Posts Tagged ‘Hip-Hop’

Doubleshot Tuesday: It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back/Straight Outta Compton

20 January 2009

[Today: Who’s the man?…]

Public Enemy | It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
N.W.A. | Straight Outta Compton

Barack Obama was inaugurated earlier today as the 44th President Of The United States. It’s a great moment in the history of this country, but the music geek in me can’t help but wonder if this amazing triumph of hope is the death knell for a certain strain of Hip-Hop music. After all, if you’re Chuck D, Ice Cube or any other of the legion of angry rappers out there, what do you do when the man is suddenly your man?

This quandry isn’t limited to just rappers. Democrats have spent the last eight years hurling F-bombs at the commander-in-chief, while becoming conditioned to cringe at his every inane utterance. But with Obama in the White House, there are no longer any evil scapegoats or easy excuses. Whether you’re a Democrat or a wicked MC, this moment represents a fundamental change in your relationship to the government.

On the militant track ‘Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos’, Chuck D growls “Picture me givin’ a damn I said never/Here is a land that never gave a damn/About a brother like me and myself.” Yesterday that proclamation sounded like a bold statement – today it sounds like a postcard from the past.

Obama got to the heart of this matter with one sentence in his inaugural speech today: “What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them – that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.” One can only wonder if the rising tide of history will leave hip-hop’s militants all washed up.

Listen: Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos [Public Enemy]

Listen: Straight Outta Compton [N.W.A.]

The P Speaks: Books On Tapes

13 December 2008

[Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music]

[Genealogy of Pop & Rock Music]

graphic borrowed from the wonderful site

A friend from Atlanta recently heard an interview with Tom Moon, hawking his book 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. While I am generally annoyed by “to do list” books (gah! aren’t we busy enough?!) I do enjoy books like this one that help define the before-and-after plotlines for an artist: who influenced? who followed? Here’s Tom Moon’s searchable list of 1000 though you will have to buy the book to benefit from his essay on each artist. Don’t confuse this with 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die edited by Robert Dimery, which takes a chronological approach to this same concept.

We have a number of these guides on the shelves already: the Music Hound series, with separate volumes for rock, jazz, blues, etc; about thirty flavors of Album Guides curated and published by a wide range of folks, and books of passionate writings from various authors about their favorite album. Some are good, a few great, and most are a bit scattershot. So here in a house full of books, I find the easiest source for the “plotline” level of information, as well as full discographies, is

Other recents words about music that I’ve been enjoying…

Ian Frazier’s entertaining New Yorker article on Derrick Parker, the “hip hop cop”

Saki Knafo’s great piece on Daptone Records and its cofounder Gabriel Roth in the New York Times magazine pays homage to the dusty  funk and soul records – and artists – of the 60’s and 70’s.

Various pieces about the 100th birthday of  classical composer Elliot Carter, who has churned out more than 40 published works since turning 90.

And on my list for Santa (I’ve been good! really!): this fantastic graphic by Reebee Garofalo. His Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music covers artists from the 1955 – 1978.

The Secret History Of Beastie Boys – The Cover Art

18 September 2008

Here’s the cover art for my compilation of Beastie Boys rarities, live tracks, and B-sides.

Because I haven’t said it in a while, now is probably a good time to mention that my mixes are for friends and family only, and not for sale in any form to the general public. Thanks in advance for your interest, but this is for fun, not profit…

[here’s the front inside]

[here’s the back inside]

[here’s the back]

[copy on the back reads: #2 in a series of albums dedicated to presenting the hidden side of some of music’s most enduring performers. Featuring B-sides, mashups, re-mixes, live performances, and more. This edition… the Beastie Boys.]

[and here’s the track listing]
One] Triple Trouble (Graham Coxon Remix)
Two] The New Style (from No Alternative)
Three] Root Down (Free Zone Mix)
Four] Flowin’ Prose
Five] And Then I
Six] Shadrach (Peanut Butter Wolf Remix)
Seven] Shake Your Rump (Instrumental)
Eight] Skills To Pay The Bills>Shake Your Rump (7.8.98 / Austria)
Nine] Hurricane * Stick ‘Em Up (featuring Ad-Rock)
Ten] Deal With It
Eleven] Whatcha Want, Lady?
Twelve] Jimmy James (Original Original Version)
Thirteen] Unite (4.26.03 / Indio, CA)
Fourteen] Now Get Busy
Fifteen] Alive (Hang All DJs Remix)
Sixteen] High Plains Drifter (6.20.98 / Germany)
Seventeen] She’s On It
Eighteen] In 3’s (5.22.92 / Seabright, NJ)
Nineteen] Pow (5.22.92 / Seabright, NJ)
Twenty] Tripper Trouble


Check out the previous mix in this series: The Secret History Of Jimi Hendrix

A Dozen Great Beastie Boys Songs

9 June 2008

Beasties - photos

America’s favorite white rappers have made a career out of confounding expectations and continually evolving. I was a junior in high school when their debut album dropped, and I’ve been on board ever since. From juvenile rap punks to funk jam band to record label impresarios to world-conscious thinkers, the Beasties have taken a lot of left turns in the last two decades. It’s been a long strange trip lined with an impossible number of great tunes…

The song: Cooky Puss (from the album Some Old Bullshit)

What makes it great: This pre-Licensed To Ill curiosity is constructed around a prank phone call to a Carvel Ice Cream shoppe. Hilarity ensues…

Key lyrics: CARVEL: “Hello, Carvel?” BEASTIES: “Yo man Cookypuss there?” CARVEL: “Who?” BEASTIES: “Cookypuss, I want to speak to Cookypuss man!”

Krush Groove - cover

The song: She’s On It (from the Krush Groove soundtrack)

What makes it great: The heavy rock stomp of the samples used here hinted at what was coming on Licensed To Ill, but this is as good as anything on that landmark album. Plus, it’s got a phat old-school video.

Key lyrics: “She studies real hard – all night she’ll cram/In school she majors in advanced Def Jam”

Licensed To Ill - album
The song: Rhymin & Stealin (from the album Licensed To Ill)

What makes it great: The first song on the Beasties multi-platinum debut sets the tone for the whole album: obnoxious, snotty, and totally awesome.

