[Viator’s] understanding of the hip-hop music and the musicians that first emerged from the streets of L.A. in the ’80s is deep and profound.
-- LA Weekly
Much more than the story of the creation of gangsta rap, the rise of NWA, or the history of early West coast rap in general. It’s a cultural history. What one is left with at the book’s end is the powerful idea of how art can be formed out of pain and suffering, and how injustice can be the crushing weight that can incite change.
-- Under the Radar
Zero[es] in on how economic devastation and militarized policing bred a subgenre whose extreme lyrics were fueled by indigence…A fast-paced and engaging read for music fans, history buffs, and anyone with an interest in social justice…Eye-opening.
Rattling hatchback trunks and terrifying suburban parents, gangsta rap went harder and further than everything that preceded it. Suddenly, everyone was listening and the media wagons began to circle…Viator excavates this music's unique political, social, and mercantile origins.
-- Raymond Cummings The Wire
This book was really fun to read…[Viator] gives a comprehensive, interesting view of how this genre came to change our culture.
-- Los Angeles Review of Books Radio Hour
Viator’s conclusions about the cultural impact of Hip-Hop resonate today—they are accurate, timely, and timeless… By confronting the harsh realities of LA race relations and police brutality from the ’60s to the ’80s, To Live and Defy in LA sees Gangsta Rap as an important way to understand how systemic racism has worked (and works) in America today.
-- Deanna Costa Arts Fuse
Rich with drama and details, To Live and Defy in LA tells the story of Los Angeles hip-hop during the eighties, a much-mythologized but often misunderstood period.
-- Hua Hsu, author of A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure across the Pacific
[An] engaging history of gangsta rap’s emergence and eventual commercial success.
-- Katherine Rye Jewell The Metropole
There have been other gangsta rap histories, but what makes this one excellent are the many candid stories about crucial groups like the Coalition Against Police Abuse, Macola Records, and KDAY 1580 AM radio. This is a deep dive into a legendary era that is often misunderstood.
-- L.A. Taco
Viator’s book is more than a history of hip-hop, it’s a meticulously researched cultural and political portrait of Los Angeles at a pivotal time.
Viator explains how the rapid rise of West Coast rap became engulfed in the culture wars of the late 1980s and 1990s and shaped perceptions of the 1992 LA uprising.
-- New Books Network
This book is smoothly written and is a useful primer in outlining the rise of a form of music that has come to define South Los Angeles nationally, if not globally.
-- Gerald Horne Southern California Quarterly
Shows how LA rap was, from its beginning, an artistic response to police power…A thorough and timely study of an important intersection between music and social conditions, because the ascendance of gangsta rap since the 1980s reflects the rise of militarized policing over that same span, and we’ve seen all too clearly in recent years why it continues to resonate.
-- Nicholas Stoia Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books
A deep analysis of cultural practices in the spatial and political context in which these sources emerged…Viator offers a blueprint for study that leaves room for historians to address the significance of other artists, like Tupac Shakur, and aspects of the culture that further illustrate rap’s force in late twentieth-century American popular culture and politics.
-- Austin McCoy Pacific Historical Review
A tour de force of novel material and insights, combined with convincing argumentation for why these subjects matter. To Live and Defy in LA is a thorough and compelling contribution to hip-hop history.
-- James G. McNally Journal of Popular Music Studies