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Ro, Ronin

Ro, Ronin

PERSONAL:

Married; children: one daughter.

ADDRESSES:

Home—New York, NY.

CAREER:

Writer, journalist, and music reporter. Guest on radio and television programs for networks including CNN, Bloomberg, National Public Radio, ABC Radio, Black Entertainment Television, VH1, and Fox News.

WRITINGS:

Gangsta: Merchandising the Rhymes of Violence, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.

Have Gun Will Travel: The Spectacular Rise and Violent Fall of Death Row Records, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1998.

Street Sweeper (novel), Affiliated (Los Angeles, CA), 2000.

Bad Boy: The Influence of Sean "Puffy" Combs on the Music Industry, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Tales to Astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and the American Comic-book Revolution, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2004.

Raising Hell: The Reign, Ruin, and Redemption of Run-D.M.C. and Jam Master Jay, Amistad (New York, NY), 2005.

Dr. Dre: The Biography, Thunder's Mouth Press (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including Vanity Fair, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Boston Herald, Source, Playboy, Rolling Stone, Vibe, and Spin.

ADAPTATIONS:

Street Sweeper was adapted for film.

SIDELIGHTS:

Journalist Ronin Ro has authored books about hip-hop music and Marvel comic icons Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, and is also the author of the novel Street Sweeper. Gangsta: Merchandising the Rhymes of Violence collects articles on rap music Ro published between 1992 and 1995. While a Publishers Weekly contributor called the book "too close to fanzine fare," Mike Tribby, writing in Booklist, described it as "one of the best books about rap music and culture," noting that Ro "graphically describes the scene behind the scene."

In Have Gun Will Travel: The Spectacular Rise and Violent Fall of Death Row Records, Ro tells the story of Marion "Suge" Knight, who founded the immensely successful Death Row Records by signing rappers like Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg. In telling Knight's story, Ro also delves into the influence of gangs, violence, and the deaths of star rappers Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. Reviewing the book for Library Journal, David P. Szatmary called Ro's effort a "well-written, provocative account," and a Publishers Weekly contributor described Have Gun Will Travel as "a significant contribution to the history of pop music." Tribby noted in Booklist that, "with rap becoming mainstream, a hard-hitting investigation of its financial and business etiquette roots is in order, and this one is superb."

Bad Boy: The Influence of Sean "Puffy" Combs on the Music Industry is Ro's profile of a man who played a powerful role in hip-hop music during the genre's early years. In the biography, Ro details how Combs, who later became known as P. Diddy, raised the genre to new heights while also becoming involved in the greed and betrayals that stained the hip-hop music industry. Bill Piekarski, writing in Library Journal, noted that "Ro's unfamiliarity with the pop music matrix itself is disconcertingly obvious" to readers, while Booklist contributor Tribby commented that "if anyone can penetrate Combs' high-profile low-concept world, Ro can." Tribby went on to call Bad Boy "a crucial read for fans and detractors, and an excellent piece of hip-hop history to boot."

Ro turns to another popular medium of entertainment in Tales to Astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and the American Comic-book Revolution. In this work he primarily profiles Jack Kirby, who many critics believe was the most influential artist to ever work in the comic-book industry, and he follows Kirby's relationship with writer, editor, frontman, and impresario Stan Lee as they built Marvel Comics into a groundbreaking and successful publishing enterprise. Ro focuses on the time period in the 1960s and early 1970s, before Kirby left Marvel to work for DC Comics, a primary competitor. Although both men received equal billing, Lee focused primarily on marketing while Kirby created and drew the Fantastic Four, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and numerous other comics series for the company that referred to itself as the "House of Ideas." What made Marvel's comics of the time so unique is that they delved into the inner lives of their respective superheroes, revealing loves, longings, and tragedies. The Fantastic Four bickered amongst themselves; Captain America was a man out of time, struggling to deal with the demands of the modern world while still haunted by tragic events from two decades before; Bruce Banner was a frail and timid scientist whose inner rage exploded when he transformed into the rampaging Hulk; Thor lived a dual life, one as a supremely powerful Norse god and the other as a lame medical doctor, unable to reveal his secret identity to the woman he loved. These characters and dozens of others, embellished by Kirby's powerful art and Lee's deft scripting, struck a responsive chord with readers eager for a change in the stodgy comics storytelling of the day. Ro also recounts Kirby's later efforts to get royalties from his Marvel creations.

