Tag Archives: music

The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture & Style by Nelson George



William Morrow,
March 25, 2014,
Hardcover
An authoritative history of the groundbreaking syndicated television show that has become an icon of American pop culture, from acclaimed author and filmmaker Nelson George, “the most accomplished black music critic of his generation” (Washington Post Book World).

When it debuted in October 1971, seven years after the Civil Rights Act, Soul Train boldly went where no variety show had gone before, showcasing the cultural preferences of young African-Americans and the sounds that defined their lives: R&B, funk, jazz, disco, and gospel music. The brainchild of radio announcer Don Cornelius, the show’s producer and host, Soul Train featured a diverse range of stars, from James Brown and David Bowie to Christine Aguilera and R. Kelly; Marvin Gaye and Elton John to the New Kids on the Block and Stevie Wonder.

The Hippest Trip in America tells the full story of this pop culture phenomenon that appealed not only to blacks, but to a wide crossover audience as well. Famous dancers like Rosie Perez and Jody Watley, performers such as Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and Barry White, and Cornelius himself share their memories, offering insights into the show and its time — a period of extraordinary social and political change. Colorful and pulsating, The Hippest Trip In America is a fascinating portrait of a revered cultural institution that has left an indelible mark on our national consciousness.

2pac vs. Biggie: An Illustrated History of Rap’s Greatest Battle by Jeff Weiss and Evan McGarvey

Hip hop icons and rap innovators, the Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur continue to influence, define, and change the genre years after their deaths. Despite the controversies surrounding the murders of Tupac and Biggie, ultimately it’s their art that remains their biggest legacy. The music of Biggie Smalls and 2Pac has inspired the likes of Jay-Z, Kanye, Eminem, Dr. Dre, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and more. The legacies of Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace — a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G. — live on.

So does their rivalry, one of the greatest in music history. In 2pac vs. Biggie, hip hop experts Jeff Weiss and Evan McGarvey take an entirely new approach to investigation of that rivalry. Rather than focus on the countless conspiracy theories, they study the artist as artists, dissecting the lyrics of their hits (“California Love,” “All Eyez on Me,” “Changes” for 2pac, “Mo Money Mo Problems,” “Hypnotize,” “Big Poppa” for Biggie) and lesser-known works, performance and rhythmic styles, aesthetic appearances and what those meant, rises to power, and of course, their lives after death. The feud between 2pac and Biggie is broken down and looked at from all new angles, bringing to light little-known and surprising sides to each rapper’s persona and inner world.

Illustrated throughout with photographs, memorabilia, and artwork inspired by Tupac and Biggie, and with insert “versus” pages dissecting topics such as each artist’s presence in movies, critical reception, and literary influences, this book is a must-have for all rap and hip hop fans.

Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson

“You have to bear in mind that [Questlove] is one of the smartest mother****ers on the planet. His musical knowledge, for all practical purposes, is limitless.” –Robert Christgau

Mo’ Meta Blues is a punch-drunk memoir in which Everyone’s Favorite Questlove tells his own story while tackling some of the lates, the greats, the fakes, the philosophers, the heavyweights, and the true originals of the music world. He digs deep into the album cuts of his life and unearths some pivotal moments in black art, hip hop, and pop culture.

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is many things: virtuoso drummer, producer, arranger, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon bandleader, DJ, composer, and tireless Tweeter. He is one of our most ubiquitous cultural tastemakers, and in this, his first book, he reveals his own formative experiences–from growing up in 1970s West Philly as the son of a 1950s doo-wop singer, to finding his own way through the music world and ultimately co-founding and rising up with the Roots, a.k.a., the last hip hop band on Earth. Mo’ Meta Blues also has some (many) random (or not) musings about the state of hip hop, the state of music criticism, the state of statements, as well as a plethora of run-ins with celebrities, idols, and fellow artists, from Stevie Wonder to KISS to D’Angelo to Jay-Z to Dave Chappelle to…you ever seen Prince roller-skate?!?

But Mo’ Meta Blues isn’t just a memoir. It’s a dialogue about the nature of memory and the idea of a post-modern black man saddled with some post-modern blues. It’s a book that questions what a book like Mo’ Meta Blues really is. It’s the side wind of a one-of-a-kind mind.

