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Tuesday, November 02, 2010
The Anthology of Rap: A Crash Course in Rap Lyrics

imageSam Anderson takes Straight Outta Comp 101 as he dives into The Anthology of Rap for a New York magazine review:

For one reason or another—dorkiness, Oregonianism, spiritual daintiness—I find myself, at age 33, functionally hip-hop illiterate. Aside from a feverish adolescent fling with my brother’s MC Hammer tape, I have spent almost zero percent of my life voluntarily listening to rap music. Part of this is genetic: As the child of folk-singing hippies, I have ear canals specially angled to detect and enjoy warbly guitar ballads. (Simon and Garfunkel reunite every day to play nine-hour private concerts in the coffeehouse of my mind.) I have never, to my knowledge, heard a song by 2Pac, Nas, Lil’ Kim, Lil Wayne, KRS-One, DMX, Kanye West, Cam’ron, 50 Cent, or the Wu-Tang Clan. Until last week, I thought Mobb Deep and Mos Def were the same thing. (It turns out they are very different.)

Normally I don’t mind being out of the pop-cultural loop—I’ve even learned, over the years, to wear my ignorance with a certain musty old-man pride. Given, however, that I am a professional studier of words, my hip-hop blind spot has come to seem indefensible: I am clueless about one of the culture’s most vital fronts of verbal artistry. It would be like an art critic who’s never seen a comic book, or a choreographer who’s never heard of Michael Jackson.

This is why I’m so evangelically excited about The Anthology of Rap, Yale University Press’s monumental new collection of rap lyrics. It feels like it was published, exclusively for me, by the vanity press of my own subconscious. It’s an English major’s hip-hop bible, an impossible fusion of street cred and book learning. The anthology spans the entire 30-year history of the genre, from Afrika Bambaataa to Young Jeezy.

If you’re like Sam—or if you already know E-40, the man who popularized the suffix -izzle, and Twista, onetime holder of the Guinness record for world’s fastest MC—you don’t want to miss the book party reading at 92YTribeca featuring editors Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois with a line-up of writers, musicians, poets and academics including Imani Perry, LaTasha Diggs, Immortal Technique, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Adam Mansbach, Touré, Dream Hampton and Grandmaster Caz on November 17.

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