Since the 1990s, the emergence of hip hop non-fiction and historical books has been steadily growing. In 1994, Tricia Rose became one of the earliest hip hop documentarians in the book market with her seminal book “Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America.” Since then, the exploration of hip hop music, culture and biographies and odes to iconic artists like Tupac Shakur, has expanded into a viable topic in the major book market.
There is, of course, always work to do in exposing American and world culture to the influential contributions of Black hip hop artists, but 2022 is revealing an effort from the publishing world to push this incredible narrative and culture forward.
A few notable hip hop books, all biographies and memoirs, were published in the first half of 2022, and they are all continuing to lay the groundwork for an explosion in hip hop literary interest.
“It Was All a Dream: Biggie and the World That Made Him” by journalist Justin Tinsley was released in conjunction with the year rapper Biggie Smalls would have celebrated his 50th birthday. The book includes several interviews with the people who knew Biggie best: his neighbors, friends, DJs and musical colleagues. The book takes an in-depth look at the rapper’s life beyond what was only reported in the news and media. Take a deep dive to learn about this deeply talented musician who left the world way too soon.
“DJ Screw: A Life in Slow Revolution” comes as a follow-up to Lance Scott Walker’s “Houston Rap Tapes,” a photo book about Houston’s hip hop culture. Walker does scrupulous research in the form of a broad span of interviews with nearly everyone who knew the seminal Houston DJ, DJ Screw. Known for his unforgettable style “chopped and screwed” where he collaborated with local rappers who rhymed over his beats, then proceeded to slow the songs he created down dramatically. His music created a craze in Houston in the 1990s and has put him on the map as one of the most unique DJs in hip hop history.
Award-winning journalist and hip hop music business expert, Dan Charnas teaches a course at New York University entitled “Topics In Recorded Music: J-Dilla” a definitive look at the life and music of the late Detroit born hip hop production genius, J Dilla. “Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, the Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm” journeys from Dilla’s childhood to his untimely death of a rare blood disease. He is known to be one of the most revered hip hop producers of all time, unequivocally defining the sound of the hip hop soul area in the 1990s and 2000s.
Canadian rapper, Cadence Weapon, also known as Rollie Pemberton, published a tell-all memoir about his personal experience in the music industry as a hip hop critic and well-known rapper in Canada. “Bedroom Rapper: Cadence Weapon on Hip-Hop, Resistance, and Surviving the Music Industry” gives an intimate portrait of the life and times of the independent rapper and writer. “I want there to be something for every reader to take away from the book. I want it to be something that could be useful, whether it’s a guidebook for hip hop or underground rap or Canadian music. But ultimately, the reason why I wrote the book was I realized that it was a story that had never really been told,” he told Flaunt in July 2022.