What's missing in hip hop

9 top hip-hop books that should not be missing in any collection

The best for the well-stocked hip-hop library!

Hip-Hop: This is not just rap music, but the term for a culture whose origins, starting from the Bronx and other New York districts, can be traced back to the late 1960s. However, this article is not about a definition or the processing of the history of the origins of hip-hop. We had already written a special feature for this, which I would like to warmly recommend to you. I.I just want to make it clear in advance that the reading material discussed here is not exclusively concerned with rappers and their latest albums or things like that, but rather the entire range of hip-hop aspects and forms of expression. And that includes breakdancing, DJing, B-boying, turntablism, graffiti, breakbeats, flyer artwork and much more.

Books on these topics have been published for around 30 years, so that of course a considerable number of publications come together. And since I've been involved in the topic myself since the early 80s, my bookshelf is also bursting at the seams, as the saying goes. Accordingly, it is not really easy to make an adequate selection of scriptures that I would like to introduce to you, but it has to be. In this feature we take a look, among other things, at the classic "Rap Attack" by David Toop, certainly a "standard work", followed by an autobiography and the "Bible" of the record trigger. I would also like to present you a hip-hop comic series and a photo book and even a hip-hop cookbook is included. Sure, a little subjectivity also plays a role in my selection, but I can definitely say that these are “9 top hip-hop books that should not be missing in any collection”. So: One, Two, One, Two. Sit down and open the books.

Ed Piskor: Hip-Hop Family Tree
Category: comic series

Publisher: Metrolit, ISBN: 978-3-8493-0090-6, price: approx. € 24

Ed Piskor (born 82) is a comic artist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, who, in addition to his passion for comics, has a particular fondness for hip-hop and the history of it. A few years ago he felt the need to merge the two things. As he was unsure about the commercial potential of his new format, he first published isolated episodes of the comic on the popular platform boingboing.net. Free of charge and on a weekly basis ... by the way, still.

Fortunately, the first two collections have been available in print for two years now. The first part deals with the history of hip-hop between 1973 and 1981 and has now been published in German by Metrolit-Verlag. On 112 pages, the author, with his heroically drawn characters in the 70s style, very humorous and with an impressive love of historical detail, tells important events in the history of the movement. There are, for example, the first parties of hip-hop forefather Kool Herc and his MC Coke La Rock in 1973. The Zulu nation around the DJ and Electrofunk founder Afrika Bambaataa is an issue, but the author also pays tribute to the transition from an underground phenomenon to the tough music business, with artists like Kurtis Blow and the Sugarhill Gang. But don't worry, what might sound like a dry history lesson here is extremely entertaining thanks to Ed Piskor's dry sense of humor. The American has received a lot of encouragement from the global hip-hop community for this comic series and I can only agree with that. Ed Piskor's Hip-Hop Family Tree belongs on every well-stocked bookshelf for a true hip-hop fan.

Hip-Hop Family Tree: The first comic to feature US hip-hop history!

Freddy Fresh: The Rap Records (The Ultimate Vinyl Resource Book)
Category: US rap discography (1979 to circa 1994)

Publisher: Freddy Fresh (Self-Published), ISBN: 978-0974815305, price: from 40 €

Freddy Fresh aka Frederik Schmid is a music producer and DJ from Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, who released his first records in the late 1980s. The passionate vinyl collector has managed to compile an almost complete encyclopedia of all American rap records from the early years with his 750-page book "The Rap Records (The Ultimate Vinyl Resource Book)". No disc, however rare or obscure, is left out.

This tome also provides background information on the record companies and the artists, exactly listed order numbers and information on editions and the approximate value of the discs. It is also provided with numerous illustrations. Early European rap records also appear in the book, but not in full. This work is now in its second edition and belongs on the bookshelf of every serious hip-hop vinyl collector. Or to put it another way: This is the bible for everyone who believes in the rap vinyl god!

