’s “The Most Essential Hip-Hop Books You Need To Read” List

Posted: January 12, 2014 by ericbernsen in Music, News, Uncategorized
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In a world in which digital news and social media updates dominate our lives, many people forget how important books are in preserving and documenting our history and culture. Although this concept can be applied universally, it bears repeating when it comes to the genre of hip-hop music. With new music flooding the Internet each and every day, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle and forget about albums that may have just been released a few months ago. Books can help in remembering the material with the highest quality, replay value, as well as the bodies of work that will forever have an impact on the hip-hop culture. After reading (and creating) numerous best of 2013 lists, the folks over at have provided some much needed variety and released a list (not in order) of the “Most Essential Hip-Hop Books You Need To Read”. It is a pretty solid set of selections and I know I will be bookmarking this for future reference. You can view the list after the jump, which is accompanied by a brief description (written by Brad Clarke) of each book. 

The Wu Tang Manual

“The Wu-Tang Clan started off with a master plan, and the master behind that plan was the RZA. So it’s only right that the Wu’s renowned producer shares his philosophy and in-depth knowledge of the group he architected. Complete with profiles of all the members, wild stories, and lyric explanations, The Wu-Tang Manual is the perfect compendium for anyone seeking to learn more about one of the most beloved groups in hip-hop history.”

Can’ Stop, Won’t Stop: A History Of The Hip-Hop Generation

“If you’re looking for information on hip-hop culture, Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop Won’t Stop is absolutely the place to go. Chang starts at the culture’s roots in the 1960s and looks at it not as a quirk or an outlier in American history, but rather as an American institution. It’s a great resource for both the knowledgeable and inexperienced.”


“Jay Z may not be humble, but he is honest, and honestly, he’s as much a fan of his own lyrics as anyone else is. The fact that Decoded can serve as an autobiography as well as a curious hip-hop head’s lyrical reference book is a testament to exactly how open Jay Z is in his rhymes. If it’s possible for Jay Z to be underappreciated, this book will truly make fans see his genius.”

And It Don’t Stop: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism Of The Last 25 Years

“Whether you aspire to write about hip-hop one day or simply enjoy taking in the culture, And It Don’t Stop is a must-read. It is a collection of essays that put you right in the room with hip-hop royalty from the ‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00s. The book lets you follow a surprisingly perfectionist LL Cool J on tour at 23, and actually lets you experience an interaction between the late, great Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. It’s poetry in motion and a privilege to read.”

Check The Technique: Liner Notes For Hip-Hop Junkies

“Check the Technique is a collection of interviews that chronicle the recording of 36 classic hip-hop albums. Some of the albums profiled include the Beastie Boys’ Check Your Head, Common’s Resurrection, and the Fugees’ The Score. There’s something for everyone here, as the book takes the reader and places them right in the recording studio with their favorite acts.”

Ego Trip’s Book Of Rap Lists

“Frequently dubbed as “the greatest hip-hop book ever,” Ego Trip’s Book of Rap List is a must for anyone claiming the title of hip-hop head. Featuring interviews, images and fun facts all in list form, this book is a big part of the reason why we’re so obsessed with lists. We were going to give you “The top 10 lists in Ego Trip’s Book of Rap Lists,” but it’s impossible to narrow down.”

Who Shot Ya? Three Decades Of Hip-Hop Photography

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, how would that divide up into bars spit by your favorite rappers? No matter because Who Shot Ya? does the heavy lifting for you with stunning and powerful imagery of some of hip-hop’s greatest personalities. Recognizing the importance of keeping a visual history, Who Shot Ya? is photographer Ernie Paniccioli’s nearly 30-year love letter to hip-hop, ranging from Grandmaster Flash to Eminem.”


“Before there was Death Row Records, there was Ruthless Records. Co-founded by Eazy-E and Jerry Heller, the Los Angeles music label was the launching pad for Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and the rest of N.W.A. A memoir of sorts by Heller, Ruthless is a firsthand account of one of the most important labels in hip-hop history, and showcases the uglier side of the music industry. Several rappers may tell you that what Jerry Heller says should be taken with a grain of salt, but this is a fascinating look at the early days of Eazy-E and N.W.A. that predates Dr. Dre’s meteoric rise to solo stardom.”

Life And Def

“You can’t talk hip-hop history without talking Def Jam. The seminal hip-hop label, Def Jam was home to acts like the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, LL Cool J and Run-DMC, and would go on to host Redman, Method Man, Jay Z, Nas, and countless others. Co-founder Russell Simmons’s book follows his rise to prominence in the music industry, which is synonymous with the rise of hip-hop. Uncle Rush also recounts his early days of hustling, and his impact on comedy and fashion with his various ventures.”

Rollin’ With Dre: The Unauthorized Account: An Insider’s Tale Of The Rise, Fall, And Rebirth Of West Coast Hip-Hop

“Rollin’ With Dre is a first-hand account by Bruce Williams, a man who was employed as Dr. Dre’s personal assistant, confidant, and self-described “man next to the man.” The book sheds light on one of hip-hop’s most famous — and simultaneously elusive — figures, extolling Dre’s virtues and candidly pointing out his flaws. It’s an engrossing and compelling account that will make you look differently at the Good Doctor.”


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