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Keep it Real | Best Books On Hip-Hop Culture

 "Hip-hop is the streets. Hip-hop is a couple of elements that comes from back in the days… that feel of music with urgency that speaks to you. It speaks to your livelihood and it’s not compromised. It’s blunt. It’s raw, straight off the street — from the beat to the voice to the words" 

                                                                                 Nasir Jones aka NAS


Everything started back in August 1973, the day when Clive Campbell aka DJ Kool Herc and his friends tossed a back-to-school party in the Bronx, New York. Hip-hop culture was born and it didn't take much time before it began to spread throughout the United States into both urban and rural areas and then throughout the world. While the term hip-hop is most commonly used to refer exclusively to hip-hop music (also called rap), hip-hop is characterized by nine elements, even if only four of these are considered necessary to understand the musical aspect of hip-hop:


  • Breakin
  • Emceein
  • Graffiti Art
  • Deejayin
  • Beat Boxin
  • Street Fashion
  • Street Language
  • Street Knowledge
  • Street Entrepreneurialism


An element is part of hip-hop's social structure. It is a reflection that further communicates the hip-hop way of life. Each of these elements are fundamental to acquiring health, love, success and wealth. These doctrines, however, do not include a specific moral code.  


1) Keep it real

Street cred is fundamental to hip-hop's soul. A hip-hop-driven life is tied to being real, finding a unique voice and talking about the reality of your everyday life. Hip-hop needs you to tune in to that inner voice, that internal identity and act naturally no matter what.


2) Speak the truth 

The need to speak truthfully is essential to hip-hop; life on the streets and poverty. Rapping stories that others hesitate to recount;  stories of inner city life, prostitution, drugs, gangs, violence, and police abuse. Being a hip-hopper means being anchored in the reality of street life.


3) Change the Game

Hip-hop is a progressive culture that evolves, changing "the game".  Hip-hop life has no time for convention, hip-hop means being defiant and protesting, it constantly tests "business as usual". Still, it evolves.


4) Represent your hood

Hip-hop's idea of family stretches beyond your close relatives and extends to your neighborhood. Rappers who express hip-hop culture with their music see themselves as representatives of the 'hood' where they grew up. Duty to your 'hood' implies that when you "make it" you share. 


5) Express Yourself

Creative expression is the basis of hip-hop which has made it the worldwide social wonder of youth today. Despite the fact that hip-hop began with rap, breakdancing, deejaying, and graffiti, it is in no way, shape or form restricted to these characteristics. The hip-hop community has since ventured into other artistic forms:  hip-hop conveys everything that needs to be said. 


To learn more about the movement, here is a 11-book reading list, a playlist, and a link to the first part of an old, but nevertheless good documentary on the birth of hip-hop.


Enjoy and Keep it real !


 

The Rap Year Book

The Rap Year Book takes readers on a journey that begins in 1979, widely regarded as the moment rap as a genre became recognised as part of music's landscape and comes right up to the present. Shea Serrano deftly pays homage to the most important song of each year. Serrano also examines the most important moments that surround the history and culture of rap music-from artists' backgrounds, to issues of race and safety, to the rise of hip-hop and the struggles among its major players-both personal and professional. Covering East Coast and West Coast, famous rapper feuds, chart toppers and show stoppers, The Rap Year Book takes an in-depth look at thirty-five years of the most influential genre of music to come out of the last generation. Complete with quizzes, infographics, lyric maps, hilarious and informative footnotes, portraits of the artists, and the occasional rebuttal essay by other prominent music writers, The Rap Year Book is both a narrative and illustrated guide to some of the most iconic and influential songs ever created under the umbrella of rap music. Serrano cites a variety of sources to form his arguments including biographies, magazines and documentaries, as well as his own experiences growing up at a time when hip-hop was becoming a prevalent force in the music industry. With its all-encompassing look at the ups and downs of rap music, and the landmark songs that are its tent-poles, this book will be perfect for anyone who is a fan of the genre.