The Rap Records: The ultimate rap collector's bible.

Steven Hager: Hip-Hop / The Illustrated History of Break Dancing, Rap Music and Graffiti
Category: Hip-Hop History - rare collector's item!

Publisher: St. Martins' Press, 1984 (original edition), Smashwords, 2012 (eBook), ISBN: 0-312-37317-1, eBook price: around € 5, paperback around € 160 (used)

The New York journalist, author and pro-cannabis activist Steven Hager (born 1951) should be known to hip-hoppers as the scriptwriter of the 1984 Hollywood flick "Beat Street". In the same year he published the book "Hip-Hop / The Illustrated History of Break Dancing, Rap Music and Graffiti", which quickly became a cult object within the scene. Why? Quite simply because the original publisher (St. Martins Press) did not believe in the book and after the first edition of only a few hundred copies simply stopped production. The original books are accordingly rare and in good condition can cost up to several hundred euros! On the photos you can see one of the numerous bootlegs (from my collection) that members of the well-known b-boy formation "The Rocksteady Crew" sold to hip-hop heads worldwide in the early 1990s. Fortunately, if you don't have the change you need for an original edition, you can now download the book as an eBook for a few euros.

What makes this book particularly valuable is certainly the accurate way in which the author tells the origins of the individual elements of hip-hop culture (graffiti, rap, b-boying ...): In addition to numerous images, you will find interviews here with scene pioneers like Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, Cold Crush Brothers, The Rockwell Association, Kool Herc and others. Nothing out of the ordinary might be thought by some. But what is special about the interviews is that many of the artists were still far from their career peak when the lines were written. In addition, when the book was written (circa 1982-1984), the scene was less than ten years old, apart from the even older graffiti culture. So the whole thing was still "fresh as a dew" and that is exactly what makes this book very authentic. Definitely a "must have" for everyone who deals with the history of hip-hop!

Hip-Hop: The original book is extremely rare and quite expensive.

Joe Conzo / Johan Kugelberg: Born in the Bronx (A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip-Hop)
Category: Photo book / US hip-hop story

Publisher: Edel, Rockbuch ISBN: 978-3941376168 Price: € 9.99 (paperback)

The book "Born in the Bronx" is a cooperation between the US-American author and curator Johan Kugelberg and the hip-hop photographer Joe Conzo from the "Home of Hip-Hop", the New York Bronx. Conzo, whose mother was a well-known community activist in the Bronx, went to the same school as hip-hop pioneer Curtis Fisher aka Grandmaster Caz. This is how Conzo came into contact with the emerging hip-hop movement in the late 1970s. The two became friends and so the young Joe, who was enthusiastic about taking pictures from early childhood, became the "house and yard photographer" of the then newly founded and now legendary rap crew "The Cold Crush Brothers". He accompanies his new friends to every gig in New York’s five districts, and he diligently pressed the trigger on every occasion when he watched other artists at work.

Countless historically important and photographically brilliant snapshots by artists such as The Treacheous Three, The Cold Crush Brothers, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, The Fantastic Romantic Freaks, to name just a few, were created in this way. The book was also supplemented with many handmade and meanwhile extremely rare hip-hop flyers by the late artist Buddy Esquire. But also the written word is not neglected in Born in the Bronx and you will find contributions from Afrika Bambaataa, Popmaster Fabel, LA Sunshine and others. The heart of the true fan opens up and I can warmly recommend this excellent read to anyone who is enthusiastic about the genesis of American hip-hop!

Born in the Bronx: The photographer Joe Conzo comes from the environment of the legendary Cold Crush Brothers.

