Rap & Hip-Hop Histories

Over the last 50 years, rap & hip-hop have played a key role in shaping not only the musical landscape, but culture at large. The following is a list of books that look at the artistic importance of the genre, highlighting both the high-profile hitmakers and lesser-known artists. 

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Changes: An Oral History of Tupac Shakur

2021 would have been the year Tupac Shakur turned 50, but his life was cut short when he was just 25 by still-unknown (or, at least, not officially known) assailants in a Las Vegas drive-by shooting. Here, Sheldon Pearce writes glowingly of the superstar, interviews a variety of people who knew Shakur at various phases of his life, paying particular focus to lesser-known subjects who are able to shine new light on the legendary artist. You can also check out this title as eBook on OverDrive/Libby or as eAudio on OverDrive/Libby.

Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, the Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm

Charnas, who wrote “The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop,” presents a biography of James Dewitt Yancey, better known as J Dilla, a rap producer many casual fans may not be familiar with. While J Dilla’s life was sadly cut short by a rare blood disease, Charnas maps how his unique musical perspective has helped to form the current sound. You can also check out this title as eBook on OverDrive/Libby or as eAudio on OverDrive/Libby.

Hip-Hop (and Other Things): A Collection of Questions Asked, Answered, Illustrated

Shea Serrano and illustrator Arturo Torres complete their “And Other Things” trilogy (previously covering basketball and movies), this time covering hip-hop. Each chapter covers a different overarching question that Serrano attempts to answer with his reverential essays, paired perfectly with Torres’s humor-tinged illustrations. 

Major Labels: A History of Popular Music in Seven Genres

New Yorker writer Kelefa Sanneh is one of the most vital voices writing today on the state of music. In “Major Labels,” he takes a deep dive look at seven genres (including hip-hop), charting their histories with a focus on the interplay that happens between when music is deemed “good” or “bad,” as well as the idea that certain music is created for white people and certain music is created for Black people. You can also check out this title as eBook on OverDrive/Libby.