Celebrate Hip Hop History Month!

If you’d like to read a much better SJPL blog on the history of Hip Hop, I can’t recommend enough 2020’s article ‘I Used to Love H.E.R.” – An Ode to Hip Hop’.  It’s written by a very knowledgeable, talented librarian who shows her love of music through personal narrative.  My own introduction to Hip Hop was as a white kid in middle school, when my super-cool BK (British Knight) shoes came with an MC Hammer cassette.

Hip Hop is a culture and art movement that is characterized by four elements: MCing (Rapping), DJing, Breakdancing, and Graffiti Art.  Some include authenticity (street knowledge), fashion, race, background, and other elements as a fifth element, but these are debated.  It has its roots in the Bronx, New York City with DJ Kool Herc and sister Cindy Campbell.  From The Bronx, Hip Hop spread worldwide.

Hip Hop became more commercialized and mainstream, which has led to a wider audience and an explosion in genres (my favorite as a teen was horrorcore, much to my parent’s delight).  With that popularity has come an interest in books, movies, and shows that explore the history of Hip Hop, shows like the Netflix series Hip Hop Evolution.  The show, narrated by rapper Shad K, features interviews with Hip Hop legends like DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash.  Or films like 2009’s Notorious (Notorious B.I.G.) or 2015’s Straight Outta Compton (history of N.W.A.).

Most the books on Hip Hop History out there are written by music journalists or historians.  Such as Can’t Stop Won’t Stop by Jeff Chang, Soren Baker’s The History of Rap & Hip Hop, or the graphic novel series Hip Hop Family Tree by Ed Piskor.  They’re well written, and thoroughly researched, but not written by people who were involved in the creation of Hip Hop, despite many of those people still being alive.  More uncommon are #ownvoices narratives like Chuck D Presents This Day in Rap and Hip-hop History, written by Chuck D of Public Enemy. Or Diary of a Madman by Geto Boys front man Scarface.  More space needs to be made for these incredible people to lead the projects and tell their stories their way.

Check out our Hip Hop collection and download free music using your library card! Don't have an SJPL card? Apply today for your FREE membership!

Hip Hop History

Yes Yes Y'all the Experience Music Project Oral History of Hip-hop's First Decade, book cover
The Big Payback the History of the Business of Hip-hop, book cover
The Record Players DJ Revolutionaries, book cover
From Mambo to Hip Hop, book cover
Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer, book cover
Book of Rhymes the Poetics of Hip Hop, book cover
Changes An Oral History of Tupac Shakur, book cover
Why White Kids Love Hip-hop Wankstas, Wiggers, Wannabes, and the New Reality of Race in America, book cover
The Boombox Project the Machines, the Music, and the Urban Underground, book cover
Muslim Cool Race, Religion, and Hip Hop in the United States, book cover
Dirty South Outkast, Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and the Southern Rappers Who Reinvented, book cover
The Roots of Rap 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-hop, book cover
She Begat This 20 Years of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, book cover