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Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop Paperback – February 24, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Boston Globe
“[Bradley] lays out a nuanced, academically rigorous argument that the best hip-hop deserves attention as genuine artistry.... He traces the word rhythm from the Greek rheo, or flow. Biggie had flow; Jay-Z has flow. For an English professor, Adam Bradley got some flow of his own.”

Dallas Morning News
“Excellent.... Where so many hip-hop studies lean heavily on politics and sociology, Book of Rhymes is a welcome and thorough exploration of rap aesthetics that isn’t afraid to be learned.”

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
“As comfortable in the company of Jay-Z as he is with John Donne, Adam Bradley is a visionary critic, skillful and wise. His Book of Rhymes is a tour de force, brilliantly renovating hip hop criticism as he rescues the forgotten vanguard of American poetry.”

Cornel West
“Adam Bradley’s Book of Rhymes is a marvelous exploration into the poetic genius of rap and the cultural gravity of Hip Hop. His analysis is subtle, sophisticated, and soulful!”

Jeff Chang, editor, Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop
“Where some hear noise, Adam Bradley hears the past and future of poetics. With taste, precision, and style, Book of Rhymes explains the art of rap in ways as bold, lyrical, and imaginative as the art form itself. Heads and theorists will find much to love and argue with in this fine work.”

Schoolly D
“All I can say is wow—it was like somebody was reading my mind. So many books have been written about hip hop's history—that time and that magic—but if you don't get it from reading Book of Rhymes, then you're just not going to get it.”

Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
“Bradley delivers the intellectual dynamite with this astonishingly researched, passionately argued glove-across-the-face challenge to traditional hip hop scholarship. Superb on every level, a revelation and a joy to read.”

ColorLines
“Bradley’s book is ultimately successful, with a readable text that can engage diehard hip-hop heads, conventional poetry buffs or any combination of the two.”

About the Author

Adam Bradley, a Harvard PhD, is Assistant Professor of English Literature at Claremont McKenna College. He lives in Claremont, California.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Civitas Books (February 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465003478
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465003471
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Adam Bradley is a scholar of African American literature, a writer on black popular culture, and a New York Times best-selling author. His commentary has appeared on PBS, NPR, and C-SPAN as well as in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

Adam is the author or editor of several books, including Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop, The Anthology of Rap, Ralph Ellison's Three Days Before the Shooting. . ., and Ralph Ellison in Progress. Most recently, he collaborated with the rapper and actor Common on Common's memoir, the national best-seller One Day It'll All Make Sense.

Presently Adam is at work on several projects, including a book exploring the poetics of popular song. What unites Adam's work is his belief that the most powerful cultural expressions are equally the product of tradition and innovation. This vernacular process of fusing the inherited or even the imposed with the imagined helps explain the beauty we find in everything from a classical symphony to a gutbucket blues, from an epic poem to a rap freestyle.

Adam's work has garnered significant attention from scholars, critics, and readers alike. The New England Book Festival, the San Francisco Book Festival, and the Book of the Year Awards all honored The Anthology of Rap as one of the best anthologies of 2010. Both New York magazine and the Village Voice named it a Best Book of the Year. Three Days Before the Shooting. . . was named a Book to Watch For by Oprah's O Magazine, a Best Book of 2010 by The Root, and one of the year's best works of outsider fiction by NPR.

Adam was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and was home‐schooled by his grandparents until high school. He earned his BA at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, where he began working on Ralph Ellison's papers as a nineteen-year-old assistant to Ellison's literary executor, John Callahan. Adam earned his Ph. D. in English from Harvard University, studying with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Cornel West. He is currently an associate professor of English at the University of Colorado, Boulder where he teaches courses in African American literature and culture. He lives in Boulder with his wife and daughter.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Ivan Rott on December 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
In the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray, the author Oscar Wilde defended his and all literary works by stating that "there is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all." Condemned for his writings' homoerotic overtones, Wilde was publicly vilified and even imprisoned for his sexual orientation. Outspoken individuals like Allen Ginsberg and George Carlin famously received similar albeit less severe treatment for their expletive antics. A century after Wilde, rap music faces comparably harsh criticism for its explicit, aggressive, violent, misogynistic and, ironically to this analogy (both to Wilde and Ginsberg), homophobic rhymes. But like the diamond in the rough, below the surface of many of these lyrics lies profundity and value. After all, the culture that points the finger at rap is the very culture through which rap emerges - to describe, confront and reshape how we think, feel and live in this world.

