9. 'Diary of a Madman: The Geto Boys, Life, Death, and the Roots of Southern Rap' by Brad "Scarface" Jordan
Given Brad Jordan's horrific early life, it's doubly troubling that his music with the Geto Boys as rapper Scarface was tarred as too extreme and a danger to kids by Christian moralists. He'd experienced real danger — and it wasn't in a work of art. The accounts of abuse, neglect, depression and death in this remarkable collaboration with veteran hip-hop journalist Benjamin Meadows-Ingram seethe with honesty — the book is written as a plainspoken headslap, no self-pity, with Jordan's personal struggles always tied to larger, institutional issues, race-based or otherwise. His friendship with Rap-A-Lot records founder and Houston rap-scene mentor James Prince is even more wrenching because of Jordan's respect for the man that he feels betrayed him. By the end of this immensely readable book, you may not be convinced that Scarface is one of the best producers in the game (as he does), but you'll never forget that he's one of the best storytellers. C.A.