Cover image for The anthology of rap
The anthology of rap
Publication Information:
New Haven : Yale University Press, c2010.
Physical Description:
xlvii, 867 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
1978-1984: the Old School -- 1985-1992: the Golden Age -- 1993-1999: Rap Goes Mainstream -- 2000-2010: New Millenium Rap -- Lyrics for further study.
Rap has emerged as one of the most influential cultural forces of our time. In this work, the editors demonstrate that rap is also a wide reaching and vital poetic tradition born of beats and rhymes. This pioneering anthology brings together more than three hundred lyrics written over thirty years, from the "old school" to the "golden age" to the present day. Rather than aim for encyclopedic coverage, the editors render through examples the richness and diversity of rap's poetic tradition. They feature classic lyrics that helped define the genre as well as lesser known gems. Both a fan's guide and a resource for the uninitiated, this book showcases the inventiveness and vitality of rap's lyrical art, also providing an overview of rap poetics and the forces that shaped each period in rap's historical development.--From publisher description.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 782.421649 ANT 1 1
Book 782.421649 ANT 1 1

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From the school yards of the South Bronx to the tops of the Billboard charts, rap has emerged as one of the most influential musical and cultural forces of our time. In The Anthology of Rap , editors Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois explore rap as a literary form, demonstrating that rap is also a wide-reaching and vital poetic tradition born of beats and rhymes.

This pioneering anthology brings together more than three hundred rap and hip-hop lyrics written over thirty years, from the "old school" to the "golden age" to the present day. Rather than aim for encyclopedic coverage, Bradley and DuBois render through examples the richness and diversity of rap's poetic tradition. They feature both classic lyrics that helped define the genre, including Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five's "The Message" and Eric B. & Rakim's "Microphone Fiend," as well as lesser-known gems like Blackalicious's "Alphabet Aerobics" and Jean Grae's "Hater's Anthem."

Both a fan's guide and a resource for the uninitiated, The Anthology of Rap showcases the inventiveness and vitality of rap's lyrical art. The volume also features an overview of rap poetics and the forces that shaped each period in rap's historical development, as well as a foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and afterwords by Chuck D and Common. Enter the Anthology to experience the full range of rap's artistry and discover a rich poetic tradition hiding in plain sight.

Author Notes

Adam Bradley is associate professor of English at the University of Colorado and the author of Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip-Hop and Ralph Ellison in Progress . He is also co-editor of Ralph Ellison's unfinished second novel, Three Days Before the Shooting.   Andrew DuBois is associate professor of English at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the author of Ashbery's Forms of Attention . He is also co-editor of Close Reading: The Reader.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

English professors Bradley and DuBois make history in this rock-solid collection of hundreds of thoughtfully selected lyrics of recorded rap music produced between the late 1970s and now. For fans, this is an obvious treasure. For skeptical listeners and readers, this mega-anthology strips away rap's performance elements and allows the language itself to pulse, break, spin, and strut in poems of audacity, outrage, insight, sweetness, and nastiness. Here is meter and rhyme, distillation, metaphor, misdirection, leaps of imagination, appropriation, improvisation, and a vivid vocabulary that can be explicit, offensive, funny, dumb, and transcendent. In their thorough and energetic introduction, Bradley and DuBois offer a concise history of rap and a keen discussion of its aesthetics, with an emphasis on written lyrics. Proceeding chronologically, from The Old School, 1978-84, to The Golden Age, 1985-92; Rap Goes Mainstream, 1993-99; and New Millennium Rap, they analyze each movement and profile each artist or group, from Kurtis Blow to Grandmaster Flash, Sugarhill Gang, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, NWA, Queen Latifah, Common, Lil' Kim, Outkast, 2Pac, the Wu-Tang Clan, Eve, and legions more. Electrifying.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