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The Big Payback

The Big Payback takes readers from the first $15 made by a “rapping DJ” in 1970s New York to the multi-million-dollar sales of the Phat Farm and Roc-a-Wear clothing companies in 2004 and 2007. On this four-decade-long journey from the studios where the first rap records were made to the boardrooms where the big deals were inked, The Big Payback tallies the list of who lost and who won. Read the secret histories of the early long-shot successes of Sugar Hill Records and Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC's crossover breakthrough on MTV, the marketing of gangsta rap, and the rise of artist/ entrepreneurs like Jay-Z and Sean “Diddy” Combs. 300 industry giants like Def Jam founders Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons gave their stories to renowned hip-hop journalist Dan Charnas, who provides a compelling, never-before-seen, myth-debunking view into the victories, defeats, corporate clashes, and street battles along the 40-year road to hip-hop's dominance.

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Book of Rhymes

If asked to list the greatest innovators of modern American poetry, few of us would think to include Jay-Z or Eminem in their number. And yet hip hop is the source of some of the most exciting developments in verse today. The media uproar in response to its controversial lyrical content has obscured hip hop's revolution of poetic craft and experience: Only in rap music can the beat of a song render poetic meter audible, allowing an MC's wordplay to move a club-full of eager listeners. Examining rap history's most memorable lyricists and their inimitable techniques, literary scholar Adam Bradley argues that we must understand rap as poetry or miss the vanguard of poetry today. Book of Rhymes explores America's least understood poets, unpacking their surprisingly complex craft, and according rap poetry the respect it deserves.

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Ego Trip's Book of Rap Lists

Hip hop is huge, and it's time someone wrote it all down. And got it all right. With over 25 aggregate years of interviews, and virtually every hip hop single, remix and album ever recorded at their disposal, the highly respected Ego Trip staff are the ones to do it. The Book of Rap Lists runs the gamut of hip hop information. This is an exhaustive, indispensable and completely irreverent bible of true hip hip knowledge.

Check The Technique

A Tribe Called Quest • Beastie Boys • De La Soul • Eric B. & Rakim • The Fugees • KRS-One • Pete Rock & CL Smooth • Public Enemy • The Roots • Run-DMC • Wu-Tang Clan • and twenty-five more hip-hop immortals It’s a sad fact: hip-hop album liners have always been reduced to a list of producer and sample credits, a publicity photo or two, and some hastily composed shout-outs. That’s a damn shame, because few outside the game know about the true creative forces behind influential masterpieces like PE’s It Takes a Nation of Millions. . ., De La’s 3 Feet High and Rising, and Wu-Tang’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). A longtime scribe for the hip-hop nation, Brian Coleman fills this void, and delivers a thrilling, knockout oral history of the albums that define this dynamic and iconoclastic art form. The format: One chapter, one artist, one album, blow-by-blow and track-by-track, delivered straight from the original sources. Performers, producers, DJs, and b-boys–including Big Daddy Kane, Muggs and B-Real, Biz Markie, RZA, Ice-T, and Wyclef–step to the mic to talk about the influences, environment, equipment, samples, beats, beefs, and surprises that went into making each classic record. Studio craft and street smarts, sonic inspiration and skate ramps, triumph, tragedy, and take-out food–all played their part in creating these essential albums of the hip-hop canon. Insightful, raucous, and addictive, Check the Technique transports you back to hip-hop’s golden age with the greatest artists of the ’80s and ’90s. This is the book that belongs on the stacks next to your wax.

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And it don't stop: the best american hip-hop journalism of the last 25 years

In September 1979, there was a cosmic shift that went unnoticed by the majority of mainstream America. This shift was triggered by the release of the Sugarhill Gang's single, Rapper's Delight. Not only did it usher rap music into the mainstream's consciousness, it brought us the word "hip-hop." And It Don't Stop, edited by the award winning journalist Raquel Cepeda, with a foreword from Nelson George is a collection of the best articles the hip-hop generation has produced. It captures the indelible moments in hip-hop's history since 1979 and will be the centerpiece of the twenty-fifth-anniversary celebration. This book epitomizes the media's response by taking the reader on an engaging and critical journey, including the very first pieces written about hip-hop for publications like The Village Voice--controversial articles that created rifts between church and state, the artist and journalist, and articles that recorded the rise and tragic fall of the art form's appointed heroes, such as Tupac Shakur, Eazy-E, and the Notorious B.I.G. The list of contributors includes Toure, Kevin Powell, dream hampton, Harry Allen, Cheo Hodari Coker, Greg Tate, Bill Adler, Hilton Als, Danyel Smith, and Joan Morgan.

