The Anthology of Rap is an exceptional book and certainly the most appropriate present I’ve ever been given (thanks Sis!). After unwrapping it I stared suspiciously at it for several hours as if it was some kind of alien artifact or the ark of the covenant. I had not been aware of it before and it looked big and interesting.
I wondered whether it would have the lyrics to Non Phixion’s ‘Futurama’ or Keith Murray’s ‘Most Beautifullest Thing In The World’ or Jay Electronica’s ‘Dimethyltriptamine’ and many others. I wondered whether there would be any lyrics from UK emcees and who were the editors Adam Bradley and Andrew Dubois? These questions and more were answered as I began to scrutinize the volume.
The book is broken down into 5 sections of lyrics (old school, golden age, rap goes mainstream, new millennium rap and lyrics for further study). There are also forewords and afterwords by Harry Louis Gates Jr and Chuck D which are great. As you’d expect, many of the selected verses are the classics, undeniable tracks who’s absence would have been ludicrous.
The problems begin for me, as a (not hardcore) rap geek when I see no Redman. There are others missing too, but the editors have a reasonable explanation for what has made it into the book – there was a complicated process involving copyrights. Selections were also made based on factors like particular poetic value or which lyrics would work best as written text.
This makes sense but doesn’t account for the inclusion of 50 Cent's lyrics or the ramblings of Lil Wayne. However, I would say that they were never going to be able to please everyone and they do have Immortal Technique, they do have Jay Electronica and they do have DOOM’s ‘Figaro’ (and they got Jedi Mind Tricks & RA Rugged Man’s ‘Uncommon Valor’), so there has been a good effort to document underground lyricists as well as the mainstream rappers.
Some friends have aimed criticism at the publishers, calling them ‘culture vultures’ – elitist academics in ivory towers who profit from the culture of Hip Hop but do not give back in a significant way. I would say, well they did make this book and it’s good. Yes it’s flawed, there are the inevitable mistakes but there is a good Wu selection. But who are these people who felt to include Young Jeezy or Digable Planets over Saigon & Papoose?
The reason I don’t know who a lot of these people are is because I am not part of the American Hip Hop academic illuminati. Not to downplay their achievements though, many of the names on the advisory board are known for their serious work and general integrity and I’m sure the others have earned their credentials fairly as well. But can they rap all of the lyrics to ‘Nobody Beats The Biz’? I’m sure many of them can. I’ll leave you with this: a 300 video youtube playlist of all the tracks featured in the Anthology.
It’s a truly great book that I think is being overlooked (for example the interview below only had 250 views when I wrote this and it’s the only video interview with these guys on the net as far as I can tell). I extend my thanks to them for publishing this book, they are deserved of some accolades. Wow this is a really long review… well done for reading it! Now go get your copy.
By: Esh | IBMCs on Facebook
Youtube link to interview with the editors:
BBC audio interview with Andrew Debois: