My name is J-Zone. If you know who I am, you either listen to too many Tim Dog and Mob Style records or you were outside Fat Beats distribution the day my volumes of unsold catalog were taken to a recycling plant for destruction. Or, maybe you've heard about my recently published memoir, Root for the Villain: Rap, Bullshit, and a Celebration of Failure. As an author of a rap book, I've read my fair share of 'em.

XXL asked me to compile a Top 10 list of the greatest books written by rappers or rap personalities. I believe looking for 10 books that can be defined as “great” is being a bit overzealous. It's kind of like choosing the Top 10 late '90s movies shown on BET that cast Shemar Moore. I chose a Top 5 instead. Enjoy.—J-Zone (@jzonedonttweet)

Fight the Power: Rap, Race, and Reality by Chuck D


Chuck is the spokesman for my generation when it comes to rap. He's a thinker and goes beyond the exploits of Public Enemy in his tome. Even if he didn't, Public Enemy stories are enough to make a worthwhile read.

Ruthless by Jerry Heller


Okay, not everyone on my list is an actual rapper. Heller was the anti-Christ of hip-hop for quite some time, and he doesn't respond to that stigma with typical knee-jerk defense reactions. (Ice-T and Dr. Dre's quotes that point toward Heller's unsavory reputation are used as selling points on the book's back flap.) Whether you love him, hate him, empathize with him, or think he's a lying bastard, Ruthless is worth a read.

E.A.R.L: The Autobiography of DMX by DMX


As a kid who spent much of his childhood in Westchester County, X's trips down memory lane hit home. I'm a bit biased with my adulation for the Yonkers and New Rochelle references and can recall encountering certain people and things he mentioned, but beyond that, X always seemed realer than your average rapper. A tortured soul, X has continually adhered to an anti-music industry phoniness code of conduct and his book was engaging.

The Ice Opinion by Ice-T


As a fellow light-skinnded rapper that didn't make love songs, Ice was one of my favorites growing up. He realizes that despite his fame as Ice-T, his opinion is just that – an opinion. It's no more or less valid than a man on the corner, and if you don't like it, “who gives a fuck?” That's how he ends every chapter. Women, gangs, riots, sex, revolution, it's all there. Not a typical 'story of my life' book.

As Nasty as They Wanna Be: The Uncensored Story of Luther Campbell of the 2 Live Crew by Luther “Luke” Campbell


One of the earliest and most underrated books written by a rap personality, I feel Luke's tome is also one of the best. From the ins and outs of making a local sound and style global to the details of an obscenity trial that changed music, Uncle Luke maintains his profane, raw and unapologetic vibe for an entertaining ride. The book also hits on lesser-covered topics like the effects copyright and trademark infringement had on rap in it's infancy as recorded and globally distributed music. Luke also hints at changing the world of the green one day, as he divulges details of penetrating and pleasuring a young lady in his hotel room with the handle of his prized three iron golf club. Fore!