Ever since Adam Bradley, a professor at the University of Colorado, published Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop in 2009, he’s been on a crusade to substantiate rap lyrics as high art, as poetry akin to, say, a Walt Whitman or Langston Hughes verse. The attempt is both condemning and cause for celebration. It’s problematic because, as Bradley says, “we must understand rap as poetry or else ignore the vanguard of poetry today,” which, to be fair, only further confines what hip-hop has come to represent. On the other hand, Bradley is smart in that DMX’s “Who We Be” or Big L’s “Ebonics (Criminal Slang)” or Snoop Dogg’s “Gin & Juice” (Snoop is “the gangster-stoner-poet-pimp of rap” according to Bradley) are deserving of canonization within the academy. With The Anthology of Rap, Bradley and Andrew DuBois’s encyclopedic love letter to hip-hop, these formidable scholars pull together songs from over 100 rappers as a testament to the genre’s lyrical and, yes, poetic depth. At nearly 900 pages, it’s an impressive tome of undeniable and indelible substance.
The perfect gift for: The grad student doing their thesis on the intersections of rap lyrics and futurist percussive poetry.