It’s a rare gift that gives as well as takes.

It’s a record that keeps going around and around.

Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
Grand Central Publishing
June 18, 2013
Hardcover

Beyonce by Andrew Vaughan

Beyoncé is one of the world’s biggest pop stars–and this lavishly illustrated book is the first to celebrate the talented singer, songwriter, producer, and actress in the glam style she deserves! Since rising to fame with the R&B group Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé Knowles has enjoyed success after success, starting with her debut solo album, the multiplatinum, Grammy®-award winning Dangerously in Love. Beyoncé follows the artist’s life (including her marriage to hip-hop mogul Jay-Z and the birth of their daughter, Blue Ivy) and career, her wildly popular music, videos, and movies, and her role as a fashion icon.

Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story by Wyclef Jean

Wyclef Jean is one of the most influential voices in hip-hop. He rocketed to fame in the 1990s with the Fugees, whose multiplatinum album, The Score, would prove a landmark in music history, winning two Grammys and going on to become one of the bestselling hip-hop albums of all time. In Purpose, Wyclef recounts his path to fame from his impoverished childhood in “Baby Doc” Duvalier’s Haiti and the mean streets of Brooklyn and Newark to the bright lights of the world stage.

The son of a pastor and grandson of a Vodou priest, Wyclef was born and raised in the slums of Haiti, moving with his family to New York when he was nine. He lived in Brooklyn’s notorious Marlboro projects until his father, Gesner Jean, took them to Newark, where he converted a burnt-out funeral home into a house for his family and a church for his congregation. But life in New Jersey was no easier for Wyclef, who found it hard to shake his refugee status. Forced to act as a literal and cultural translator for his parents while still trying to master English himself, Wyclef soon learned that fitting in would be a constant struggle. He made his way by competing in “freestyle” rap battles, eventually becoming the best MC in his school. At the same time, Wyclef was singing in his father’s choir and learning multiple instruments while also avidly exploring funk, rock, reggae, and jazz — an experience that would forever shape his sound. When Wyclef chose to pursue a career in music over attending theological school, Gesner, who hated rap, nearly disowned him, creating a gulf between father and son that would take nearly a decade to bridge.

Within a few short years, Wyclef would catapult to international renown with the Fugees. In Purpose he details for the first time ever the inside story of the group: their rise and fall, and his relationships with Pras and Lauryn Hill.

Wyclef also looks back with candor at the catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010 and his efforts to help rebuild his homeland, including the controversy surrounding YÉle, his aid organization, and his exploratory bid for president of the island nation. The story revealed in Purpose is one of inspiration, full of drama and humor, told in compelling detail, about the incredible life of one of our most revered musical icons.

The One: The Life and Music of James Brown by RJ Smith

The definitive biography of James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, with fascinating findings on his life as a Civil Rights activist, an entrepreneur, and the most innovative musician of our time

Playing 350 shows a year at his peak, with more than forty Billboard hits, James Brown was a dazzling showman who transformed American music. His life offstage was just as vibrant, and until now no biographer has delivered a complete profile. The One draws on interviews with more than 100 people who knew Brown personally or played with him professionally. Using these sources, award-winning writer RJ Smith draws a portrait of a man whose twisted and amazing life helps us to understand the music he made.

The One delves deeply into the story of a man who was raised in abject-almost medieval-poverty in the segregated South but grew up to earn (and lose) several fortunes. Covering everything from Brown’s unconventional childhood (his aunt ran a bordello), to his role in the Black Power movement, which used “Say It Loud (I’m Black and Proud)” as its anthem, to his high-profile friendships, to his complicated family life, Smith’s meticulous research and sparkling prose blend biography with a cultural history of a pivotal era.

At the heart of The One is Brown’s musical genius. He had crucial influence as an artist during at least three decades; he inspires pity, awe, and revulsion. As Smith traces the legend’s reinvention of funk, soul, R&B, and pop, he gives this history a melody all its own.

Gotham
March 15, 2012
Hardcover

Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption-from South Central to Hollywood by Ice-T

He’s a hip-hop icon credited with single-handedly creating gangsta rap in the 1980s. Television viewers know him as Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola on the top-rated TV drama Law & Order: SVU. But where the hype and the headlines end, the real story of Ice-T — the one few of his millions of fans have ever heard — truly begins.