In 2004, comedian Chris Rock performed an HBO special called Never Scared which was subsequently released on DVD and as a Grammy-winning CD. One of the highlights of this standup set was a segment called "Rap Stand Up", in which Rock professed his love for hip hop. Rock went on to lament the fact that while old school artists like Grandmaster Flash, Run-D.M.C. and Whodini could be "broken down intellectually", it was becoming increasingly difficult to "defend" new school emcees; he went on to mock rhymes like "I got hoes in different area codes" and "move, bitch, get out the way" by Ludacris. The questions then arise: What exactly constitutes the intellectuality that Rock was referring to? Can hip hop be valued as poetry and not just "beats and rhymes"?
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on June 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
Hip hop is poetry regardless of its beat and music connections: here a literary scholar and hip hop expert makes the case for the artistic seriousness of hip hop poetry, contending that rap may be the most revolutionary development in poetry since hip hop's birth in the South Bronx over thirty years ago. It argues the case for rap as a distinct literary tradition and makes for a fine pick for any collection strong in contemporary music or poetry discussions.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Cameron Conley Work on October 28, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm stll reading it but what I have read so far has showed me more about how certain emcees structure their rhymes. You'll get more understanding out of listening to Hip Hop when you read this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amy on December 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
Looking back at "the Humpty Dance" it's hard to take hip hop too seriously as a form of poetry... by reading this book, though, you'll see a good argument made for the seriousness of hip hop and rap; the true meaning and intensity of these lyrics. It gives good reasons as to why these are some of the most important developments in poetry in the last thirty years.
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By Amos on November 25, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Adam Bradley has a total mastery of his subject matter. Most of the arguments in this book will be familiar to any avid rap fan, but Bradley crystallizes these concepts in useful ways, and provides interesting depth of analysis. Additionally, he brings an expert understanding of poetic form and formal concepts that will be new and useful to any rap listener who is interested in understanding the formal elements that make rap brilliant.
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By Matt Emonson on September 22, 2014
Format: Paperback
I tell all rappers I know and work with to read this book. It presents a proper dissection of the poetics in an art form our culture often struggles to explain or understand. Also Bradley's Love affair with Biggie throughout the book really drives home a genuine personal connection. Refreshing and totally recommended to anyone who values rap as something that's important to them.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Sam White on July 21, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is really great. Hip-hop fans will love it because Adam Bradley does a great job conveying his love of the music and its artistry. One really nice thing about the book is that Bradley covers a wide range of hip-hop styles and sub-genres. Folks who don't much about hip-hop will also love it because Bradley uses traditional literary categories to explain the creativity of hip-hop artists and the meaning of their songs. I think that this book could easily work in an introduction to literature class too because it shows how hip-hop illustrates many of the same traits as poetry. What is really cool about this book is that you learn a lot about poetry even though it does not really come across as an academic or scholarly book.

Whie the book is great, readers interested in the social and historical context of hip-hop will need to look to Jeff Chang's Can't Stop, Won't Stop, Tricia Rose's Black Noise, and other books. Nonetheless, I recommend this book highly. You will love it.
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By micah merendino on September 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I don't consider myself a reader because I never find a book in interested in! I love to rap and want to be an emcee so this book has helped form me as an artist and will always continue teaching me more and more about the poetics of hip hop! Thank you Adam Bradley
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