Monday, February 7, 2011

New Book, Grammy Museum Exhibition Honors Hip-Hop

There have been books dedicated to rap history, biographies, hip-hop portraits, fiction, legendary feuds, dancing and more.

But with the massive new hardcover book "Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey," Editor-in-Chief Jordan Sommers believes he's come up with a definitive historical look that chronicles its milestones, legends, music and culture that is unique and — more important — from a hip-hop insider's perspective.

"No one outside of the culture, no one who is new to the culture, participated in the book," said Sommers. "It was made in cooperation with the pioneers, and the cooperation with the veteran journalists who have been covering the culture."

Through 420 pages, hundreds of photos and dozens of essays, the book takes readers from hip-hop's beginnings in the Bronx borough of New York City through its metamorphosis into a major cultural, musical and financial movement in America and beyond. Among the topics the book explores are the impact of women in rap, the commercialization of the genre, the role graffiti played in the culture, its regional differences, its early influences and more.

Cee Lo Green was among those interviewed. Although he is known for crooning hits like the Grammy-nominated "Forget You," he got his start as part of the hip-hop outfit Goodie Mob.

"It's about knowing and learning about what our take on our history and what our contribution to hip-hop has been," he said of the book. "It's a golden opportunity to stand up and be counted."

Afrika Bambaataa, the hip-hop pioneer credited with helping create the genre back in the Bronx in the 1970s, was one of the earliest acts approached when the book was being imagined. Bambaataa said while there have been many books about hip-hop, most have focused only on rappers.

"There are all the other elements that they don't really focus on, which is the B-boys, the B-girls, the DJs ... songwriters and the graffiti artists, and that fifth element, the knowledge that holds it all together," Bambaataa said. "There needs to be more thorough research on how hip-hop has helped so many people, from different nationalities and so-called races, on this planet."

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