Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Old School Book Review

As the years pass by, reflections on the early years of hip hop in literature have started to become commonplace in your local book shop. From the creator of Wild Style, we have Charlie Ahearn's offering, Yes Yes Y'all, which is a seriously good read littered with copious amounts of photos of many ghetto celebrities of yesteryear as well as rare flyers of jams back in the day. The accounts are taken from interviews with people such as KK Rockwell, Lisa Lee, DJ Breakout, Bam, Afrika Islam, Henry Chalfont, Frosty Freeze (RIP), Lovebug Starski and many, many more.

The Birth of Graffiti by Jon Naar is a great book for real graffiti heads. This is a follow up to his previous The Faith of Graffiti (1974) which bypasses the usual route of books of this style whereas there are is no emphasis on big burners, masterpieces or any of the main 'stars' of graffiti. Instead Naar focuses on the early days of NYC writing (most of the photos were surplus to his original book so are from the same era) and presents the reader with shots of New York in the early Seventies and lets you breathe in and just soak up the decay and beauty of the city in fine detail.

Just out recently is Grandmaster Flash's The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash: My Life, My Beats - A Memoir which "offers a firsthand look at the early days of the hip hop revolution and documents his own musical journey, detailing his rise to stardom, financial disaster and cocaine addiction, and redemption with the love of family and friends".

Also available is Back in the Days by Jamel Shabazz, The Breaks: Stylin' and Profilin' 1982-1990 by Janette Beckman, Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-hop Generation by Jeff Chang and Hip Hop Files: Photographs 1979-1984 by Martha Cooper to name just some.

I'd love to what books you've read, good or bad. Or are you waiting in anticipation of a particular figure to drop his autobiography?


Anonymous said...

can't sop won't stop is the best hip hop historica bok i've come across - highl recommended!

great blog, btw. any 89-90-91 radio shows to post?

thanks gulu

Benzini said...

Thanks for the comments, 'Anonymous'.
I should read that book as it has had a lot of praise.

What particular "89-90-91 radio shows" are you after??

Anonymous said...


woudl loe to hear soem good ol' westwood and kiss fm max n day shows fom 91 would be very much appreciated!

great blog btw



the fuzz one book, "a bronx childhood" is definately worth picking up, loads of pics you won't have seen before, but the majority of the book is text about his writing memories, some tales in there.

he is also a much overlooked writer,as he didn't really feature in subway art or style wars.

But watching the extras on style wars i think iz the wiz mentions him as owning one of the lines.

he also has a new book out about his later writing exploits, in the late 70's early 80's.

mr chiba

Benzini said...

Hey JONNYCHIBA, thanks for the comments on the FUZZ ONE book. I've only seen it on Amazon so far. May have to investigate this one.

And Anonymous (leave ya name next time!) check out the Fat Lace blog as they've just posted one of my old 91 Westwood shows

jerome green said...

Hi Benzini,

Yo, these are the books that keep me going. Thank you for posting this. It's funny how the new kids don't want to hear about the real History. They just love their programmed Pop-Hop on the radio or iPod (sorry to be negative; still lotsa great new hip hop out there).

Here's what I've seen & read after experiencing it as only a suburban kid in Connecticut:

I remember all the late 70s hip hop, and I remember seeing Wild Style in the early 80s on some late night music show. It blew my mind. I have that on VHS and now DVD. (I also have the double-DVD of Style Wars. Everyone should see this documentary; it is very moving.)

I started my reading with Graf:

"Subway Art" by Martha Cooper & Henry Chalfant (I have the Art degree background; I love Graf).

"Spraycan Art" Henry Chalfant & James Prigoff

Then I read:

"Yes, Yes, Y'all" Charlie A. This is really my favorite. It's what I always knew was true but couldn't prove it because I didn't have the documentation (I just believed all this was happening through anecdotal evidence and limited stories from friends in the City).

"Black Noise" Tricia Rose. This is a very scholarly document; it is also very powerful (somewhat dated, but the history is sound).

"The VIBE History Of Hip Hop" seems like a coffee-table book, but it really covers most of the important events is an easy-to-digest style.

"Can't Stop Won't Stop" Jeff Chang, is the most recent book that I put in the "necessary knowledge" category. He obviously couldn't cover everyone (I would have liked some of my favorite artists to be included) because he chose the seminal events and the associated artists (otherwise the book would be 10 or more volumes). This is really a beautiful book, with excellent research.

Now I'm reading: "Total Chaos" edited by Jeff Chang. It is not as gripping, but it is deep.

For reference and for reading over and over I always come back to:

"Ego Trip's Book Of Rap Lists" This book is one of the most fun reads ever.

Thanks for the great work, Benzini.

Peace, Jerome

Benzini said...

Thanks for dropping some serious science there, Jerome.
Yep, I don't understand how the history of hip hop is just so criminally overlooked by the youth of today. At least in this history class everything is fun! Well, for the most part.

I agree that everyone should see Style Wars and probably those that follow this blog will have. The most moving part for me however, is the IZ THE WIZ revisit where he is now a full grown man and a very slight one at that. IZ says the most poignant words in that he would trade all his adventures in the yards to have his health back once again. A lifetime of fumes have affected him so much.

"Can't Stop Won't Stop" is one I really should read because as well as your review I have seen many other recommendations of this book.

And you really can't go wrong with "Ego Trip's Book Of Rap Lists" can you?! That is my bible right there.

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