Key lyrics: “Because mutiny on the bounty’s what we’re all about/I’m gonna board your ship and turn it on out”

The song: Shake Your Rump (from the album Paul’s Boutique)

What makes it great: Includes no less than a dozen crazy samples, notably Funky 4+1’s ‘That’s The Joint’ and Led Zeppelin’s ‘Good Times Bad Times’. Sets an impossibly loose yet dense vibe that continues through the whole album.

Key lyrics: “A puppet on a string I’m paid to sing or rhyme/Or do my thing I’m/In a lava lamp inside my brain hotel/I might be peakin’ or freakin’ but I rock well”

Check Your Head - album
The song: Funky Boss (from the album Check Your Head)

What makes it great: Terrific funk groove that marked a strong departure for the band. When I saw them at the Oakland Coliseum in ’98, they dedicated this song to everyone working in concessions on the concourse.

Key lyrics: “Funky Boss Funky Boss Funky Boss/Funky Boss Funky Boss Funky Boss/Get Off My Back”

No Alternative - album
The song: The New Style (from the album No Alternative)

What makes it great: For this benefit album dedicated to helping eradicate AIDS in children, the Beasties contributed a smoking live version of ‘The New Style’ that far exceeds the original cut from Licensed To Ill.

Key lyrics: “Down with Ad-Rock and Mike D. and you ain’t/And I got more juice than Picasso got paint”

The song: Bodhisattva Vow (from the album Ill Communication)

What makes it great: Over a swirling electronica world beat and chanting Tibetan monks, the Beasties rap earnestly about the path to peace and the enlightened mind.

Key lyrics: “I give thanks for this world as a place to learn/And for this human body that I know I’ve earned/And my deepest thanks to all sentient beings/For without them there would be no place to learn what I’m seeing”

The song: Deal With It (from the ep Aglio E Olio)

What makes it great: Just in case anyone thought they’d softened with their newfound Buddhism trip, the Beasties came out with this blistering hardcore ep that sounds like something released by Dischord or SST in 1983. Deal with it, indeed…

Key lyrics: “Rob and steal from the health food store/The ideas you shout that are so hardcore/Screaming at the phone man collecting the change/Ideas discovered then rearranged”

In Sound From Way Out - album
The song: Groove Holmes (from the album The In Sound From Way Out)

What makes it great: This album compiled the group’s instrumental jams in one place for the first time. ‘Groove Holmes’ – named after the jazz organist – is just one of the many fine pieces here that are as stout and funky as mid-period Meters.

Key lyrics: n/a

Hello Nasty - album
The song: Flowin’ Prose (from the album Hello Nasty)

What makes it great: Over a bumping bass, sparse scratching, and phased samples, King Ad-Rock pays self-fulfilling tribute to his sweet flow.

Key lyrics: “So like a cloud carries rain I’m gonna carry my rhyme/Coming like thunder with lightening timing”

Five Boroughs - album
The song: All Lifestyles (from the album To The Five Boroughs)

What makes it great: A complete about-face from the bratty, homophobe lyrics that littered Licensed To Ill, this track celebrates diversity over a driving, irresistible dance groove.

Key lyrics: “We gotta keep the party going on/All lifestyles, sizes, shapes, and forms”

Mix Up - album
The song: Suco de Tangerina (from the album The Mix-Up)

What makes it great: This track sounds like the kind of long-lost, instrumental funk jam from the 70’s that the Beasties would have sampled mercilessly on Paul’s Boutique. Like the rest of The Mix-Up, it’s a funky, fuzzy good time.

Key lyrics: n/a

Buried Treasure: The Hurra

8 June 2008

[Today: The Beastie Boys’ DJ steps out from behind the decks…]

Wendell Fite, aka DJ Hurricane, was the man behind the turntables for three of the Beastie Boys’ classic albums; Paul’s Boutique, Check Your Head, and Ill Communication. Fite grew up in Hollis, Queens, friends with local prodigies Run-DMC. While serving as a bodyguard for DMC during their 1986 Raising Hell tour, Fite became acquainted with tour openers The Beasties, and when the group lost their regular DJ mid-tour, Hurricane was the right man in the right place at the right time, and they invited him to take over scratching and mixing duties full-time.

In 1995, he released his solo debut, The Hurra, on the Beasties’ Grand Royal label. While the album utilizes a number of regular Beastie collaborators, including Eric Bobo, ‘Money’ Mark Nishita and producer Mario Caldato Jr (plus The Boys themselves on two tracks), it has a much harder edge than anything released by Hurricane’s former employers. It isn’t quite gangsta rap, but sentiments like “Pass me the gun and I’ll kill ’em/Put ’em in the morgue and let the mortician chill ’em” were rarely expressed on Beastie albums.

In spite of that edge, The Hurra is hardly a one-dimensional slice of mindless violence. ‘Get Blind’ cleverly celebrates the joys of cannabis sativa (raps Hurricane: “I wanna get blind like Stevie and wander around/A hundred marijuana plants growin’ from out the ground”), while ‘Four Fly Guys’ kicks an old-school party vibe, and ‘Can We All Get Along’ makes a case for urban peace. But even when Cane is rapping about weed or brotherly love, he does so in a menacing tone, sounding every bit like a onetime bodyguard.

Hurricane acts as both DJ and MC on The Hurra, an unusually ambidextrous hip-hop move that he pulls off without breaking a sweat. He works well as his own DJ, choosing a variety of humorous samples that help offset the muscle of his rhymes. As Rolling Stone concluded in its original review of the album, “The combination of humor, finesse, and musicality serves Hurricane throughout, integrating his dual roles on The Hurra into one smart, cohesive listen.”

Listen: Get Blind

Masterpiece: Check Your Head

7 June 2008

[Today: The Beastie Boys find their sound…]

Check Your Head - album

Because the Beasties’ second album, Paul’s Boutique is now considered a stone classic by almost everyone who counts, it’s easy to forget that it didn’t sell particularly well or have many critics lining up behind it at the time. Rolling Stone printed a glowing review upon its release, only to pan the album in its 1989 year-end issue. Because Paul’s Boutique barely scratched gold sales (500,000 copies) it was considered something of a failure in its day.

But chilly critical reception and sub-standard sales alone didn’t make the album a poor career template. The Manhattan-sized collage of samples that comprised Paul’s Boutique was an angle doomed by changes in copyright and sampling laws – overnight it became the type of record that would cost millions upon millions to produce. The Beastie Boys were smart enough to sense the prevailing trends and head in a surprising new direction.

