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Enter the Babylon System: Unpacking Gun Culture from Samuel Colt to 50 Cent [Paperback]

Rodrigo Bascunan , Christian Pearce
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 20 2007
A docu-style investigation of our fascination with the gun, from the perspective of the hip-hop generation.

The 2003 shooting death of Toronto community-centre worker Kempton Howard put the spotlight on hip hop’s fixation with guns. Media and police soon blamed rap music and its tales of gang life on bullet-ridden US streets for the rising use of firearms in Canadian crime. Were these songs artful accounts of a terrible truth, or a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Rodrigo Bascunan and Christian Pearce have interviewed many of the major players in the hip-hop world. As publishers of an award-winning magazine of urban culture, they’d watched rap music become a scapegoat for society’s much older and widely spread fascination with guns. What follows is their international adventure to deconstruct modern gun culture in all its manifestations. Bascunan and Pearce seek out hip-hop artists, illegal gun runners, firearms aficionados and manufacturers, museum curators, academics, politicians, video-game creators, activists, victims of gun violence and the family and friends left behind.

Somewhere between Fast Food Nation, No Logo and a Michael Moore documentary, featuring sly sidebar material and original artwork, Enter the Babylon System is part outrageous journalistic pursuit and part passionate cri de coeur for sanity in the face of a society’s obsession.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Review

“Fascinating. . . . unlike any other book recently published, because the two young Canadians do not seek to whitewash the harmful side-effects of the culture they write about.”
National Post

“Passionate and illuminating. . . . Bascuñán and Pearce, adamant believers in hip-hop’s positive ‘political and cultural voice,’ are also honest and sincere reporters.”
—Macleans.ca

“Bascuñán and Pearce have used their industry credentials to gain access to some of the major players in the multi-billion-dollar hip-hop industry and in the multi-billion-dollar gun industry. . . . They give us the Canadian angle without losing the scope of the broader global issues at hand.”
The Gazette (Montreal)

About the Author

Rodrigo Bascunan is the publisher and co-owner of Pound magazine. Although he himself has only ever been threatened at gunpoint, he comes from a long line of politically active Chileans who have been shot at. He lives in Toronto.

Christian Pearce is the editor and co-owner of Pound. Dodging bullets of a different sort, he studies law in Vancouver.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well packed Feb. 5 2007
By Monika
Format:Hardcover
Fascinating, informative, and written from a unique perspective. Thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about gun culture and the factors that need to be addressed to curb gun violence. Really great gift for anyone interested in hip hop but also may help promote dialogue with youth about the messages in media and our society in general about guns and violence.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Inside Scoop on the Gun Culture Aug. 7 2008
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
It's a crazy world that these two writers portray as they try to make sense how firearms often get into the wrong hands and bring incredible suffering on innocent victims. To untangle the very complex web that envelops the North American gun culture, Bascunan and Pearce collaborated to examine its many curious and bizarre facets. First, there the the hip hop, rapper types, as well as the video gamers, who regularly view the packing of guns as a sign of being macho. Their lyrics and games suggest that toting and deploying a gun are really only harmless acts of simulation reserved for recorded music or images on a screen. Second, there are the inner-city gangs that take up these manly refrains and actually use guns as weapons to defend their turf in order to make a point. Third, there are those who actually steal key parts from gun manufacturers and reconstruct illegal prototypes for sale on the street. This illicit activity is the part of gun running trade that often defies any effective police surveillance. Thousands of such pieces are smuggled into Canada through numerous entry points and are readily available to gang members within hours of being ordered. This study is exhaustive in its efforts to get to the bottom of why guns have gradually become very popular with our nation's young people. The reader gets to ponder the chilling anguish of parents when it comes to burying their children killed in gang-related shootings as well as appreciate the dangerous arrogance of the bigtime rapper who pushes product before principles. Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars DOES HIP-HOP PROMOTE GUNS? READ THIS BOOK... April 23 2012
By Steven H. Propp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Rodrigo Bascunan is "the publisher and co-owner of 'Pound' magazine, Canada's largest hip-hop and urban culture magazine," and Christian Pearce is its editor and co-owner. They wrote in the Introduction to this 2007 book, "Few would deny that rap music plays a role in the problem with guns---especially not us. We took on this subject partly because of how irresponsible gun-talk had become in the music we love... Hip-hop has long been stigmatized as a violent culture, the public's perception provoked by news reports of dead rappers and the menacing swagger of artists in movies and videos. But at best hip-hop is about knowledge and empowerment first, and here we combine the insights of lyrics with the lessons of experience and share them with the larger community. 'Enter the Babylon System' is our attempt to reassert hip-hop's stature as a political and cultural voice." (Pg. 14, 17)

One rap artist interviewed charges that "Most people who talk about a Glock, they can't tell you a model number or how many shots it holds. They've never fired it, they've never felt spent shells hit them and burn their forearm, they've never done any of that... a lot of rappers are emulating what they heard in somebody else's record..." (Pg. 47)

They also note that the Desert Eagle firearm "did indeed make its television debut on Miami Vice... (which) featured state-of-the-art gun handling. Miami Vice was also a boon for gun manufacturers, helping popularize gats like the bird and the Tec-9." They add that director Michael Mann "is a gun nut." (Pg. 183)

They note in conclusion, "When we speak of babylon, we are not referring to skin colour, nor are we pointing to any place on a map; we speak instead of a blinding and destructive greed as visible in the grimiest street as it is in the squeakiest-clean office." (Pg. 322)

This is a creative and original look at a not-often-STUDIED aspect of gun culture.
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