Making Beats

Based on ten years of research among hip-hop producers, Making Beats was the first work of scholarship to explore the goals, methods, and values of a surprisingly insular community. Focusing on a variety of subjects-from hip-hop artists' pedagogical methods to the Afrodiasporic roots of the sampling process to the social significance of "digging" for rare records-Joseph G. Schloss examines the way hip-hop artists have managed to create a form of expression that reflects their creative aspirations, moral beliefs, political values, and cultural realities. This second edition of the book includes a new foreword by Jeff Chang and a new afterword by the author.

The Wu-tang Manual

The Wu-Tang Manual is The RZA’s first written introduction to the philosophy and history of Hip-Hop’s original Dynasty, the Wu-Tang Clan. Written in a style that is at once personal and philosophical, The Wu-Tang Manual unravels the intricate web of personalities (and alter egos), warrior codes, numerological systems, and Eastern spiritual ethics that define the Wu-Tang dynasty. Packed with information that reflects the breadth and depth of the RZA’s — and rest of the Clan’s — intellectual interests and passions, The Wu-Tang Manual is divided into four books of nine chambers each, for a total of 36 chambers. All together, the book provides the breakdown of essential Wu-Tang components, from basic information about each of the nine core members of Wu-Tang Clan to deeper explorations of the key themes of the Wu-Tang universe, a dictionary-like Wu-Slang lexicon, and an entire section of Wu-Tang lyrics with densely annotated explanations of what they mean. For the hardcore Wu-Tang disciple and the recent initiate alike, The Wu-Tang Manual is the definitive guide to the essence of Wu, one of the most innovative hip-hop groups of all time.

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J Dilla's Donuts

From a Los Angeles hospital bed, equipped with little more than a laptop and a stack of records, James "J Dilla" Yancey crafted a set of tracks that would forever change the way beatmakers viewed their artform. The songs on Donuts are not hip hop music as "hip hop music" is typically defined; they careen and crash into each other, in one moment noisy and abrasive, gorgeous and heartbreaking the next. The samples and melodies tell the story of a man coming to terms with his declining health, a final love letter to the family and friends he was leaving behind. As a prolific producer with a voracious appetite for the history and mechanics of the music he loved, J Dilla knew the records that went into constructing Donuts inside and out. He could have taken them all and made a much different, more accessible album. If the widely accepted view is that his final work is a record about dying, the question becomes why did he make this record about dying? Drawing from philosophy, critical theory and musicology, as well as Dilla's own musical catalogue, Jordan Ferguson shows that the contradictory, irascible and confrontational music found on Donuts is as much a result of an artist's declining health as it is an example of what scholars call "late style," placing the album in a musical tradition that stretches back centuries.

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Can't Stop Won't Stop

Hip-hop is now a global multi-billion pound industry. It has spawned superstars all across the world. There have been tie-in clothing lines, TV stations, film companies, cosmetics lines. It even has its own sports, its own art style, its own dialect. It is an all-encompassing lifestyle. But where did hip-hop culture begin? Who created it? How did hip-hop become such a phenomenon? Jeff Chang, an American journalist, has written the most comprehensive book on hip-hop to date. He introduces the major players who came up with the ideas that form the basic elements of the culture. He describes how it all began with social upheavals in Jamaica, the Bronx, the Black Belt of Long Island and South Central LA. He not only provides a history of the music, but a fascinating insight into the social background of young black America. Stretching from the early 70s through to the present day, this is the definitive history of hip-hop. It will be essential reading for all DJs, B-Boys, MCs and anyone with an interest in American history.

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