In the essay that gives this collection its title, Ross explains: "I have always wanted to talk about classical music as if it were popular music and popular music as if it were classical." Over the course of 19 greatest hits culled mostly from his dozen-plus years as The New Yorker's music critic, Ross consistently performs this delicate balancing act. Though the bulk of the book examines classical work both historical and contemporary, Ross veers effortlessly from Mozart to Radiohead, from Kurt Cobain to Brahms, bringing a pop fan's enthusiasm to the composers and treating the rock stars seriously as musicians. Most of the essays deal with a single subject, whether it's a study of Verdi's (beloved if not always respected) operas or an account of several performances by the latter-day wandering minstrel Bob Dylan. Some of the most memorable, though, tackle broader themes, like the explosion of classical music study in China or the ways technology affects music, with an impressive but never showy blend of historical reportage and thoughtful analysis. Ross - the author of "The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century," which won a 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award - travels across continents with the Icelandic dancepop star Bjork, and in the resulting profile, he recounts the singer's dismissal of her classical training as "all this retro, constant Beethoven and Bach bollocks." The triumph of "Listen to This" is that Ross dusts off music that's centuries old to reveal the passion and brilliance that's too often hidden from a contemporary audience. It's a joy for a pop fan or a classical aficionado. THE ANTHOLOGY OF RAP Edited by Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois. Yale University, $35. It's hard to believe that after more than 30 years on the charts, rap still generates so much hostility from so many listeners. In some ways, this outrage is the greatest testament to the music's power. Fortunately, there's an easy response to critics who claim anyone could string together a bunch of words and call it music: "Oh, yeah? Let's hear you try." With the mammoth "Anthology of Rap," Bradley and DuBois - professors of English at the University of Colorado and the University of Toronto, respectively - build a solid case for the achievements of hip-hop lyrics as poetry. The collection traces hip-hop's rhymes from the rudimentary cadences of the old school to the high-wire verbal gymnastics of the Notorious B.I.G., Eminem and beyond. The "Anthology" serves several functions: it's a repository of significant lyrics (and some significant errors - but even those demonstrate just how complex this stuff can be); a history of the music by eras; and an encyclopedia of performers, with a brief, well-written biography for each. As with all printed song lyrics, it's crucial to remember that these words were intended not to be read but to be heard (though as Bradley and DuBois point out, these particular rhymes "have little in the way of melody or harmony to compensate for a poor lyrical line"). Stilt, this landmark work chronicles an earth-shattering movement with deep roots. Leave it to Public Enemy's Chuck D to point out, in the afterword, that the first thing Thomas Edison did when he invented the phonograph was to record himself reciting a rhyme. SOUL MINING A Musical Life. By Daniel Lanois with Keisha Kalfin. Faber & Faber, $26. Lanois has produced records for Bob Dylan, U2, Peter Gabriel and Willie Nelson. Neil Young (a fellow Canadian) titled his latest album "Le Noise" in his honor. Don't expect much, however, in the way of celebrity gossip from Lanois's impressionistic memoir. When he recounts his time in the studio with these superstars, the language tends to turn both technical and mystic: "Harmonic interplay is a result of a collision of ingredients." But a three-page interlude on the making of U2's "Beautiful Day" gives a sense of the exhilarating rush that results when a song suddenly clicks. And really, how can you expect anyone to explain how a Bob Dylan record gets made? Lanois has a signature sound that's often described as "atmospheric" or "spacious," so perhaps it's no surprise that "Soul Mining" is at least as much about the locations of his work as it is about the sessions. Beginning with his youth in a small town in Quebec, he ventures to New Orleans, rural England, Jamaica and elsewhere. "The mountain villages of Oaxaca had offered me the symphony of the bells," he writes. "Now Berlin was bringing me the street-car train symphony." Full of aphorisms and even practical advice (keep notes, make charts), "Soul Mining" illustrates the ways in which life experiences - motorcycle repair, a butcher shop, the floor in a Mexican hotel room - add up to individual creativity. "I am not a stylist," Lanois writes. "I am a child of God, of my mother, of the values that guide my work." FAB An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney. By Howard Sounes. Da Capo, $29.95. Even a reporter as dogged as Sounes has a hard time breaking new ground on a Beatle. The big reveal in "Down the Highway," his 2001 biography of Bob Dylan, was proof of Dylan's secret wife and child. In "Fab" the headline grabber is extensive detail on Paul McCartney's miserable marriage to, and exorbitant divorce settlement with, Heather Mills, although the most explanation Sounes provides for their relationship is the theory, from a cousin of McCartney's, that the sex was good. The first half of "Fab" offers yet another retelling of the musician's youth and his years with the greatest band of all time. At this point, most of Sounes's prominent sources have written books of their own, and the picture of McCartney as ambitious, brilliant and sometimes annoying is familiar, "Fab" lifts off, though, in 1967, with the introduction of its most interesting character - the rock photographer Linda Eastman, who set her sights on Paul and determined to marry him even before they had met. Eastman was truly the great love of McCartney's life, and she gave him the stability and boundless support he needed, though Sounes's portrayal of her is complicated, fascinating in its contradictions. "Almost everybody interviewed for this book who knew Linda personally spoke well of her," Sounes writes, "yet people in the media . . . found Linda a gauche, abrasive woman lacking charm." McCartney's post-Beatle journey - his struggle for some sense of family and normalcy, while also amassing inconceivable fortunes - is the less glamorous but more satisfying part of "Fab." It's too bad Sounes minimizes McCartney's surprisingly contemplative recent albums in favor of gossip; they make a far worthier end to McCartney's own long and winding road. Alan Light is the director of programming for the public television series "Live From the Artists Den."

