Written, Word: Hip-Hop's Salad Days
Boogie Down Reflections
If hip-hop only attracted DJs, rappers, breakers, and taggers, it might have quickly disappeared; in the '70s, those activities were largely ephemeral, leaving little in the way of a permanent record. Born in the Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip-Hop (Rizzoli New York; hardcover, $45) instead tells the story of hip-hop's pre-'80s "baby steps" through the work of photographer Joe Conzo and party-flyer designer Buddy Esquire. The scrapbook-style book (edited, curiously, by punk historian Johan Kugelberg) also includes essays from Afrika Bambaataa, JDL and Grandmaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers, Popmaster Fabel, and others, as well a Bronx history timeline by Can't Stop Won't Stop author Jeff Chang. Robert Moses, eat your heart out.
Any b-boy or -girl can quote from the 1983 film Wild Style but how many can explain why the mural from the climactic East River Amphitheatre scene is completely different than the one that leading man Zoro (Lee Quinones) paints there in the scene immediately prior? Director Charlie Ahearn's Wild Style: The Sampler (powerHouse; hardcover, $35) breaks down all the behind-the-scenes twists that resulted in the creation of hip-hop's most pivotal film. In addition to Ahearn's own crystal-clear recollections, The Sampler offers first-person accounts from Quinones, co-writer Fab Five Freddy, and Grandmaster Caz, among others, as well as Ahearn's own brilliant photographs. A to the K? A to the muthafucking Z!
An expanded version of 2005's self-published Rakim Told Me Check the Technique (
Villard; softcover, $16.95) represents former XXL "Classic Material" columnist Brian Coleman's latest attempt at penning liner notes for every classic rap album from the early '80s to the mid-'90s. While some choices are odd (no Gang Starr albums make the cut, but DAS EFX's Dead Serious does), Coleman delivers the straight dope on everything from the Geto Boys' gruesome We Can't Be Stopped album cover to how Kurt Cobain's suicide altered the course of The Roots' Do You Want More?!!!??! LP. Classic toilet-reading material. More On This Book