Sunday, February 06, 2011

8471: The History Of Hip-Hip For $300.


‘Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey’ reveals a musical revolution

By Steve Jones, USA TODAY

Hip-hop now has a historical tome as bold and colorful as the larger-than-life people who built its history. Long before Jay-Z, Kanye West, Eminem or Lil Wayne ruled the billion-dollar-a-year industry, the path was paved by DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Grandwizard Theodore, LA Sunshine and Kurtis Blow.

Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey is a luxury, large-format book from ARIA Multimedia that traces the genesis, evolution and global influence of hip-hop culture since its humble beginnings in the New York City streets.

Given hip-hop’s influential 37-year history, “it needed to be celebrated in a size and scope that would be as impactful as the culture itself,” says editor in chief Jordan Sommers.

The 420-page, 16-pound opus is stuffed with hundreds of rare photos and 70 essays that cover 30 aspects of the culture and profile 40 icons, from Blow to Nicki Minaj, who “changed the game.” There are also more than 150 first-person accounts by participants in the movement.

“It was very important to us that this story wasn’t told by outsiders, but by the people themselves,” Sommers says. “The writers that we hired were, if not right smack in the middle of things from day one, people who had 15 to 20 years as documenters of hip-hop culture.”

The $300 book goes on sale Tuesday at A book launch Tuesday night at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles coincides with the premiere of an Odyssey-based exhibit on view through May 4. It boasts portraits, video, interactive mixing stations, Tupac Shakur’s handwritten lyrics, Everlast’s private hip-hop sneaker collection and iconic outfits.

Afrika Bambaataa, the South Bronx DJ and former gang leader whose block parties helped spawn the culture, is credited with giving hip-hop its name. He also identified the elements of the culture: DJ music, breakdancing, graffiti art and MCs.

“The book did a great job of going from the true school days to the now school,” says Bambaataa, who wrote the introduction. “It gave attention to all four elements and also the fifth element, which is the quest for knowledge. We hope this book will keep people looking at the culture.”

Russell Simmons, profiled as a game-changer who managed seminal stars Blow, Run-DMC and LL Cool J and who co-founded Def Jam Recordings, says the book not only documents hip-hop’s growth but also examines its global reach.

“People want to talk about how hip-hop has expanded into fashion or sneakers or soft drinks, but let’s talk about how there couldn’t be a President Barack Obama without hip-hop,” Simmons says. “Hip-hop culture is what tore down so many of the racial walls in this country that would have otherwise stood in his way.”

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