Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Review: Bliss by Danyel Smith

Eva Glenn, a.k.a. "Miss Queen of Doin' Thangs," is an ambitious late-'90s hip-hop record executive who discovers she's pregnant while in the Bahamas to showcase a new record from her multiplatinum act Sunny Addison. Unwilling to sacrifice her hard-won, diamond- encrusted career and not knowing which of her two hunky lovers-- Ron, an arrogant, rival white record exec, or Dart, Sunny's troubled brother--might be responsible, Eva takes a week's vacation on nearby Cat Island, where a flirtation with local island mysticism helps her decide whether to continue the pregnancy.

As it happens, this drama plays back-up to the story of Eva's loss of innocence in the music business and to spot-on portraits of the producers, promoters and performers mangling one another to reach the top. Smith, the former editor-in-chief of Vibe and a former editor at large at Time Inc., knows the scene and captures the authentic sights and sounds--chronicling Eva's life from her early years as a wannabe college music promoter in California (where she recognized Sunny's talent) to queen of a New York City corner office fighting to keep her top act. Smith doesn't pander to readers unfamiliar with hip-hop from the '80s and '90s. Those who steeped themselves in the music will get her drift; others will find parts of Bliss like a foreign language. A typical riff? "Right then she hated the way he sounded saying chill. Chuck Chill-Out, went Eva's brain . . . Groove B-Chill from House Party. Chill Will of the Get Fresh Crew." In the end, this insider's look at the hard decisions a woman must face to get respect in the music business is compelling, even if hard-edged Eva and her cynicism never quite win you over.

This originally appeared in People magazine.

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