Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hip-Hop is Read

Over the past few months, I've found the time to read some pretty amazing books that are dedicated to the subject of this blog. Some extened farther back into the late 70's and early 80's, and some caught up to mid 2000's and modern day. All of them had great bits and pieces that further solidified this era as THE definitive era of hip-hop.

To help promote literacy, I've attached a hyperlink to the title of each book that will take you straight to it's page on Amazon, where you can buy most of these, used, for extremely cheap.
If anyone is about to tell me how "evil" Amazon is, then here's my response: Life is evil. Try boycotting that.
I've also left out the author's names....mainly because if you're interested enough, you'll have to click the link anyways for more details. Then you buy the book and read it. Then you lend it to a friend and they read it.
Here's the shit:

And It Don't Stop: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years

I was curious as to what this would detail, seeing as if I were about to read twenty articles on Master P, the east coast-west coast rivalry and Eminem, as told through the eyes of some dipshit that worked for the New York Times, I'd throw the book in the trash. Turns out, the book was focused on everything but the negative, which made it alot more digestible.
Starting in the early 80's, the articles were spread over every sub-genre of hip-hop, highlighting artists you would hope they bring attention to.
80's graf artists, Afrika Bambaataa (the best article in the book....the stories told are legendary), Naughty By Nature (s/t -19naughty3 era)....shit, they even made Diddy look impressive again, even after I had given up on him.
The great thing about collections like this is that you can skip around....there's no cheating, no peaking at the back page to see what happens. You KNOW what happens, and now you get to see why and HOW it happened.
It's worth the read.....some articles do drag, but the others make up for it.

Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies

Amazing. Simply, and utterly, perfect. If you even remotely like the golden era, you should read this. If you're like me, and you love it? You HAVE to read it.
Liner notes in hip-hop records are void.....they never exist. No back stories, no lyrics, no explenations for anything....nothing. This book is the answer.
36 classics given the chance to tell the back stories that deserve to be heard.
Want to know the samples Pete Rock used on "Mecca and the Soul Brother"? It's in there.
Want to know Cypress Hill's original name? In here.
Why The Pharcyde let everyone know, "Quinton's on His Way"? In here.

This book is like a bible.

Some of the information that's thrown out is just plain awesome. One example: Onyx did the entire Bacdafucup album on acid. Really. That explains so many things.

Nas' Illmatic (33 1/3 series)

One hundred plus pages devoted to one of the most perfect hip-hop records ever made? Yes, please. The real selling point for me was realizing the book was going down every avenue I hadn't expected it to. I wondered how the author was going to spread this over 128 pages. Every song was given a story, every growth in the early career of Nas was told, from his first breaks, his first appearances, even the first attempts at rhyming. By the time you finish, Illmatic breathes a whole new breath. It's like a documentary through words, and it left me fully satisfied.

Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique (33 1/3 series)

Another in the series, but with the same result. I never liked License to Ill. I tried....really hard, but it was too corny for me. Rhymin' and Stealin' was the only song that I enjoyed. Maybe that record was the reason I had never really given Paul's Boutique too much of a chance until maybe a decade ago. Now, I am under the opinion that it is absolutely fucking bonkers in the best of was. The Dust Brothers, man....The Dust Brothers. What they did on this record was brilliant. And, consequently, the Beastie Boys are brilliant for letting them do it.
The story surrounding this record is fascinating.....what led up to it, why they made it as fucked up as it was, and the aftermath. Reading how pissed Capital was with them is hysterical, as is finding out what the three dudes were doing with their money. A landmark record for a group that has lasted around three decades, and it's given proper treatment.

