Remembrance of Things Past

Coffeetable Books




December 17, 1999:

The Vibe History of Hip Hop

edited by Alan Light

Three Rivers Press, 418 pp., $27.50 (paper)

For my money, the most important music story of the Nineties is right here -- from our shocked introduction to gansta rap, through the sad, short life of Tupac, and skyward. In these 10 years, the musical explosion that Public Enemy's Chuck D called "black America's CNN" has made its steady entry into our words, our clothes, our sounds, and our souls. Edited by the six-year-old urban culture glossy Vibe, the tome is too academic given its visceral subject, with entire chapters devoted to the "B-boy" or graffiti art. But where else can you find such a loving, thorough treatment of this astonishingly influential musical form? The decade's most important music story, by the way, doesn't end so pretty, as rap's popularity spirals off into the entrepreneurship of Master P and Puff Daddy and is co-opted by lesser white rappers such as Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit for use in "alternative rock." But the story ain't over yet: Hip-hop isn't going away.


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