Before 1992, the idea of this group playing their own instruments and acting like a real band was something akin to science fiction. But right from its front cover the drastic attitude change of Check Your Head was starkly apparent. Featuring a fuzzy black and white photograph of the group looking like skate punks, it marked an extreme departure from the cartoon lear jet on the cover of Licensed To Ill and the technicolor fish-eyed Brooklyn intersection that graces Paul’s Boutique. The inside photos show the band playing (playing!) and looking like they were deeply into it.

This detour produced a more mature, organic sound that simultaneously pointed towards the group’s future, while drawing upon their punk roots. Check Your Head built extensively on the dusty samples and sharp-tongued, smart-assed attitude of albums past. By adding live funk grooves and intense punk energy to the mix, the Beasties expanded their sonic parameters by miles, and helped usher in an era of eclectically influenced groups performing wildly hybridized styles of music that refused to be defined by narrow record store bin labels.

Listen: Funky Boss

Hip-Hop Sgt. Pepper’s – The Making Of

10 May 2008

To find out how I turned this:

into this:

check out my interview with Rob Fitzpatrick of WORD magazine:

WORD: Why Sgt Pepper? Was is an album you particularly liked, or was it just the iconic-ness (sorry) that appealed?

dk: The Beatles were bigger than Jesus in my house growing up. My mom and dad both loved them and that’s the music my brother and I were raised on. And it’s clearly one of the most instantly recognizable LP covers of all-time, so both of those things really. I remember looking at it as a kid and thinking “I don’t know who all these people are, but they must be pretty important.” And that thought carried over, because I wanted to create a visual that even if you don’t know all the players, it’s obvious they did something big to get there.

DJs talk about ‘cutting’ a record, and I really felt like this was the visual version of sampling – cutting up pieces of another reality to form a whole new context.

WORD: How long did it take to do?

dk: Six weeks from conception to cd cover. This includes time and help from others for the photo shoot, post-production work, and art for the key on the inside. It took me about two weeks to build the piece, and then another four weeks to turn it into a finished product.

WORD: What did you use to make it?

dk: The foundation is two pieces of cardboard – one holds up the cutouts, the other forms the base with the dirt, lettering, and flowers. The people in the collage were printed out on a color printer, cut out by hand, and taped into place on a light blue piece of paper attached to the cardboard backing. I used coffee grounds for the dirt. The H-I-P-H-O-P lettering was made out of one of my wife’s scarves that she encouraged me to shred for that purpose. I cut out cardboard letter forms and glued the shredded scarf to them. Most of the props came from e-bay (the microphone, turntables, crates, mini-Hennessy bottle, figurines, etc.). I printed out and cut and glued the tiny records to scale with the crate. The flower shapes were actually little tiny real flowers that my wife cut and shaped to match the original cover. The only pieces that were photoshop’d in were some of the greenery on the upper-right hand side, the graffiti lettering in the middle, and the parental advisory label. The marijuana was made out of, um… marijuana.

WORD: How did you choose the people? Who got left off?

dk: I sat down and drew a diagram of the thing, and made a list of the people I wanted to include [see below]. This swelled to more than 100 names. I ended up using about 80, and that squeezed more people into my collage than were in the original. I felt that this was one place it would be OK to slightly stray from the original, if only to get more faces in. The toughest omissions for me were clearly in the old school. Google didn’t turn up a lot of pictures of Funky Four + 1, Treacherous Three, Cold Crush Brothers, Rahmelzee, and others, so I had to go with what was available. I would also love to have included more females – Salt n Pepa probably should have been there, but then who gets bounced? Jurassic 5 is one of my faves and they didn’t get in, same with Blackalicious, although I got a few of the Quannum crew in there. Gang Starr shoulda/coulda, same with Michael Franti, The Roots, and many many others. I agonized over this part of it.

It also bears saying that Jeff Chang’s awesome book Can’t Stop Won’t Stop played a huge role in influencing not only my choices, but my desire to take on a project like this. Anyone with even an iota of interest in the genre should check it out.

WORD: Did anyone worry you might be losing your mind?

dk: No [laughs]. I joke about that in the liner notes, but everyone who saw this and got a copy knows me well enough to not be phased by it. Honestly, I was living and breathing this project so much around the time we shot the photo that I think I was the only person worried that I might be losing it. And mainly because I was totally convinced that I was going to get really close and ultimately not pull it off. Once we got that picture though, I knew we had something good.

WORD: What do you think is the greatest hip hop cover of all time?

dk: I’ll take Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s LP cover for The Message. I love the pure joy of that picture – those guys look like they’re having a great time and to me that’s what Hip-Hop is, or should be, all about.

WORD: How did you choose the tracks?

dk: This cover was made for my compilation of ‘The 20 Greatest Hip-Hop Albums Of All-Time’. I simply lined up my favorite Hip-Hop albums from 1 to 20 and picked a good track off of each.

WORD: What are the connections between The Beatles and hip hop?

dk: At first I thought the only connection was me. I love the Beatles, and I love Hip-Hop, so it seemed like a no-brainer. But the more I worked on it, the more little things I started to see that made me think this is a natural fit. Both camps were incredibly inventive and changed the face of modern music, both had characters that were eminently quotable and newsworthy, and both were impeccably dressed and way ahead of the curve in terms of style. Also, this year marks the 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s and while I was in the midst of working on this, Grandmaster Flash was inducted into the Rock-and-Roll Hall Of Fame. I thought both of those facts lent even more purpose to what I was doing.

WORD: I spoke to DMC recently and he told me that he only listened to “classic rock” these days (in fact, his favourite ever album is Sgt Pepper, I think) – do you think that’s the future for a lot of hip hop guys?

dk: I think people like good music. I see more similarities than differences between The Beatles, Run-DMC, Curtis Mayfield, Johnny Cash, Hank Mobley, Jimi Hendrix, Woody Guthrie, Fela Kuti, Billie Holiday, John Fahey, and [Bon Scott-era] AC/DC. They all captured the magic of good music, and that’s a pretty rare and special thing. I know lots of classic rock fans who dig Hip-Hop too, so I think that equation works in all directions.

WORD: What LP sleeve are you too intimidated by to attempt anything like this with?

