Clear your coffee table: you need room for Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey, a leather-bound beast of a book that chronicles the genre’s music, dance, fashion and stance from the early scratch DJs to modern-day Minaj.
Jordan Sommers’s beats’n’pieces bible tracks hip-hop’s move from the local to the global and encompasses all of its wild variety through snapshots, essays, portraiture and lists. Sections dedicated to the forty biggest “Game Changers” shine a light on everyone from Kurtis Blow in the past to will.i.am in the present (heads might worry that this Black Eyed Pea is the book’s final entry and the culture’s immediate future).
Whilst hip-hop fans will be familiar with the story, there’s no doubt they’ll get tasty new morsels from the book, like the photo of a naïve, knock-kneed LL Cool J – out-camped only by Snoop, wearing a frilly Burberry shower cap in a smoke-filled, chandeliered Lowrider.
Such pictures are the immediate pleasure here – other stand-outs include a beyond beautiful Lauryn Hill, a colour-popping Salt’N’Pepa and a fresh-to-death Doug E. Fresh – but the essays and interviews, with contributions from the industry’s greats, lend the book the authenticity that other hashed-together retrospectives lack. They’re detailed, opinionated and range from “Graffiti: Bombing All Lines” to “The Curious Case Of The White MC”, which looks at rappers with “minimal melanin”.
If you can stump up the steep £249.99 price tag, then sit back and marvel at hip-hop in all its glory, from the conscious (De La Soul) to the commercial (Will Smith), from street swagger (Run DMC) to femme flamboyant (Andre 3000), and from the Bronx (B-Boys) to the business (Jay-Z).
Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey is out now.