English professors Bradley and DuBois make history in this rock-solid collection of hundreds of thoughtfully selected lyrics of recorded rap music produced between the late 1970s and now. For fans, this is an obvious treasure. For skeptical listeners and readers, this mega-anthology strips away rap’s performance elements and allows the language itself to pulse, break, spin, and strut in poems of audacity, outrage, insight, sweetness, and nastiness. Here is meter and rhyme, distillation, metaphor, misdirection, leaps of imagination, appropriation, improvisation, and a “vivid vocabulary” that can be explicit, offensive, funny, dumb, and transcendent. In their thorough and energetic introduction, Bradley and DuBois offer a concise history of rap and a keen discussion of its aesthetics, with an emphasis on written lyrics. Proceeding chronologically, from “The Old School,” 1978–84, to “The Golden Age,” 1985–92; “Rap Goes Mainstream,” 1993–99; and “New Millennium Rap,” they analyze each movement and profile each artist or group, from Kurtis Blow to Grandmaster Flash, Sugarhill Gang, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, NWA, Queen Latifah, Common, Lil’ Kim, Outkast, 2Pac, the Wu-Tang Clan, Eve, and legions more. Electrifying. --Donna Seaman
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"'For the reader who's really interested in modern poetics a profitable week or three could be spent sitting with The Anthology of Rap.' (Will Self, The Times) '... groundbreaking... it makes the history, development and variety of the genre plain to see in vivid detail.' (Bernadine Evaristo, The Independent) 'Bradley and Dubois succeed in lucidly explaining how societal shifts have been reflected in rap lyrics... This book is a fitting tribute to a genre not far short of its fortieth anniversary and which was once dismissed as a passing fad.' (Geoff St Louis, Time Out)"