in return?

Shinako hs been ousted from her marriage by her husband Shozo and his younger lover Fukuko. She’s lost everything: her home, status, and respectability. Yet, the only thing that she longs for is Lily, the elegant tortoiseshell cat she shared with her husband. As Shinako pleads for Lily’s return, Shozo’s reluctance to part with the cat reveals his true affections, and the lengths he’ll go to hold onto the one he loves most.

A small masterpiece, A Cat a Man, and Two Women is a novel about loneliness, love, and companionship of the most unexpected kind. In this story of Japanese society and manners, Tanizaki, gives us a perfectly-formed oddball comedy, and a love triangle in which the only real rival is feline.

Selected praise for the book:

“Even his lighter-hearted fictions… make us hold our breath, and the endings don’t let us quite exhale” – John Updike

“The outstanding Japanese novelist of the century” – Edmund White, New York Times Book Review

“Can you move this stupid thing out of my way, so I can sit really close to your face, you stupid fucking asshole” – My cat, Gatsby, whilst reading this book (probably)

About the author:

Junichiro Tanzaki (1886-1965) was born in Tokyo and is the author of many works of fiction including Quicksand, Some Prefer Nettles, and the Makioka Sisters, as well as the celebrated essay on Japanese aesthetics, In Praise of Shadows. He is widely considered to be the greatest Japanese writer of the 20th century.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We shall see you all again next month! Cheers and such!

 

 

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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