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The New YorkerHip-hop rose from the streets of the Bronx, offering relief from the crime and poverty of the mid-nineteen-seventies. Yes Yes Y'all: The Experience Music Project Oral History of Hip-Hop's First Decade by Jim Fricke and Charlie Ahearn, captures those early days of battling, breaking, and tagging, when d.j.s like Afrika Bambaataa threw down beats for the b-boys on the floor. "Little did anybody know that this thing was going to turn into a world-wide phenomenon, billion-dollar business and all that," says one of the forefathers of hip-hop, Kool DJ Herc.
In Gunshots in my Cook-Up, Selwyn Seyfu Hinds tracks his own journey from hip-hop fan to hip-hop luminary. In essays that range from paeans to Lauryn Hill to an account of Hinds's tenure as the editor-in-chief at The Source, he grapples with what it means to stay true to the ethos of rap. "The streets are the people and places from which an MC springs. The streets birth you. Certify and validate you . . . They can also kill you," he writes.
Sometimes keeping it real means making it up. In Percival Everett's satirical novel Erasure, Thelonious (Monk) Ellison, an academic with a penchant for Latin, sets out to write a satire of black literature -- an amalgamation of "Native Son," gangsta rap, and trashy talk shows; to his dismay, the book is acclaimed for its authenticity. Contemplating its success after the obscurity of his other books (including a retelling of Aeschylus' "The Persians"), Ellison notes, "I was a victim of racism by virtue of my failing to acknowledge racial difference and by failing to have my art be defined as an exercise in racial self-expression." (Andrea Thompson)