Herbie Mann’s Push Push has an intimidating amount of chest hair, so I’ll probably stay away from that one [laughs]. I bought my six year old nephew an acoustic guitar for Christmas last year and I’m really looking forward to recreating London Calling with him in a few years. You got a dare for me??


Here’s the full diagram with the complete list of artists I considered:


Check out the original posting of this cover for more information and artwork.

Buried Treasure: Palace Of The Pretender

7 January 2008

[Today: The Last Emperor drops a classic debut, but nobody notices…]

Palace Of The Pretender - Cover

With so much unimaginative, uninspiring Hip-Hop being dropped on the world every Tuesday, it’s hard to figure how an obvious talent like Philadelphia rapper Jamal Gray (aka ‘The Last Emperor’) has managed to remain under the rap radar. Gray signed to Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Records in 1996, but sat on the bench there for a few years before signing with Rawkus Records in 2000 – right before that company went into financial decline. All told, The Last Emp’s debut album, Palace Of The Pretender, was nearly 10 years in the making before it was finally released in 2003 by Raptivism Records.

The time invested in the album shows. Almost every track here is a winner, with Gray experimenting in many different meters and rhyme schemes. He goes from storytelling (‘Karma’ and ‘Single Mother’) to silky flow showboating (‘Shine’) to anthemic peacemaking (‘Let’s Ride’) to 70’s-style soul singing (‘Do You Care?’) without missing a beat. This would be an impressive display of vocal virtuosity from an experienced MC, but for a debut album, it’s off the charts.

The Emp saves his best for last though, with the epic MC/Comic Book Hero showdown described in the two part ‘Secret Wars’ and ‘Secret Wars II’. “What if I had the power to gather all my favourite emcees, with the illest comic book characters and they became arch enemies?” he wonders aloud, before proceeding to verbally animate just such battles. Redman vs. The Incredible Hulk, Nas vs. Spiderman, and Busta Rhymes vs. Dr. Octopus are but three of the more than two dozen grudge matches that he details. Most impressively, he rhymes in credible imitation of many of the MCs mentioned, right down to Eminem’s nasal punk flow and Ludacris’ bouncy Southern twang.

Palace Of The Pretender has also been released in the US under the title Music, Magic, Myth, but neither title is currently in print. If you see it anywhere, be sure to snap it up, as this album regularly changes hands for more than $100. A sad comment on how few copies of this classic were sold upon release.

Listen: Let’s Ride

Hip-Hop Sgt. Pepper’s – The Cover Art

27 April 2007

Here is the cover art for my mix of The 20 Greatest Hip-Hop Albums Of All-Time. My post on April 19th contains the liner notes for this mix.

It’s important to note that this artwork was created for a friends-and-family mix only and is NOT for sale in any form. I’m not profiting off of this art in any way and it is completely a labor of love. Please see below for my notes about the making of this image.

Here’s the front cover:

For comparison:
Pepper's - album

And here’s the insert:

Compare and contrast:

Front cover gatefold:

The OG:
Pepper's back

Inside gatefold with a ‘who’s who’:


Who’s Who (& What’s What) on the cover:

1 – James Brown
2 – Jack Johnson
3 – Booker T. Washington
4 – Richard Pryor
5 – Julius Erving (aka Dr. J)
6 – Bruce Lee
7 – Gil Scott Heron
8 – Miles Davis
9 – Langston Hughes
10 – George Clinton
11 – Malcolm X
12 – Martin Luther King, Jr. (painted over by gangsta rappers)
13 – Al Pacino (as Tony Montana)
14 – Robert Beck (aka Iceberg Slim)
15 – Eldridge Cleaver
16 – Lovebug Starski
17 – Mr. Magic
18 – Slick Rick
19 – Kool Moe Dee
20 – Grand Wizard Theodore
21 – Too $hort
22 – Grandmaster Caz
23 – Q-Tip (A Tribe Called Quest)
24 – Spoonie Gee
25 – LL Cool J
26 – Kurtis Blow
27 – DJ Charlie Chase (Cold Crush Brothers)
28 – Master Gee (Sugar Hill Gang)
29 – Big Bank Hank (Sugar Hill Gang)
30 – Wonder Mike (Sugar Hill Gang)
31 – Biz Markie
32 – Busy Bee
33 – Afrika Bambaataa
34 – Ice-T
35 – Rick Rubin
36 – Russell Simmons
37 – Rakim Allah (Eric B. & Rakim)
38 – Fab Five Freddy
39 – Flavor Flav (Public Enemy)
40 – Chuck D. (Public Enemy)
41 – Old Dirty Bastard (Wu Tang Clan)
42 – Method Man (Wu Tang Clan)
43 – Andre ‘3000’ Benjamin (Outkast)
44 – Antwan ‘Big Boi’ Patton (Outkast)
45 – Sir Mix-A-Lot
46 – Jay-Z
47 – Afrika Baby Bam (Jungle Brothers)
48 – Kanye West
49 – Tupac Shakur
50 – Notorious B.I.G. (aka Biggie Smalls)
51 – Erick Sermon (EPMD)
52 – B Real (Cypress Hill)
53 – Snoop Doggy Dogg
54 – Dr. Dre
55 – Ice Cube
56 – Easy E.
57 – Adam Yauch (Beastie Boys)
58 – Adam Horowitz (Beastie Boys)
59 – Mike Diamond (Beastie Boys)
60 – Cee-Lo Green
61 – Muhammad Ali
62 – Josh Davis (aka DJ Shadow)
63 – dk (Getting hyphy at age 5)
64 – Raymond ‘Boots’ Riley (The Coup)
65 – 50 Cent
66 – Daryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels (Run-DMC)
67 – Jason ‘Jam Master Jay’ Mizell (Run-DMC)
68 – Joseph ‘DJ Run’ Simmons (Run-DMC)
69 – dk
70 – (obscured) DJ Q-bert
71 – Eminem
72 – Lyrics Born
73 – Prince Paul
74 – Timbaland
75 – Kid Creole (Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five)
76 – Grandmaster Flash
77 – Scorpio (Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five)
78 – Melle Mel (Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five)
79 – Joseph ‘Run’ Simmons (Run-DMC)
80 – Jason ‘Jam Master Jay’ Mizell (Run-DMC)
81 – Daryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels (Run-DMC)
82 – Empire State Building (for scale)
83 – Nas
84 – Marion ‘Suge’ Knight
85 – Lil’ Kim
86 – Sonny Liston
87 – Masta Blasta (‘Homies’ figurine)
88 – James Brown ‘Sex Machine’ LP
89 – Incredible Bongo Band ‘Bongo Rock’ LP
90 – Hennessy
91 – DJ Kool Herc (The original DJ)
92 – Boombox
93 – Ice Cold (‘Homies’ figurine)
94 – Missy Elliott
95 – Wilson basketball
96 – Purple Erkel (ganja)
97 – Microphone
98 – Discman with headphones
99 – Handgun
100 – Sub Pop Bionic (‘Homies’ figurine)