Curtis Jackson: 50 Cent - Dealer, Rapper, Millionaire
Category: Autobiography

Publisher: Koch / Hannibal, ISBN: 3-85445-266-7, price: € 9.99

The New York rapper and entrepreneur 50 Cent aka Curtis James Jackson III is known to the public for hits like "In da Club", "P.I.M.P" and "AYO Technology". The man grew up in poor conditions in the Jamaica Queens district of his grandparents' house in the 1970s. When he was a child, his mother was killed and the teenager Jackson made his way through the dangerous streets of New York as a crack dealer. He is now a multi-million dollar entrepreneur who brings music, clothing, headphones, drinks and other products to men, women and children around the world.

In his autobiography 50 Cent describes his rise from an orphan to a successful record mogul. Could be interesting, I thought at first, but unfortunately my personal expectations were not met. Because on around 260 pages the already well-known and already filmed (Get Rich or Die Tryin 2005) life story is rather unemotional and unfortunately “boiled up” for my taste far too unreflected. I miss the (vulnerable) person Curtis Jackson in this book. The author is too anxious to maintain his public image of the heartless and unstoppable climber with a gangster past. Text sample: “I didn't know what this wanker was up to. So I told Markie to go home and get some money I had stashed in the safe. I also told him to bring the money from the ground floor. Markie knew that this really meant, "Bring my Mac especially with you." I would have been particularly interested in the early musical influences 50 Cent had. In the past, he has often proven that men really have taste when selecting the tracks for their mixtapes. But nothing there, music is unfortunately a minor matter in this book. The man is much smarter and wiser than he has ever shown in public. I would have loved to have found out more about that in this book, too.

And so this book is actually more recommendable to those who are not yet familiar with Curtis Jackson's gangster past. Why this book should not be missing from any collection, even if its content does not correspond to my personal thirst for knowledge, is because it tells the life of a successful musician and producer and gives some tips on what to watch out for on his way to fame, or maybe better omits.

50 Cent: Made the rise from criminal youth to multimillionaire.

Curtis Fisher: Written! The Lyrics of Grandmaster Caz
Category: rap lyrics book

Publisher: The Lyric Book Company, ISBN: 978-0-9570257-7-6, price about 20 € (used)

The MC and DJ Curtis Fisher alias Grandmaster Caz from the New York Bronx is a pioneer from the very beginning and probably the most underrated lyric poet of rap music. The very first worldwide rap hit, "Rappers Delight" by Sugarhill Gang from 1979, was largely from his pen. Unfortunately, he has neither received the corresponding author credits for this work, nor has he ever received a single cent for it. While Caz is a celebrated legend in the hip-hop underground, his career as a record star unfortunately never really wanted to "ignite". But because insiders like the rapper Ice T know that Grandmaster Caz is a brilliant copywriter, he took part in the documentary "The Art of Rap" published in 2012 and composed a complete rap text in front of the camera, which he performed immediately afterwards .

This and the fact that Caz is known for his numerous rhyming books, written in perfect handwriting, inspired the English Lyric Book Verlag to publish the rapper's most important works and texts in one book. "Written! The Lyrics of Grandmaster Caz ”shows original text sheets from classics like“ I'm Caz ”,“ Yvette ”or Cold Crush Brothers Routines like“ Other MCs ”and much more on 130 pages. This is certainly not a book for the average mainstream rap fan, but an old school hip-hop head like me really gets the heart out of such a print. The best and cheapest way to get this guide is directly from the publisher's website.

Written !: Grandmaster Caz is famous for his numerous rhyming books.

Gerry Bachmann: The Hip-Hop Cookbook - Four Elements Cooking
Category: Cookbook

Publisher: From here to Fame Publishing, ISBN: 978-3-937946-38-2, price: € 16.95

One of the pioneers of German hip-hop par excellence, namely Gerry Bachmann alias Cutmaster GB from Frankfurt, is the maker of the "Hip-Hop Cookbook". “A hip-hop cookbook, then? What is that supposed to be, if you please? ”Some readers will surely think. But the concept of the book is not that absurd. The author used his contacts to give us exciting insights into the apartments and kitchens of hip-hop pioneers from all over the world. On 112 pages we are presented by artists such as the dancer Crazy Legs (Rock Steady Crew / New York City), the German graffiti legend Can Two, the rapper MC Tash from Australia, the DJ pioneer Grandmixer DXT (New York / US) or even writer Shiro from Japan presents her favorite recipes.

