Nelson George

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Nelson George
Nelson George 2014.jpg
George at the 2014 Montclair Film Festival
Born (1957-09-01) September 1, 1957 (age 65)
EducationSt. John's University
music & culture critic
Years active1979–present

Nelson George (born September 1, 1957) is an American author, columnist, music and culture critic, journalist, and filmmaker. He has been nominated twice for the National Book Critics Circle Award.[1][2][3][4]


George attended St. John's University. He was an intern at the New York Amsterdam News before being hired as black music editor for Record World.[5] He later served as a music editor for Billboard magazine from 1982 to 1989. While there, George published two books: Where Did Our Love Go: The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound in 1986, and The Death of Rhythm & Blues in 1988. He also wrote a column, entitled "Native Son", for the Village Voice from 1988 to 1992. He first got involved in film when, in 1986, he helped to finance director Spike Lee's debut feature She's Gotta Have It.[6]

A lifelong resident of Brooklyn, New York, George currently lives in Fort Greene.[7]

Literary work[edit]

George has authored 15 non-fiction books, including the bestseller The Michael Jackson Story in 1984, Blackface: Reflections on African-Americans and the Movies in 1994, Elevating the Game: Black Men and basketball in 1992, and Hip Hop America in 1998. In 2005, he published Post-Soul Nation, which further developed his concept of "post-soul" black culture. With Alan Leeds, he co-authored The James Brown Reader, a collection of articles about the "Godfather of Soul," in 2008.

George's The Death of Rhythm and Blues chronicles and critiques the path that R&B has taken. He takes a close look at the genre's fall to the hands of the mainstream and even suggests that some popular artists "sold out". George further articulates in the book that many of the middle-class black Americans that listen to R&B began assimilating into white culture and losing their black roots. He uses Prince and Michael Jackson as examples of "assimilation symbols", arguing that Jackson’s plastic surgery and unconventional sexuality enabled an "alarmingly unblack, unmasculine figure [to become] the most popular black man in America."[8]

George has written three detective novels featuring bodyguard-turned-private investigator D Hunter. All three novels—The Accidental Hunter, The Plot Against Hip-Hop: A Novel, and The Lost Treasures of R&B—have been optioned by rapper/actor Common.[9]

Film and television work[edit]

In 1991, George co-wrote the Halle Berry vehicle Strictly Business and in 1993 he was co-creator of the movie CB4 starring comedian Chris Rock.[10]

In 2004, George made a short film called To Be a Black Man, starring Samuel L. Jackson, and a documentary called A Great Day in Hip-Hop. Both titles appeared in festivals in New York, London, and Amsterdam. He executive-produced the HBO film Everyday People which also debuted in 2004 at the Sundance Film Festival.

Currently he is serving as co-executive producer of VH1's Hip Hop Honors television show and executive producer of Black Entertainment Television's American Gangster series, which was the highest rated series in the history of BET in 2006. His directorial debut, Life Support, starring Queen Latifah, aired on HBO on March 10, 2007. Latifah won several awards for her performance as Ana Wallace, including a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild award, and the NAACP Image Award. Life Support was also named best TV film of the year by the NAACP. He also currently hosts the VH-1 series Soul Cities, which examines the music and culture of six prominent cities in the U.S.

A resident of Fort Greene, Brooklyn, for more than 25 years, George wrote, narrated, and co-directed with Diane Paragas the 2012 feature documentary Brooklyn Boheme, portraying the uniquely vibrant and diverse African-American artistic community of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill during the 1980s and '90's that included Spike Lee, Chris Rock, Branford Marsalis, Rosie Perez, Saul Williams, Lorna Simpson, Toshi Reagon, writer Touré, writer Adario Strange, Guru of Gang Starr, Erykah Badu, and Talib Kweli, among many others. Unlike the legendary Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, which was largely a literary scene, the artists collected in these neighborhoods were as involved with newer means of expression (film, rock music, hip hop, avant garde theater, stand-up comedy, photography) as with traditional African-American artistic pursuits (poetry, jazz). The film premiered on Showtime Networks in February 2012 for Black History Month. Finding The Funk was released in March 2013, it traced the history of funk music from the 1960s to the present day. This documentary included interviews with musicians such as D'Angelo, Sly Stone, Bootsy Collins, Mike D, Sheila E, and countless others. It was aired on VH1 on February 14, 2013.[11] In 2015, George released A Ballerina's Tale, a documentary on Misty Copeland, a principal ballet dancer for ABT (American Ballet Theatre).[12][13]





  1. ^ "Brownsville Bred Announces Series Of Post-show Talk Backs". Broadway World. July 6, 2011. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
  2. ^ "What Are You Looking Forward to Reading, Nelson George?". National Book Critics Circle. 2010-08-02. Retrieved 2021-03-12.
  3. ^ "1988". National Book Critics Circle. Retrieved 2021-03-12.
  4. ^ "1998". National Book Critics Circle. Retrieved 2021-03-12.
  5. ^ Harris, Janelle (August 18, 2010). "So What Do You Do, Nelson George, Writer, Producer, and Filmmaker?". Mediabistro. Retrieved October 21, 2014.
  6. ^ "Spike Lee's Gotta Have It: Inside Guerrilla Filmmaking". Retrieved 2021-03-12.
  7. ^ George, Nelson (2009-04-03). "Strangers on His Street (Published 2009)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-03-12.
  8. ^ George, Nelson (2004). The Death of Rhythm & Blues. ISBN 0142004081.
  9. ^ Obenson, Tambay A. (2015-09-18). "All 3 of Nelson George's D Hunter Mystery Novels Have Been Optioned By Common". Indiewire. Archived from the original on 2015-10-26.
  10. ^ "AFI|Catalog". Retrieved 2021-03-12.
  11. ^ Della Cava, Marco. "'Finding the Funk' excavates R&B artifacts". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2022-02-23.
  12. ^ Seibert, Brian (2015-10-13). "Review: 'A Ballerina's Tale' Chronicles the Rise of Misty Copeland". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  13. ^ Hale, Mike (2012-02-01). "As Seen (Often) on TV: Brooklyn's Star Is Rising (Published 2012)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-03-12.
  14. ^ "The Long, Complicated History of 'Urban' Music". The New York Times. 2020-06-15. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-03-12.
  15. ^ Cavett Binion (2016). "Def-By-Temptation - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes -". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2016-01-22. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  16. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Strictly Business Movie Review (1991) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  17. ^ Brian J. Dillard (2013). "Just-Another-Girl-on-the-I-R-T- - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes -". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2013-12-14. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  18. ^ Wilmington, Michael (1993-03-12). "Movie Review: 'CB4' Hips, Hops and Just Bounces Too Much". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  19. ^ ""The N Word": A Review by Briana Williams | Chaz's Blog | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  20. ^ Catsoulis, Jeannette (2009-10-08). "Look but Don't Touch: It's All About the Hair". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  21. ^ Cipriaso, Celena. "Brooklyn Boheme: Film Celebrates Brooklyn's Artistic Renaissance". The Root. Retrieved 2016-02-06.[permanent dead link]
  22. ^ Dargis, Manohla (2014-12-11). "In 'Top Five,' Chris Rock Is a Comic Getting Serious". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  23. ^ Tobias, Scott (18 October 2015). "Film Review: 'A Ballerina's Tale'". Variety. Retrieved 2016-02-06.

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