I’m sensing a trend:
Pepper's diagram


And here are the notes about the making of the cover:

A Few Words About The Cover Art

“If I had a million dollars, I’d do a hip-hop version of the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s.” Those were the words that launched me on the way to creating the album cover you hold in your hands (thankfully, it ended up costing exponentially less than that). After saying the above out loud, I took a few days to think about how it might be done. Then I meditated on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s, and pulled apart each detail in my mind to figure out how I could put it back together. It ended up being the coolest jigsaw puzzle I’ve ever assembled.

When I first thought this up, I was convinced that somebody, somewhere had done it, and I would easily find ten different versions of it on the Internet. I’m still thinking that somebody has done this (surely it can’t be left to a white boy copywriter from Oregon to pull this off), but I can’t find it out there on the Imagination Superhighway, so I did a DIY thing (to the F-ing max, if I do say so) and made it happen. I kept waiting for the big hurdle that I wouldn’t be able to get over, but it never showed itself.

BIG CAVEAT here: I was pretty slow at work for most of January, so I basically had 8 hours a day (give or, usually, take) and access to a Canon color fiery. Also, I’ve got mad collage skillz (my grandmas would be so proud), so the most daunting part of the cover (the top third, with all the heads), was pretty much a piece of cake. I got really good at cutting out little heads. Some of my co-workers accused me of taking up origami. Little did they know…

This project was a fantastic learning experience for me, and I could never have even come close to figuring out who might deserve to be on something like this without the writings of Jeff Chang, Nelson George, and countless others. Also, until Ronny Knight and Mark Adams took the picture, this thing was a 3D piece of art (and yes, less than 1% of this was done in Photoshop) that wouldn’t have fit in a jewel case. Ronny’s an amazing shooter, and I was lucky to have someone like him to lean on. Anthony Landgraf generously helped with the post-production work on the photo, as well as the graffiti lettering in the center of the photo. John Reid created the drawing for the key on the inside. In other words, this was not a solo project.

My wife has offered a lot of thoughtful critique while no doubt simultaneously making arrangements with the local mental health authorities. Also, those breathtakingly cute little flower shapes that embellish the lower half of the cover were her handiwork. Most spouses would have shot an idea like this down in about 10 seconds. My amazing wife not only supported me the whole way through the process, she played a large part in making it happen.

There were many happy accidents that occurred while I was putting this puzzle together. I never imagined I’d ever think something like “Kurtis Blow and Marilyn Monroe have the same hair!” – but there you have it. Also, covering Sonny Liston (the only black person by my count on the original cover) with a cutout of Ali flooring Liston felt pretty damned good. Richard Pryor fit snugly over Lenny Bruce’s original spot, in more ways than one. Ice-T’s cop hat grazing Scarface and Iceberg Slim (the man who inspired Ice-T’s name) was also a nice touch. Jay-Z’s oversized head, Andre 3000’s cowboy hat, Erick Sermon’s peace sign, George Clinton’s red hat, Prince Paul/Marlene Deitrich’s sneer… there are tons of other little coincidences like this, and I invite you to find them all for yourself.

I would never in a million years have considered putting myself in something like this, until I read about the making of the original Sgt. Pepper’s cover and discovered that designer Peter Blake included 4 dressmaker’s dummies in the photo cover shoot. In this version, I play the part of the dummies.

There were, of course, lots of really significant artists I had to leave out – my apologies to all of them. It would take ten times the amount of space I had to make room for everyone that has contributed to the vibrancy of the genre. I tried to be as representative as possible, and I structured the collage so it flows from influences (top row) through old school, the golden age, and into the new school (whatever that means). In other words, I tried to create a visual schematic of the history of hip-hop.

I love the Beatles, but the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s is oppressively lily white. The thing I most love about this idea is that it flips the script on the original color scheme, while providing a perfect framework to honor the people that have made hip-hop a worldwide institution. What I’ve done here is akin to visual sampling – taking little pieces of some other reality and working them together to form a whole new context.

Not unlike the work of a lot of the little heads on the front of this album. My deepest respect and appreciation to each of them.


“There’s 3 of us/But we’re not the Beatles” – Run-DMC

The 20 Greatest Hip-Hop Albums Of All-Time

19 April 2007

“You start with nothing and then you build/Follow your dream until it’s fulfilled” – Grandmaster Caz

“I take a phrase that’s rarely heard/Flip it, now it’s a daily word” – Rakim Allah


Like the proverbial rose sprouting through a crack in the sidewalk, hip-hop took root within the urban hell of the South Bronx during the 1970’s. While brutal gang violence had riddled much of the five boroughs throughout the first part of that decade, a series of gang truces during 1972 and ’73 allowed people to venture out to block parties to shake their thangs. Because the violence had been prolonged, many people were ready to let off considerable steam.

Into this breach stepped entrepreneurial souls like DJ Kool Herc – who played his first house party because his sister wanted to make some money for school clothes. Herc plugged into municipal light poles and literally rocked the block. He soon realized that the most hectic dancing was happening on the drum breaks, and began to search for records (like the Incredible Bongo Band, and James Brown) that prominently featured instrumental breaks. The records that Kool Herc spun at these parties became the bedrock of future hip-hop sound.

Watching Kool Herc and taking notes was a young wannabe DJ who would eventually become known as Grandmaster Flash. Flash took the idea of breaks to a new level by fading back and forth between two copies of the same record to loop and extend the break. DJ Grand Wizard Theodore added scratching, and the ability to drop a needle by sight in the exact place he wanted to start a break (as opposed to cueing up the break on headphones). At this point, the creative chase was joined and it was only a matter of time (and a few superstar acts like Run-DMC and Beastie Boys) before hip-hop found its way into the hearts and minds of people around the globe.

