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D.C. hip-hop is bigger than just Wale. The prevailing narrative behind the rising star is that he is the city’s first notable rap act and its great hip-hop hope. But this is far from the case: Over the past 25 years, D.C. has produced a mixed bag of major label near-stars, local heroes, and quiet successes both nationally and internationally. Diamonds in The Raw is a patchwork of those untold tales. In it, author Sidney “DCSuperSid” Thomas traces local hip-hop from the era when go-go held such a tight hold on the city that even thinking about rapping was considered “bama” to its current incarnation as a burgeoning creative and commercial force. Because of the sporadic and fragmented nature of the scene, Thomas works in short vignettes. He relays stories like those of Toni Blackman’s U Street open-mic workshop, Freestyle Union, major label signee turned minister Black Indian, and murdered go-go rap legend Fat Rodney (“he was like B.I.G. before B.I.G.,” remembers D.C. production hero Chucky Thompson, who worked with Biggie on Ready to Die). Dozens of current day rappers that followed in their footsteps are profiled as well. Like most of the fine DMV music that it chronicles, Diamonds in the Raw is a self-released affair. As such, it suffers from some minor structural and editorial flaws, but Thomas more than makes up for these with raw reportorial arts. He conducted more than 100 interviews over the last two years; even the most minute voices of the scene are represented here. If anything, Diamonds might be a little too comprehensive, the sheer depth of information could prove overwhelming to the D.C. rap neophyte. (The book would especially benefit from an audio companion—most of the music discussed has been out of print for years.) Still it’s an invaluable look at a mostly overlooked history.