Writing in Booklist, Gordon Flagg noted that Ro's "treatment is more dutiful than inspired" but also commented that the author "paints a colorful portrait" of the early comic-book industry. In a review for Entertainment Weekly Tom Russo noted that "the story packs as much pathos as any of the duo's signature supersagas," while a Bookwatch contributor "enthusiastically recommended" Tales to Astonish "for all comic book readers and graphic novel enthusiasts!"

Ro returns to the music world—specifically the rap and hip-hop genres—with Raising Hell: The Reign, Ruin, and Redemption of Run-D.M.C. and Jam Master Jay. Ro profiles Run-D.M.C., a group whose name is indelibly linked to the history and image of hip-hop. "Ro's look at the pioneering, influential band's history plays like a history of the genre," observed a Publishers Weekly contributor. The author describes how the group was formed in the late 1970s by promoter Russell Simmons, how noted producer Rick Rubin helped them define their musical style, how their particular sound took some time to find an audience, and how, once it did, their brand of hip-hop soared to popularity. He traces the group's decline and the tragedies, including the death of DJ Jam Master Jay, found murdered in a recording studio in 2002. Ro "doesn't let his obvious affection for these men get in the way of telling the real story in boldly dramatic strokes," remarked a Kirkus Reviews critic. The book "proves its cultural worth by illustrating how hip-hop as a genre evolved alongside Run-D.M.C.'S career," noted Robert Morast in the Library Journal.

In Dr. Dre: The Biography, Ro offers another biography of a towering figure in rap music. Andre Young, better known as Dr. Dre, is portrayed by Ro as the most successful and influential producer in rap music. In his own days as a performer, Dre was a founding member of the controversial group N.W.A. and a pioneer of what became known as "gangsta rap," which focuses on violent, anti-authoritarian stances, demeaning attitudes about women, and sordid tales of life on the streets. Dr. Dre also recorded one of rap's seminal albums, The Chronic. As a producer, he has been influential in the development of the genre and in discovering and producing numerous major acts, including Tupac Shakur, Snoop Doggy Dog, Eminem, and 50 Cent. Yet for all his involvement in rap and its culture, Dr. Dre is described by Ro as a perfectionist producer dedicated to his music and his work, uninvolved in the edgy and dangerous life described in the music he created and produced. Reviewer Clarence V. Reynolds, writing in the Black Issues Book Review, called Ro's biography a "well-detailed and impressive account" of Dr. Dre's life and career. Mike Tribby, in another Booklist review, named it "probably one of the ten best books on rap."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Black Issues Book Review, January-February, 2002, Janine Gardner, review of Bad Boy: The Influence of Sean "Puffy" Combs on the Music Industry, p. 4; September-October, 2004, review of Raising Hell: The Reign, Ruin, and Redemption of Run-D.M.C. and Jam Master Jay, p. 11; May-June, 2007, Clarence V. Reynolds, review of Dr. Dre: The Biography, p. 14.

Booklist, July, 1996, Mike Tribby, review of Gangsta: Merchandising the Rhymes of Violence, p. 1794; March 15, 1998, Mike Tribby, review of Have Gun Will Travel: The Spectacular Rise and Violent Fall of Death Row Records, p. 1186; February 15, 1999, Ray Olson, review of Have Gun Will Travel, p. 1007; November 1, 2001, Mike Tribby, review of Bad Boy, p. 455; June 1, 2004, Gordon Flagg, review of Tales to Astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and the American Comic-book Revolution, p. 1685; April 15, 2007, Mike Tribby, review of Dr. Dre, p. 15.

Bookwatch, February, 2005, review of Tales to Astonish.

Entertainment Weekly, July 16, 2004, Tom Russo, review of Tales to Astonish, p. 82.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2004, review of Tales to Astonish, p. 530; September 1, 2005, review of Raising Hell, p. 962; March 15, 2007, review of Dr. Dre.

Library Journal, April 15, 1998, David P. Szatmary, review of Have Gun Will Travel, p. 83; November 15, 2001, Bill Piekarski, review of Bad Boy, p. 70; October 1, 2005, Robert Morast, review of Raising Hell, p. 78.

Publishers Weekly, June 3, 1996, review of Gangsta, p. 71; February 16, 1998, review of Have Gun Will Travel, p. 198; August 15, 2005, review of Raising Hell, p. 45.

ONLINE

Ronin Ro Halloween MySpace Profile,http://www.myspace.com/roninroshalloweenbookpage (January 25, 2008).

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