Author Jeff Chang’s remarkable book “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History Of The Hip-Hop Generation” charts the origins, pioneers, and eventual rise of the genre. Chang’s book is so good that my thumbnail sketch of the genre withers in comparison. This is a book that rises above its inspired subject matter and will delight anyone who likes a good story.

The history of hip-hop rightfully inspires clichés like David & Goliath, making something out of nothing, and flowers sprouting through concrete. But what better underdog story is there than a group of people in most destitute part of this country creating a juggernaut industry from the broken rubble and found sounds around them? Look at pictures from this era and you see colorful people having a good time, entirely oblivious that they were about to change the fabric of modern culture.

And change it they did. Hip-Hop has become so entwined in the culture of America (beats are everywhere, pants be saggin’, etc.) that it’s hard to imagine what this country would be like if a bunch of New York gangs hadn’t called off the fight in 1973.

In spite of what some might think or hope, hip-hop is not dead, nor dying. Along with Blues, Jazz, and Rock, it’s one of the greatest musical innovations of the 20th century. And what lives on in the minds of the young is what lives on, period. Time is on the side of the kids in the street who’ve known nothing but a hip-hop culture, and it’s only a matter of time until you’ll be shopping to Muzak by Outkast. How dead is that?


Run-DMC | Raising Hell
Run-DMCRaising Hell (1986)

#1 – Run DMC’s second full-length album took rap into the homes and hearts of everyone outside the big cities. Big hit ‘Walk This Way’ found heavy rotation on MTV, and ‘My Adidas’ foretold the era of cross-over promotion, but this album is loaded front to back: ‘Peter Piper’, ‘It’s Tricky’ and the title track are rap at its finest in the pre-gangsta era. And while it’s hard to find a dirty word or insult (even ‘You Be Illin’ is good-natured put-down of the yo’ mama variety) the intensity is still rampant throughout. Oh yeah, it might also be Rick Rubin’s finest non-Johnny Cash-related moment as producer.

Eric B & Rakim | Paid In Full
Eric B. & Rakim – Paid In Full (1987)

#2 – Ask any full-time MC who his or her favorite rapper is (besides him or herself), and chances are the answer is Rakim Allah. Those props are earned right here. ‘Move The Crowd’, ‘I Know You Got Soul’ and ‘I Ain’t No Joke’ are Rakim at his best, with rhymes as smooth and solid as tempered glass and verbal wit that makes it seem he’s operating with an additional thesaurus of words and ideas unavailable to other rappers. And Eric B. plays Pippen to Rakim’s Jordan – filling in more than ably and doing the dirty work that allows the star to shine. This debut set a high mark they would meet time and again, on albums like Follow The Leader and Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em.

Nas | Illmatic
Nas – Illmatic (1994)

#3 – Illmatic is an album that lends much credence to the idea of hip-hop as urban documentary journalism. The grade school photo on the cover is just the first instance of autobiography, and the rhymes are well served by the inside-out view. Intentionally or not, Nas conveys the feeling of a young man playing at gangsta, all gesticulation and enthusiasm, much strut and little menace. If John Travolta had been a rapper in Saturday Night Fever he’d have been Nas on Illmatic.

Outkast | Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Outkast – Speakerboxx/The Love Below (2003)

#4 – The rumors swirling around the release of this album were dire: it would be the last Outkast album, Andre 3000 and Big Boi had already split up, and they were simply packaging two solo albums together. The truth ran something more like this: after making the progressively epic albums Aquemini (1998), and Stankonia (2000), each member had a big idea (and enough songs) for an individual disc. Speakerboxx is a Boi-guided tour through 70’s funk and soul music (‘The Way You Move’ is homage to Earth Wind & Fire, and so on and so forth). The Love Below is the perfect antidote to its noisy, vibrant mate – all plush velvety hearts, big huggy teddy bears, and Dre’s cartoon lover persona. And who didn’t love the mega-crossover smash ‘Hey Ya’?

Public Enemy | It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
Public Enemy – It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (1988)

#5 – Chuck D. has a voice that commands respect, and on Nation Of Millions, he puts it to chillingly good use. The intense, claustrophobic sound is aided immensely by the Bomb Squad’s production, and Chuck spits and barks throughout, like a megaphone in a riot. The cinematic track ‘Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos’ – maybe the best militant rap song ever – is about a draft-dodger busting out of jail, and filled with radical logic like “I’m a black man/so I could never be a veteran”. ‘Bring The Noise’, ‘Louder Than A Bomb’ and ‘Don’t Believe The Hype’ make this the full realization of PE’s (Black Panther Party respun for the 90’s) vision.

Wu Tang Clan | Enter The Wu Tang: 36 Chambers
Wu Tang Clan – Enter The Wu Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)

#6 – Wu Tang Clan formed when nine struggling individual rappers decided they might have better luck as a crew. With talents like Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Method Man, and GZA, the Wu had superior parts that formed an even greater whole. Their debut drips with grease and grime in a way that only Exile On Main St. can match. Of course it made stars out of the whole lot, solo albums were made, and an empire ensued that stretched everyone so thin that this great height was never again reached. When ODB OD’d in 2004, it lent a morbid postscript to much of the music here, but Enter The Wu Tang remains one of the strongest – and yes, greezyest – albums of all-time.

Beastie Boys | Ill Communication
Beastie Boys – Ill Communication (1994)

#7 – Beastie Boys have made nothing but solid albums in their career, but Ill Communication stands just a little bit taller than the rest. It found them distilling past sounds and lessons into a cohesive, entertaining, and entirely unique take on hip-hop. From party starter ‘Sure Shot’ to ‘Sabotage’ to the instrumental funk jams, it jumps from place to place without ever losing its center. ‘Bodhisattva Vow’ is the real lynch-pin, with Adam Yauch expounding a mature vision of the world and his place in it. It’s a song that simply couldn’t have existed on earlier Bboys albums, yet it pointed directly toward where their sound (& vision) was headed.

