Touré is a correspondent for BET and the author of Soul City, a novel. He’s also the author of the Portable Promised Land, a collection of short stories, and Never Drank the Kool-Aid, a collection of his magazine work. He’s been a Contributing Editor at Rolling Stone for over ten years and was CNN’s first Pop Culture Correspondent, and was the host of MTV2’s Spoke N Heard. He has appeared on many TV shows including the Today show, the O’Reilly Factor, Paula Zahn Now, Anderson Cooper 360°, and Topic A with Tina Brown where Brown called him, “a one-man media conglomerate.” His writing has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Best American Essays of 1999, the Best American Sportswriting of 2001, the Da Capo Best Music Writing of 2004, and the Best American Erotica of 2004. He studied at Columbia University’s graduate school of creative writing and lives in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, with his wife Rita.
He was born in Boston in 1971, the same week that Joe Frazier knocked out Muhammad Ali. He grew up splitting time between an old prep school which once expelled Teddy Kennedy (beloved Milton!) and a wonderful ghetto tennis club. He did time at an American university that doesn’t deserve to be named where he wrote protest poetry that was just awful. He moved to New York after his junior year to write about culture for magazines. He believed many writers were failing to understand the full depth of the heroes of hiphop. He was determined to expand the complexity of the discussion of black people.
He began his writing career not writing, but being a lazy, chatty, unpaid intern at Rolling Stone. In a story that has become Rolling Stone lore he tended to delegate his tasks to other interns so that he could talk to the writers and editors. Eventually he got fired, but then was given a chance to write a record review. He eventually became a contributing editor, writing cover stories on Lauryn Hill, DMX, Beyonce, 50 Cent, Alicia Keys, and Eminem. He learned to write at Rolling Stone and went to write for the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Playboy, the Village Voice, Vibe, and Tennis Magazine.
In 1996, after having a story rejected at the New Yorker, a crushing experience, he joined Columbia Univeristy’s graduate creative writing program for a year and, thanks to a class by Stephen Koch, began writing fiction. His first piece was the story of Sugar Lips Shinehot, a 1940 Harlem saxophonist who loses his ability to see white people. For some reason, that class full of white people loved the story and a fiction career was born.
Touré is his real name, the name his mother gave him when he was born, the name his parents consciously chose for him. The last name was something that came along automatically, like fries with a burger. It wasn’t something that meant anything to him. Where other people have stories from grandpa or great-grandpa that make family history come alive, his father’s father passed away before his father was born, a symbol of how the link with history was broken. And plus, Toure is a last name in Africa. They laughed at him there—Silly American. Touré ain’t no first name. It’s kinda like an African named Kennedy. But in the one-namedness there’s a reference to the dislocation implicit in the African-American family name and a reach back to the unknown last names of Africa.