Sure, these people are not star chefs, but because all of the protagonists are artists, many of the recipes are appropriately creative and the finished dishes, above all, are very tasty. And so there are cooking instructions for Jamaican Jerk Rub Chicken, Lobster in Beer, Indian Jungle Spice Lamp Curry and other goodies. In addition, the author serves biographies and interesting background stories and not to forget great photos from around 40 years of global hip-hop history. My purchase recommendation for everyone who loves these two things: Authentic hip-hop and delicious food. Bon Rap-petit!

George DuBose: The Big Book of Hip-Hop Photographpy
Category: Photo tape

Publisher: Wonderland Publishing, ISBN: 978-0988923461, price: € 48.15

The New Yorker George DuBose is one of the pioneers of hip-hop photography. At the beginning of the eighties he was already documenting some artists in this creative scene with his camera. There is almost no well-known artist from this time that DuBose did not have in front of his lens. The result is world-famous pictures of people like Afrika Bambaataa, The Notorious B.I.G, Man Parrish, Run DMC, The New York City Breakers and others. Apart from his work as a freelance photographer, DuBose was art director of the extremely influential Cold Chillin label in the 80s / 90s. Many of the most famous sound carrier covers in rap history are thanks to the author's creativity.

The “Big Book of Hip-Hop Photographpy” contains numerous previously unpublished pics from these sessions. Including artists like MC Shan, Biz Markie, Big Daddy Kane, Graig G, The Genius (GZA / Wu-Tang Clan), Kool G Rap & Polo, Marley Marl, Mr Magic, Roxanne Shante, Masta Ace, Grand Daddy IU, Juice Crew, X-Clan. In addition, DuBose often tells in a very humorous way what went on in the background of these photo sessions. For everyone who grew up with the hip-hop artists mentioned above, this booklet is a must buy.

The Big Book of Hip-Hop Photographpy: George DuBose is a pioneer of hip-hop photography.

David Toop: Rap Attack (African Jive to Global Hip-Hop)
Category: (US) hip-hop history

Publisher: Heyne (1994) ISBN-10: 3453082109 Price: approx. 25 € (used)

“Rap Attack” by the English author David Toop has long been a standard work in hip-hop literature. Just like Steven Hager's work, “Rap Attack” first found its way into local bookstores in 1984.As the title suggests, the focus of Toop's work is not on the full range of hip-hop disciplines, but clearly on rap music.

In this book you will find excellent interviews with pioneers in the scene, for example Grandmaster Flash, Mr. Biggs (Soul Sonic Force), the Fearless Four or The Last Poets. In contrast to Steven Hager's reading, Toop was less about the origins of the scene in the Bronx and Harlem, but about the roots of the new genre in the Afro-American musical tradition of gospel, blues, soul music and the US radio DJs of the 50s and 60s. And the author mastered this job with flying colors! The current third edition of the classic "Rap Attack 3" has also been supplemented with chapters that extend into 1999 in terms of content. This reading material is the ultimate rap attack in a positive sense and belongs in every well-stocked hip-hop household!

Rap Attack: A standard work in hip-hop literature.


So this is it, the first tour of my hip-hop book arsenal. As already mentioned several times, there are countless publications on this topic, some of which would certainly also have belonged here, but on the one hand that would go beyond the scope of this article and on the other hand I have a second part in the back of my mind that needs to be worked out. Certainly there are alternative opinions to the books discussed, that's just the way it is. Of course, I am very interested in your comments on the article or book tips.

I would like to read your comments in the comments section of this article and exchange ideas with you, so feel free to hit the keyboard! Hip-Hop, you don`t stop!