In two volumes organized by broad regions (East Coast, West Coast and Midwest and the Dirty South), Hip Hop in America spans the complete history of rap--from its 1970s origins to the rap battles between Queens and the Bronx in the 1980s, from the well-publicized East Coast vs. West Coast conflicts in the 1990s to the rise of the Midwest and South over the past ten years. Each essay showcases the history of the local scene, including the MCs, DJs, b-boys and b-girls, label owners, hip hop clubs, and radio shows that have created distinct styles of hip hop culture.
Mickey Hess is assistant professor of English at Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ. He is the editor of Greenwood's Icons of Hip Hop: An Encyclopedia of the Music, Movement, and Culture and his previous works include Praeger's Is Hip Hop Dead? The Past, Present, and Future of America's Most Wanted Music.
Most of the entries focus on music styles and notable musicians and are unique in that they discuss the sound of various hip hop styles and musical artists' lyrical content, vocal delivery, vocal ranges, and more. Many additional entries deal with dance styles, such as breakdancing or b-boying/b-girling, popping/locking, clowning, and krumping, and cultural movements, such as black nationalism, Nation of Islam, Five Percent Nation, and Universal Zulu Nation. Country entries take into account politics, history, language, authenticity, and personal and community identification. Special care is taken to draw relationships between people and entities such as mentor-apprentice, producer-musician, and more.
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.
Know What I Mean? addresses the creative expression of degraded youth; the vexed gender relations that have made rap music a lightning rod for pundits; the commercial explosion that has made an art form a victim of its success; and the political elements that have been submerged in the most popular form of hip hops.
Proclamations of hip hop's death have flooded the airwaves. The issue may have reached its boiling point in Nas's 2006 album Hip Hop is Dead. Nas's album is driven by nostalgia for a mythically pure moment in hip hop's history, when the music was motivated by artistic passion, instead of base commercialism. In the course of this same album, however, Nas himself brags about making money for his particular record label. These and similar contradictions are emblematic of the complex forces underlying the dialogue that keeps hip hop a vital element of our culture. Is Hip Hop Dead? seeks to illuminate the origins of hip hop nostalgia and examine how artists maintain control of their music and culture in the face of corporate record companies, government censorship, and the standardization of the rap image.
Many hip hop artists, both mainstream and underground, use their lyrics to engage in a complex dialogue about rhyme skills versus record sales, and commercialism versus culture. This ongoing dialogue invigorates hip hop and provides a common ground upon which we can reconsider many of the developments in the industry over the past 20 years. Building from black traditions that value knowledge gained from personal experience, rappers emphasize the importance of street knowledge and its role in forging a career in the music business. Lyrics adopt models of the self-made man narrative, yet reject the trajectories of white Americans like Benjamin Franklin who espoused values of prudence, diligence, and delayed gratification. Hip hop's narratives instead promote a more immediately viable gratification through crime and extend this criminal mentality to their work in the music business. Through the lens of hip hop, and the threats to hip hop culture, author Mickey Hess is able to confront a range of important issues, including race, class, criminality, authenticity, the media, and personal identity.