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The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-Hop Paperback – February 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: MTV Books (February 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416516328
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416516323
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #148,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Williams is not the first to take hip-hop diction and rhyme to the page and make beautiful stanzaic poetry (see everyone from Gil Scott-Heron to Thomas Sayers Ellis), but he creates, in this third book, a kind of "In Memorium" for hip-hop's redemptive promise, trying, as Tennyson did, to find light shining through the wreckage of hope. If this effort falls short of that great poem, the ambition behind it is not the less for it. Skip the self-mythologizing intro and launch right into the long opening serial poem, "NGH WHT": "BCH NGH. Gun trigga. Dick's bigga. Why/ fuck? Killer. Blood spiller. Mack/ truck. Bad luck, fuckin with this black buck./ Bigger Thomas, I promise. Leave a corpse in/ the furnace." The sly way in which the speaker simultaneously inhabits and repudiates male rap clichés and effects sonic sneak attacks (one hears "kill her" in "killer") gets worked out over 33 "chapters" of anywhere from three to 10 stanzas, giving a fierce, assured tour of hip-hop history and contradiction. There are six other, shorter serial poems, and the book's last third consists of verse "Journal Entries." Williams, who starred in Slam, has authored two previous books, s/he and said the shotgun to the head; both are uneven and contain long, ambitious pieces, but neither has a poem like "NGH WHT."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Williams is the guy. He has chosen a sublime path in the hip-hop world: yes, a "road less traveled." He is the prototype synthesizer between poetry and hip-hop, stage and page, rap and prose, funk and mythology, slam and verse. He is one of spoken-word poetry's most charismatic performance poets alongside Regie Gibson and Patricia Smith. Williams opens for rock bands and appears in films and records with the legendary producer Rick Rubin. Avoiding classification, The Dead Emcee Scrolls is unique in voice, daring in its trust to chance, and more concerned with wordplay than grandeur. It is strongly musical, uncorrupted, raw, and challenging. These writings span Williams' artistic life since 1994, including journaling that charts his experiences in a clear, truthful hand, in spite of some metaphysical wanderings. Williams chose to preserve the passion and immediacy of his inspiration, but some reworking would clarify his vision. As it stands, this collection is frustrating and engaging, although there is a definite payoff for those who stick with it. Mark Eleveld
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

Saul Williams Rocks!
Amazon Customer
After that, a good deal of the material is from older poems that he has in some cases edited, while in others, left mainly the same.
J. Dennis
I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone who has a great love for hip-hop music or just hip-hop culture in general.
Some Guy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Lhea J. Love on January 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
I had the pleasure of seeing Saul Williams perform poetry from The Dead Emcee Scrolls a few days ago. A problem that many spoken word artists encounter is that their poetry sounds great on stage and does not stand confidently alone on the page. Saul doesn't have this problem. His style is so pronounced that it encompasses many forms... you can hear his voice when you read the page, you can see his words when he speaks. The book is truly a treasure... you can dig, and dig, and dig... discovering new truths each time you pick the book up. He was asked by someone in the audience, how long did it take to write this book. His response was, ten years.

Saul also spoke about how academians must study hip hop in order to truly understand modern poetry, because emcees are creating new forms of meter.

This book is a testament to that.

Enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Dennis on April 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
The Dead Emcee Scrolls start out with a great new poem called NGH WHT. After that, a good deal of the material is from older poems that he has in some cases edited, while in others, left mainly the same. NGH WHT is filled with subtle nuances that are not always easy to pick up on, so multiple reads are likely merited.

While a bit repetitive for die-hard fans, the work gives a very strong representation of where his work comes from, but also has some great new material. As to where he will go from here, that is anyone's guess.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Antoniello on April 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
I first heard about this book on a message board (I think it was the one from DaveyD.com) and I really enjoyed reading the publisher's excerpt, and it was just the introduction. With it, I didn't know how to take it. Whether it was truth or just a very well worded story from Saul Williams. Either way, I could feel the vibe of Hiphop Kulture coming from it. So of course, I went out and bought it.

I was blown away.

I first heard of Saul from the book ", said the Shotgun to the Head." So I already thought I knew what to expect. But I was completly blown away by the deepness of these poems. Whether really taken from a strange manuscript in an old spray can or just a way to publish his own poems about Hiphop's preservation of love, peace, and unity, this was great. I recommend it for anyone who like poetry, spoken word, rap music, or just books. Very good.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sage Grass on February 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
Saul Williams paints a picture in every poem he writes. Over that picture he paints another, and another, untill the original takes so long to uncover through the layers of symbolism. He brings emotions over a bridge to a new world and he does not just tell us to be individuals, he shows us how to see ourselves as independant, free thinking beings. He is an amazing poet and this new book is genius, as can be expected.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 30, 2009
Format: Paperback
Saul Williams, The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-Hop (MTV, 2005)

I was really impressed by , said the shotgun to the head, the first Saul Williams book I read, and so I reached for this one as quick as I could get my library to loosen its taloned grip on it. Pity that, because The Dead Emcee Scrolls has all the things I didn't like about , said the shotgun to the head and none of the things I did like about it.

Oddly for a poetry book, the best parts of The Dead Emcee Scrolls are its prose. (Save the obligatory tip of the hat to 9/11, which seems omnipresent in today's American poetry books.) Williams starts us off with a thirty-page tale--how tall it is is left to the reader to decide--about how he came upon the Dead Emcee scrolls, which he asserts are not his work. In fact, he tells us, he found them rolled up in an empty spray-paint can while on jaunt through the abandoned subway tunnel of New York City with a friend. It's a great story, and becomes even better when he starts talking about his travails in deciphering the coded language found therein (anyone who's ever tried to puzzle out graffiti tags will be able to identify). Then, in the rest of the first half of the book, he presents us with what he came up with. I started doubting the veracity of the story early; there are a few cultural references that come from more recent events than Williams' supposed discovery. As well, Williams tells us, these are hip-hop lyrics (and unlike Williams, I do make a distinction between hip-hop lyrics and poems). True, that, at least mostly. There are a few times when the poems do veer off into the realm of actual poetry, or at least something approaching same, but for the most part they conform to Williams' analysis of hip-hop; these are, in his words, cries for power.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Vincent D. Pisano on December 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
Saul Williams, hip-hop's so-called "poet laureate," can comfortably add "hip-hop mystic" to his résumé with this collection of excellent poetry. His rhymes drip with the religious symbolism of ancient Mystery cults (most notably, Isis) as he journeys with the reader on a path to self-discovery, spiritual fulfillment, and ethical reasoning. In hip-hop Williams sees ancient drums and chants, camp-fire storytellers whose power has been hijacked by capitalist greed, materialism, defeatism, and chauvinism. He teaches through twistable and irresistible verse that the power of history's lessons and thought can change worlds by changing words.

I admit that I am not a hip-hop fan, per say. I do enjoy a select few artists (Williams included), and have studied African American history/culture, so I was not entirely unfamiliar with the themes/issues of this book. I am, however, a lover of poetry, truth, and vulnerable strength, which Saul Williams encapsulates perfectly. Truly, one need not know much about hip-hop to appreciate this book. No matter one's musical preference or cultural background, Williams speaks truth, and therefore can be embraced by all. "Word is bond."
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