Missy Elliott | Under Construction
Missy Elliott – Under Construction (2002)

#8 – Missy Elliott claimed to be a work in progress on Under Construction, and then proceeded to roll out one of the most complete blueprints of the many facets of hip-hop (and its untapped possibilities) ever recorded. She harkens back to the pre-gangsta days, when the music was more about having fun than having beef. Missy: “I used to love them days. No tension.” As she proved here, it’s possible to have fun and run the table. Killer guest spots from Method Man, Jay Z, 50-Cent, and Ludacris don’t hurt, but this is Missy’s party, and she puts the good-natured block party vibe, her big league flow, and Timbaland’s production to excellent use, creating an album that is both sonically and intellectually perfect.

Snoop Dogg | Doggystyle
Snoop Doggy Dogg – Doggystyle (1993)

#9 – What’s cooler than inventing a new way to be cool? When Snoop Dogg came out of nowhere on Dr. Dre’s classic 1992 album The Chronic, his slow drawl and laid back delivery were much needed in a world full of hectic, hyped-up rappers. On his solo debut, Doggystyle, Snoop came through with an instant classic. ‘Gin & Juice’, ‘Tha Shiznit’, and ‘Lodi Dodi’ set a slow jam party vibe that made West Coast rap relevant and Snoop the crown prince of cool. While he’s had many fine moments since, his best album remains this first trip to tha Dogg pound.

Various Artists | Wild Style Soundtrack
Various Artists – Wild Style Soundtrack (1983)

#10 – The concept of the full-length album was simply antithetical to the hit-and-run nature of early hip-hop. It wasn’t really even considered, until 3 rappers were hastily assembled (under the moniker Sugarhill Gang) for the express purpose of making an album to cash in on rap’s nascent possibilities. Their first single, ‘Rappers Delight’ went multi-platinum, but it was already too late for many of rap’s true pioneers. Which brings us to the Wild Style Soundtrack – as close as you’ll come to true documentation of the people who gave the genre it’s early creative spark, including The Cold Crush Brothers, Busy Bee & DJ Starski, The Fantastic 5, Rahmelzhee, and many others. Even the spoken word segues with graffiti artists and b-boys (ie, break dancers) are entertaining and worthwhile. See if you can count the number of moments sampled into future music.

The Coup | Party Music
The Coup – Party Music (2001)

#11 – On Party Music, The Coup perfectly split the difference between the kill-em-all stylings of N.W.A and the Black Panther retro philosophy of Public Enemy – with a nice 70’s groove laid on top to make it all go down smooth-like. From the hip-shaker ‘5 Million Ways To Kill A CEO’ to the feminist facing ‘Wear Clean Draws’ to call-to-action ‘Ride The Fence’ and all points between, it’s all groovy and fully guerilla. The original artwork depicted group members Boots and Pam detonating the World Trade Center, but that artwork was pulled after September 11th, and before the album was released. In spite of that, this is the rare combination of hip-hop that’s really smart and real fun.

Ice Cube | The Predator
Ice Cube – The Predator (1992)

#12 – The Predator begins with a graphic re-creation of being processed into the prison system – and only gets more intense from there. Cube – and all African-Americans – had good reason to feel pissed and on edge in ’92. After the five policemen who beat Rodney King were acquitted of major charges, and L.A. went up in flames, sentiment like “the KKK wears 3 piece suits” was in step with the feelings of many Americans – black, white, and otherwise. Of course, this album has a lot more going for it than anger – ‘It Was A Good Day’ is the finest urban poetry this side of Langston Hughes. The fact that a slow rap about making it through another day in South Central could become a huge national hit is testament to the genius of this album, and its author.

2Pac | All Eyez On Me
2Pac – All Eyez On Me (1996)

#13 – Tupac Shakur’s first album for Death Row records was also the first double disc release of original songs in the history of hip-hop. All Eyez On Me would shoot to #1 and sell in excess of four million copies, but Shakur wouldn’t live to see the end of the year. In September of ’96, he was fatally wounded in a drive-by shooting on the Vegas strip. Unfortunately, it was the conclusion of a long string of trouble for him: with the law, with East Coast rappers, and with his own unpredictable temper. Nonetheless, All Eyez On Me is a masterwork that’s smothered in charisma, confidence, and California sunshine.

EPMD | Strictly Business
EPMD – Strictly Business (1988)

#14 – By not chopping their samples into indistinguishable fragments and keeping the beat sources fairly intact, EPMD’s sound perfectly anticipates the rock/rap mash-up craze of the 00’s. ‘I’m Housin’’, the title track, and ‘You Gots To Chill’ sound like they were posted on the Internet last week by the latest mash-up whiz. And while some found Erik Sermon and Parrish Smith’s vocal deliveries flat, their laid back flow has allowed the sound to age like fine wine. Unfortunately, they were relegated to underground buzz status and made four albums before breaking up in ’92. They’re absolutely right in rapping “this ain’t a blast from the past/it’s a boomer from the future.”

Jungle Brothers | Done By The Forces Of Nature
Jungle Brothers – Done By The Forces Of Nature (1989)

A Tribe Called Quest | The Low End Theory
A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory (1991)

#15 & #16 – Jungle Brothers and A Tribe Called Quest are the Psilocybin and LSD of hip-hop. That is, their active ingredients are so similar that if you’ve built a tolerance for one, you’re guaranteed to have tolerance for the other. And, well, in hip-hop terms, they’re pretty trippy. For one, these are happy albums that sport jazzy time signatures (and samples) and leave you in a good mood. Both Done By The Forces, and Low End Theory track the day-to-day lives of people who are interested in having fun and finding truth. Loose-limbed yet virtuosic, these albums can still take you places that no other hip-hop approaches. Just be sure to take them in responsible doses.

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five | The Message
Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5 – The Message (1982)

#17 – Not just the first superstar of rap, Grandmaster Flash is a pioneer who developed many of the DJ techniques still in use today. The Furious Five were groundbreaking in their own right, as Melle Mel’s social realism and Cowboy’s party starting call-and-responses like “Throw your hands in the air/and wave ‘em like you just don’t care” (which are so pat now that it seems amazing anybody invented them) amply prove. All of that said, it’s pretty clear that this group’s best moments happened in front of live audiences and not in the studio (as they’ll readily admit). Still, if this is as close as we can get to the legend, I’ll take it.