Choice Review

Beats plus rhymes equals rap. Take away the beats, and one is left with poetry. Though it is certainly not a lesser artistic expression, poetry is not rap. Thus, the title of this compendium of rap lyrics is a bit problematic. Covering more than three decades of rap, from Afrika Bambaataa and Kurtis Blow to Mos Def and T.I., the volume includes lyrics from some of the most influential rappers and also from less-known rappers (e.g., Immortal Technique, Little Brother, Binary Star). Each rapper is afforded a concise introduction that highlights his or her contributions as a lyricist. Bradley (English, Univ. of Colorado) and DuBois (English, Univ. of Toronto) divide the anthology into four sections: "The Old School," "The Golden Age," "Rap Goes Mainstream," "New Millennium Rap." Each corresponds with a significant epoch of rap and begins with a thoughtful introductory essay. Yet throughout one wonders about the need for 700-plus pages of rap lyrics. When heard (with beats), Lil Wayne's "Dr. Carter" is phenomenal; when stripped of the beats and presented in text, the song deflates. Doubtless, this collection will be useful for those seeking the exact words of songs. But without the beats, rap is no longer rap. Summing Up: Recommended. With reservations. Public and comprehensive academic collections. R. Walsh Trinity College

Library Journal Review

The importance of virtuosity at wordplay becomes abundantly clear in the rich vocabulary of rap lyrics. In Bradley's previous Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop, he dissects the poetic structures in rap music, contextualizing the genre within the large canon of poetry. Here, Bradley and DuBois (English, Univ. of Toronto at Scarborough) expand upon this effort by reflecting on the history of rap music and its growing canon of lyrics. The anthology is organized around four eras of rap: old-school, the golden age, mainstream, and the new millennium. Within each of these sections, individual artists are identified for both their artistic influence and cultural impact. VERDICT Functioning as a rap reader, the anthology is largely a collection of lyrics. However, those uninterested in poetical analysis may read it as a chronology of rap that highlights significant figures in its short history and offers a window into how rappers harmonize the world through a distinct form of self-expression. [Previewed in "25 Reasons Why Academic Publishing Is Sexier Than You Think," BookSmack! 7/15/10.]-Joshua Finnell, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.