Yes Yes Y'All: The Experience Music Project Oral History of Hip-Hop's First Decade

While not a book surrounding the golden era at hand, it spends all of it's 350+ pages focusing on the first era itself. Learning the roots of an artform that has blossomed into what it has become is something I've always enjoyed doing. Reading about early battle raps and DJ wars, about the competitive nature of house parties and shows throughout the five boroughs, it all seems so primitive compared to modern dayhip-hop. The birth of scratching, of sampling, of ghettoblasters....all of it has a story, and all of those stories are in here.
The book is filled with old photos and flyers that had probably been buried away until the perfect time to reminisce.....which happened to be around the time Jim Fricke and Charlie Ahearn decided that this book was necessary. I agree.

Ego Trip's Book of Rap Lists

Okay, remember a few lines up where I said Check the Technique was an absolute must? Same here, multiplied by a billion.
I don't even know where to begin, and I'm not sure I really need to very much. The contents within the front and back cover live up to the title. Every list you could possibly think of is in here, and about another fifty that would never even cross your mind.
Biz Markie's list of favorite toys he owns (he has two to live in, and one for collectibles.)
Stuff like worst follow up record, most disappointing debut, top b-sides, the best song titles mentioning food......everything. There's not one page that isn't entertaining.
Ego Trip was one of the best hip-hop magazines to ever exist (I'd throw old volumes of The Source, and every issue of Mass Appeal and Wax Collective in there as well. I'm sure I'll think of more...). The was an air of no bullshit and unapologetic bluntness that those pages held. Like many things that underappreciated, the mag folded after thrirteen (or fourteen?....maybe fifteen) issues. Evidently, if they ever get their shit together, there's a website on it's way, along with a new book devoted to white rappers. Oh, how I can't wait to see how that'll more than likely be like everything else they've done.....classic.

Reading list for the immediate future:

Ego Trip's Big Book of Racism
Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation

Wish list if anyone has extra holiday money and wants to make me happy:

33 1/3 series:
DJ Shadow's Endtroducing...
Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
A Tribe Called Quest's People's Instinctive Travels And the Paths of Rhythm (Why is there not one for Low End Theory or Midnight Merauders instead? Are you kidding? This is the Tribe album they choose?)

Everything else:
That's the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader
Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement
Where You're At

I've been distracted lately by making my own music, but these records found their way into rotation quite a few times when the distortion became unbearable:
Redman - Whut? The Album
House of Pain - Same as it Ever Was
De La Soul - Dead
Stezo - Crazy Noize
Nas - Illmatic
Public Enemy - Fear of a Black Planet
Del - No Need for Alarm
Gang Starr - Hard to Earn

Up next (or at least, very soon.......or as soon as I can):
Cinema......where lines such as:
"You got the juice, now..."
" A-yo....anybody want a cheeseburger?"
"Money talks, bullshit runs a marathon."
etc., ......yeah, they blew my little white boy mind.

....and we'll discuss the pajama jammy jam, because I fucking love the shit out of House Party 2.
I love you, Martin Lawrence:


  1. I'm well into Can't stop won't stop (only less than 100 pages left) and it's probably something you will enjoy reading. The author goes through every event in the history of the black community in america while explaining how certain bands like Public Enemy or NWA were important at those times. It's full of great quotes from well known heroes of the rap community to a lot of unsung ones. Also, it's not only about rap but about hip hop as a whole and even if most of it is about rap, you also learn quite a bit about the developement of graffiti and breakdancing.

  2. By the way, I've just ordered every book you described in your post (not the one you haven't read thought). I've also finished readiing Can't stop won't stop just minutes ago and I can't emphasize how much you need to read this, you'll probably have read some of the informations elsewhere but the author succeed at painting the larger picture of hip hop culture and it's importance in America.

  3. It's on the schedule for this week. If it's along the lines of "Yes Yes Y'all", I'll be extremely satisfied. Enjoy the new reads.

  4. I interviewed the author of Check the Technique when I worked at Punk Planet. Such a nice guy. I went to visit a friend in Boston, and before I could see him, I went from the airport to meet up with [the author]. We just chilled in his basement and did the interview after eating Chinese food. He says he's slowly working on another volume.