Rapper’s Delight: Hip-Hop History

Hip-hop has succeeded in becoming the most prominent musical genre at a time when normally concrete labels are beginning to meld together. The art form emerged from African American street culture in New York City, particularly the Bronx and Queens, in the late 1970s. It consists of a number of skills that include rapping, DJing, break-dancing, and tagging - also known as graffiti. Through the decades, the form has only grown in its power. Listen to any pop or even country hit these days, and you will most likely hear a hip-hop beat driving the music forward. We hear its influence in Broadway blockbusters and see important contributors honored as Pulitzer Prize winners. It's hard to deny that hip-hop is king.

My list Rapper's Delight: Hip-Hop History is made up of terrific titles that help provide insight into the works and artists that emerged from hip-hop's progression over the past 40 years. Ice-TJay-Z, Scarface, and Lil Wayne have each penned his own memoir about his personal experiences and what the genre means to him. My favorite of these is The Tao of Wu, by The RZA. His group, The Wu-Tang Clan, are a fascinating mixture. Their tracks contain gangsta rap's unflinching look at street violence, but they also are a bunch of spectacular nerds who discuss their love of kung-fu movies and playing chess.

We also have some fantastic selections from our 33 1/3 series, each of which documents the making of a landmark album. Nas' staggering debut album Illmatic is included in the series, as is one of my personal favorites, J. Dilla's Donuts. Dilla, also known as Jay Dee, was a Detroit producer and beat-maker who finished this seminal densely sampled record while in the hospital with a terminal illness. Dilla passed away three days after the album's release, but the record is amazing in its sheer grace and vibrant nature in the face of the unthinkable.

Finally, I wish to recommend one of the best-made graphic novel series. Hip Hop Family Tree is a comics-style guide to the birth and development of all aspects of hip-hop culture. Ed Piskor examines notable contributions to the medium, highlights important women who were certainly overshadowed by their male counterparts, and creates a stunning visual world that simultaneously captures the grittiness of New York in the Seventies while using the beauty of full-color newspaper comic strips. 

This is just a small sample of what we have in our collection. I highly encourage you to use this list to find what you like and seek out more.