Gone 'Til November
In Gone ‘Til November, Lil Wayne documents his time as an inmate at one of America’s most infamous prisons: Riker’s Island. Beginning with the first day of his eight month sentence, Wayne’s journal chronicles his daily attempt to “find joy in hell” and the psychological toll of incarceration. Unfiltered, earnest, and at times harrowing, Gone ‘Til November is a portrait of an artist reckoning with the loss of their freedom. An unconventional yet revealing memoir, Wayne’s book is an intimate glimpse into the heart and mind of one of hip-hop’s titans.
DJ Khaled’s bestseller is an inspirational and fervent guide on how to “secure the bag” and find success without compromising your authenticity. Comprised of memories, advice, and reflections on the highs and lows of his groundbreaking career in the entertainment industry, Khaled’s insights are equal parts optimistic and practical. As Khaled writes his introduction, The Keys reminds readers that, “you can be Oprah, you can be Barack Obama, you can be whoever you want to be, but you got to get there by being yourself.” Uplifting and refreshingly sincere, Khaled’s words will motivate even the coldest cynic.
Throughout the candid pages of Decoded, Jay-Z (aka Shawn Corey Carter) reflects on his past, his craft as an artist, and his rise to fame. From paying homage to those who came before him—Notorious B.I.G., Run-DMC, Tupac Shakur—to the ups and downs of celebrity, Decoded also gives readers an in-depth look at his creative process as a lyricist. An inarguable icon and innovator, Jay-Z materfully intertwines the history of hip-hop with his own while shining a light on the cultural and political moments that have shaped him as an artist and individual. Decoded will undoubtedly give you a deeper appreciation of his work.
The Tao of Wu
An illuminatingly poetic memoir by Wu-Tang Clan’s the RZA, The Tao of Wu is a “book of Wisdom” comprised of “songs, parables, meditations, and [personal] experiences to help manifest… truth in your life.” The RZA couples sage advice alongside memories of his childhood and teen years in New York City (Staten Island and Brooklyn to be exact) and the Wu-Tang Clan’s formation. The Tao of Wu reminds its audience that “in every story and life, there’s a call.” Each page will urge you to look within.
Contact High isn’t just a chronological visual history of hip-hop. It’s a profound and intimate portrait of a generation of storytellers, dreamers, and visionaries. An immersive compilation of photographs, historical documents, and anecdotes, this seamlessly breathtaking book offers its audience an expansive look at hip-hop’s landscape and its undeniable impact on art, culture, and politics. Featuring greats like Grand Mixer D. St., Roxanne Shanté, Big Daddy Kane and pivotal voices like Aaliyah, Lil Kim, and Kendrick Lamar, Contact High celebrates the whole of hip-hop, not just its giants. Each page proves that “photographs, like music, are imprinted onto our collective consciousness,” that hip-hop itself is “transformative.”
Hip Hop America
In the opening pages of Hip Hop America, Nelson George writes, “Hip hop… [is] the spawn of many things.” As the book progresses, George traces the cultural, historical, and creative origins of a quintessential expression of the American psyche. A moving and enlightening survey of the genre, Hip Hop America digs deep into the expansive history and its impact on contemporary culture. A must-read for music lovers and cultural critics alike, George’s book illustrates why hip-hop is synonymous with the American experience and why its become the soundtrack of the zeitgeist.
The James Brown Reader
In order to fully appreciate hip-hop, one must appreciate its predecessor, soul, and its legends. Nelson George and Alan Leeds’ homage to James Brown is an enveloping compilation of writings that celebrate the King of Soul. Each piece reveals how “Brown bumped against barricades of whiteness” with revolutionary cuts like “Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud” and rebelled against the conventions of respectability politics with hits like “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” helped him become a world-renowned voice of his generation and enduring legend. The James Brown Reader is an inarguably captivating exploration of an American icon and his legacy.
Hip Hop Honeys
Hip Hop Honeys celebrates a number of the women who are far too overlooked and forgotten by fans and the industry they’ve helped build. The vibrant photographs within Brian Finke’s book flips the patriarchal script of the genre by visually showcasing the importance of femme embodiment and how integral “hip hop honeys” have been the genre’s evolution. Despite the shadow of misogyny’s gaze and the entitlement of male MCs, the women who appear in these photos are a testimony of hip-hop’s roots as well as its future.
Hip Hop Matters
S. Craig Watkins
Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement by S. Craig Watkins opens with a titular lyric from De La Soul’s fourth LP. Within its pages, Watkin’s proves the countless ways that “the stakes is high” and how hip hop has become a mirror for a nation still grappling with the weight of its own history. Hip Hop Matters examines the the way politics, race, and class have shaped the genre’s narrative and how it continues to influence contemporary culture at large. As Watkin’s suggests, Hip Hop Matters reveals some of the most “compelling stories of our time” in a tangible and memorable way.
Like poetry and prose, hip-hop is a form of storytelling. Intertwined with the history of soul, the the political unrest of the 20th and 21st century, and the resilience of Black America, hip-hop—each song, hook, and backbeat—is more than just music. Hip-hop is a movement, a solace, a salve. Often heard from front stoops on a summer day, on the radio, or through the headphones of commuters on a crowded subway car, hip-hop’s presence is omniscient and its influence over culture, art, and politics is inescapable. From Run-DMC, Salt-N-Pepa, Tupac Shakur, and Queen Latifah to innovators like BbyMutha, Mykki Blanco, Tyler the Creator, and Cardi B, hip-hop is a testament to the power of narrative.
Featured image: Photo of Wu-Tang Clan Photo by Al Pereira/Michael via Getty