January Book Review: The Anthology of Rap Edited by Adam Bradley & Andrew Dubois

The Anthology of Rap Edited by: Adam Bradley & Andrew Dubois

This work has been on my ‘to-do’ list for about a year and I had to finally get it. I didn’t imagine it’d be this thick but I understand why but don’t let the size intimidate you. Composed in 2010 this is way more impactful than say a Rap Genius. What makes this anthology incredible is that it is a true transcription of early and classic Hip Hop. In this digital age nothing is more reliable than a physical copy. Online articles can be edited at any time and in a wiki case by anyone. This can be used in any educational environment and would be a great conversation starter at any barbershop, office, or coffee table. The nostalgic feeling of reading your favorite old school rhymes or finding out you were rapping that one line completely wrong. This anthology will have you reciting lyrics as if you wrote them yourself. If you really want to study Hip Hop music you must have this book as a part of your library. The artwork inside and out is an illustration prepares you for the literary journey you are about to go on. 

The editors took it upon themselves to ensure the authenticity of the anthology. The editors were writers that weren’t necessarily members of Hip Hop Culture at the time. One day this type of research and work can and will be done by Black-American students matriculating at historically black colleges and universities but with the extent to which these to Yale graduates I’ll give this my stamp of approval. Bradley and DuBois were smart in developing an advisory board to assist in the creation of the work. Advisory Board members include writers from all backgrounds within the culture as well as outside the realms of the culture however as we all know Rap is poetry so everyone on the board was influenced by Hip Hop in that way. The forward written by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. goes back to the cultural roots of where rapping came from. From signifying, to the dozens, and then to rapping. The introduction described how the anthology was compiled. It is written in chronological order starting with Afrika Bambaataa all the way to a few current artists from the current era in Rap music like Young Jeezy. 

For every artist or group that has a song(s) transcribed there is a preliminary discussion about meaning, mechanics, and effectiveness. A breakdown of why these lyrics deserve a spot in this manuscript. Lyrics are broken down as its purist form, poetry. From the Cold Crush Brothers, Funky Four + 1, Ice Cube, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, to The Lady of Rage, Ras Kass, Mobb Deep, Cee-Lo, and De La Soul. Of course you have dictations from 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G., Jay Z, and The Wu-Tang Clan. Even after the hundreds of pages lyrics and rhymes there is a section of lyrics for further study! I can’t imagine how long it took just to decipher each song and to verify that it was indeed correct. An afterword is written by both Chuck D and Common drive home the importance of having this type of manuscript for Hip Hop Culture. The notes and references allows the reader to follow up on anything that they may want to learn more about. There is an index for Songs, albums, movies, and books as well as artists, authors, and labels. One of the best parts is the list of credits in the back. This is where you can see who wrote what rhymes although it’s possible some artists have given themselves writing credit without having written anything. Even your favorite mainstream singers and pop artists continue to take credit for writing songs they didn’t write. 

I would recommend this for high school English classes as well as college level courses. If you’re not in school right now you can still enjoy this anthology and I hope it would encourage you to really listen to Rap music with a different mindset. If you’re an up and coming emcee you should use this to study and sharpen your skills. We all could use a little improvement. This is a great anthology and would be a great addition to any Hip Hop literary arsenal. The editors and contributors to this anthology did a superb job.