Kanye West Owes me $300 & Other True Stories from a White Rapper who Almost Make it Big by Jensen Karp
Published by Crown Archetype on June 7 2016
Genres: Memoir, Rap, Humor
After Vanilla Ice, but before Eminem, there was “Hot Karl,” the Jewish kid from the L.A. suburbs who became a rap battling legend—and then almost became a star.
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.
On his way to (almost) celebrity, Jensen shares his childhood run-ins with rock-listening, southern California classmates, who tell him that “rap is for black people,” and then recounts his record-breaking rap battling streak on popular radio contest “The Roll Call”—a run that caught the eye of a music industry hungry for new rap voices in the early ‘00s. He also introduces his rap partner, Rickye, who constitutes the second half of their group XTra Large; his supportive mom, who performs with him onstage; and the soon-to-be-household-name artists he records with, including Kanye West, Redman, Fabolous, Mya, and will.i.am. Finally, he reveals why his album never saw the light of day (two words: Slim Shady), the downward spiral he suffered after, and what he found instead of rap glory.
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.
I don’t read a lot of memoirs, but when I do, I like them to be just like this. This book was the perfect mix of humor, incredibly entertaining and almost-too-good-to-be-true stories, struggle, and sadness.
Jensen Karp’s journey as “Hot Karl” (don’t look that up on Urban Dictionary) was amazing. It was a wild ride from beginning to end, and the experiences he had during his brief time as a rapper were just out of this world.
I enjoyed the honesty in this book. It felt like Jensen was sitting down with me and telling the story to me, complete with pictures and rap lyrics. It was so cool how even though his rap career was that long, he still worked with a lot of people who are still big today (read: Kanye West, Will.i.am, etc.). By the end of reading this, I was actually really sad that he didn’t blow up like he could have. I wonder if people would go through a “Hot Karl” phase the same way they go through an Eminem phase (which I definitely did).
I ended up listening to a few of Hot Karl’s raps, and they are actually pretty good. Although he is kind of right, there is a definite similarity to Eminem. And it makes me really sad to think that Eminem’s success had anything to do with Hot Karl not having any.
This book shown a light on the music industry that revealed a lot of surprising aspects of the industry. I really enjoyed reading it, even though (despite my Eminem phase) I don’t really know anything or care much about rap or hip-hop music. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a moving memoir that has a great voice and story.
I am going to give Kanye West owes me $300 four out of five hearts.