Massive Attack | Blue Lines
Massive Attack – Blue Lines (1991)

#18 – Blue Lines was one of the first (and remains one of the most enduring) signs that hip-hop had matured beyond kangols and party anthems. Made more to move your soul than rock the house, it shifted the borders of what constituted hip-hop. Drop the needle anywhere and you’ll find 25mph gems like ‘Safe From Harm’, ‘Be Thankful For What You’ve Got’ and ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ that owe equal debts of inspiration to Smokey Robinson, Gregory Isaacs, and electronic pioneers like Kraftwerk. In fact, this is one of the very few hip-hop albums where the backing tracks sound more like Depeche Mode than Grandmaster Flash. Massive Attack’s debut was so revolutionary that a new genre – “trip-hop” – was coined to describe it.

Various Artists | How High Soundtrack
Various Artists – How High Soundtrack (2001)

#19 – The soundtrack for How High is mainly a stage for Method Man and Redman, and they work it like a hip-hop version of Belushi and Ackroyd. The rhymes are never less than intense, but there’s a prevalent sense of fun that makes this a tried-and-true classic. The guest performances, from Toni Braxton to Cypress Hill’s B-Real to Ludacris to (believe it or not) Limp Bizkit, are all excellent. The haze of ganja smoke blowing out of your speakers won’t be the only reason you’ll wear a crooked smile while listening to this one.

Blackalicious | Nia
Blackalicious – Nia (2000)

#20 – DJ Chief Xcel and MC Gift Of Gab are part of a larger collective of artists that operate under the Quannum banner, which includes groups like Maroons and Latyrx, and phenomenally talented MCs Lyrics Born and Lateef The Truth Speaker. Nia includes contributions from all of them, and is barely the best of the many releases from this tight knit gang of co-conspirators. Like all Quannum releases, it seems to have taken all the best parts of the history of hip-hop (the social consciousness, funky grooves, playful rhymes, female voices, good-natured bragging, etc) and left out all the garbage (blatant cursing, misogyny, violent fantasies and stupid skits, among many others), making it the perfect album to conclude a list highlighting hip-hop’s high points.



Notorious B.I.G. – Ready To Die
Lyrics Born – Same !@#$, Different Day
Kanye West – Late Registration
Spearhead – Home
Jurassic 5 – Quality Control
Cee-Lo Green… Is The Soul Machine
Cypress Hill – Cypress Hill
The Kleptones – A Night At The Hip-Hopera
The Pharcyde – Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde
Jay Z – MTV Unplugged
Stereo MC’s – Connected
Too $hort – Life Is… Too $hort
LL Cool J – Bigger And Deffer
Dr. Dre – The Chronic
Gang Starr – Daily Operation
Aceyalone – Book Of Human Language
Afrika Bambaataa – Looking For The Perfect Beat (1980–1985)
Danger Mouse – The Grey Album
NWA – Straight Outta Compton
Sugarhill Gang – Best Of


10 Dope Hip-Hop Compilations…

Next Friday Soundtrack
Tommy Boy presents… Hip-Hop Essentials 1979-1991
The Third Unheard: Connecticut Hip-Hop 1979-1983
Quannum Spectrum
Old School Vs. New School (Volumes 1 & 2)
No More Prisons
The Neptunes present… Clones
Def Jam 20th Anniversary Box Set
Ego Trip presents The Big Playback
Judgment Night Soundtrack


15 Hip-Hop Forefathers…

Langston Hughes – Hughes’ poetry dealt with the harsh realities of black life in an insightful and honest way that foreshadowed the best of hip-hop.

Richard Pryor – His four-letter word fueled soliloquies on throwing dice, smoking crack and growing up funny were filled with humanity and heart, and ensured that no topic was ever again off limits.

Muhammad Ali – “Float like a butterfly/sting like a bee” was world class rapping 20 years before the category was invented. Ali also sported the charisma, heart, and awareness that have marked the best rappers.

DJ Kool Herc – The literal forefather of the genre, the records that Kool Herc played at his South Bronx block parties inspired early DJs like Grandmaster Flash to take up their trade.

Eldridge Cleaver – The Black Panther leader pushed for self-protection from over-eager police, and self-preservation of the welfare of his community. Cleaver and the Panthers lived the real life version of much rap fantasy.

Booker T. Washington – Invented an industry out of peanuts (the crop, not the cliché), displaying the same drive, ingenuity, and genius as the DJs and rappers in the South Bronx who gave birth to hip-hop in the late ‘70s.

Malcolm X – The onetime Malcolm Little was anything but. His presence and sheer belief in the ability of the black man are indispensable to the foundation – and lyrical content – of the genre.

Iceberg Slim – Author and one-time Pimp wrote unsparingly about his grim, jizz-stained, back-of-the-hand trade in an unflinching manner that anticipated gangsta rappers like NWA and Snoop Dogg.

Julius Erving – Dr. J’s slow motion, afro blowin’ ABA dunk reels are the 70’s version of Michaelangelo. The way he looks playing ball is how every rapper in the world wants to sound – straight butter.

Jack Johnson – Early 1900’s heavyweight boxing champion flaunted his blackness in a white dominated world, by driving flashy cars, wearing fur coats, and dating white women. A bad, bad man.

George Clinton – Clinton’s loony, over-the-top costumes and personas inspired a host of rappers to dress up and play pimp. He’s also behind many of the most wicked breaks ever sampled.

James Brown – Brown’s beats are the sonic foundation of hip-hop, providing the grooves and breaks behind countless rap songs. From a purely musical perspective, there is no higher influence on the sound of hip-hop than JB.

Gil Scott Heron – Heron’s spoken-word rants about the inherent brutality of the black experience in America anticipated the stark reality of modern hip-hop lyrics by nearly two decades.

Bruce Lee – Martial artist and movie actor Lee became a Hollywood legend by kicking ass and looking cool doing it. His influence on hip-hop (minimal throughout the 80’s) has grown during the last decade.

Tony Montana – Al Pacino’s title character in the movie Scarface has become the patron saint of badass hip-hop behavior and inspired scores of swaggering, tough-talking rappers.

5 Essential Books about Hip-Hop…

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation * Jeff Chang

EgoTrip’s Book Of Rap Lists * Edited by Sacha Jenkins, Elliott Wilson, et al

Yes Yes Y’all: The Experience Music Project Oral History Of Hip-Hop’s First Decade * Edited by Jim Fricke & Charlie Ahearn

Classic Material: The Hip-Hop Album Guide * Edited by Oliver Wang

And It Don’t Stop: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism Of The Last 25 Years * Edited by Raquel Cepeda