Ice is Ice-T in his own words — raw, uncensored, and unafraid to speak his mind. About his orphan upbringing on the gang-infested streets of South Central Los Angeles. About his four-year stint in the U.S. Army’s famed “Tropic Lightning” outfit. About his successful career as a hustler and thief, the car crash that nearly killed him, and the fateful decision to turn away from a life of crime and forge his own path to international entertainment stardom.

Ice by Ice-T is both a tell-it-like-it-is tale of redemption and a star-studded tour of the pop culture firmament. The acclaimed rapper and actor shares never-before-told stories about friends like Tupac, Dick Wolf, Chris Rock, and an antler-clad Flavor Flav, among others. Readers will ride along as Ice-T’s incendiary rock band Body Count narrowly escapes from a riotous mob of angry concertgoers in Milan, and listen in as the music legend battles the self-appointed censors over his controversial “Cop Killer” single.

Most of all, Ice is the place where one of the game’s most opinionated players breaks down his own secret plan for living, offering up candid observations on marriage and monogamy, the current state of hip-hop, and his latest passion: doing one-on-one gang interventions and mentoring at-risk youths around the country.

With insights into the cutthroat world of the street — and the cutthroat world of Hollywood — Ice is the inspirational story of a true American original.

Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption-from South Central to Hollywood
by Ice-T and Douglas Century

One World/Ballantine
Available April 19, 2011 in Hardcover

Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office

An in-depth look at the business behind Jay-Z’s hip-hop empire.

Jay-Z is one of the most recognizable names in entertainment. He’s been called one of the greatest rappers of all time, but music may end up as just a small part of a brilliant career. His combination of intelligence, instinct, and swagger have earned him a chain of nightclubs, a stake in the New Jersey Nets, and the status of a media mogul. Amazingly, he honed his business philosophy not at a fancy B school, but on the streets of Brooklyn, New York as a crack dealer in the 1980s.

Empire State of Mind is the story behind Jay-Z’s rise to the top as told by the people who lived it with him-the childhood friend who got him into the drug trade, the DJ who convinced him to stop dealing and focus on music, Damon Dash, Fab Five Freddie, and other hip-hop and business innovators.

Jay-Z’s story is compelling not just because of his celebrity, but also because it is a blueprint for success in any setting-a classic rags-to- riches American dream.

Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office
by Zack O’Malley Greenburg

Portfolio Hardcover
Available March 17, 2011 in Hardcover

Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey

Hip-Hop Culture’s first official luxury, large format book will inspire, entertain and educate all generations of readers with its comprehensive exploration of the birth, evolution and global impact of Hip-Hop Culture over the last four decades. Composed of exclusive first-person testimonials from the B-Boys and B-Girls who live and breathe Hip-Hop, 30 original essays and 40 original, individual profiles of influential “game changers” written by Hip-Hop’s top journalists and authors, one-of-a-kind Polaroid portraits captured by celebrated photographer Jonathan Mannion and hundreds of powerful images compiled by key eyewitnesses to the Culture.

Gabriel Alvarez (Author), Dan Charnas (Author), Cheo Hodari Coker (Author), Selwyn Sefu Hinds (Author), “Chairman” Jefferson Mao (Author), Kierna Mayo (Author), Marcus Reeves (Author), Carlito Rodriguez (Author), Greg Tate (Author), Dave Tompkins (Author), Jordan Sommers (Editor), Mike Thompson (Illustrator), Jonathan Mannion (Photographer), Martha Cooper (Photographer), Joe Conzo (Photographer), Charlie Ahearn (Photographer), Janette Beckman (Photographer), Trevor Traynor (Photographer), Estevan Oriol (Photographer), Laura Levine (Photographer), Ricky Powell (Photographer), David Corio (Photographer), Afrika Bambaataa (Introduction)

Aria Multimedia Entertainment
Available February 8, 2011 in Leather Bound

The Anthology of Rap

From the school yards of the South Bronx to the tops of the Billboard charts, rap has emerged as one of the most influential cultural forces of our time. In The Anthology of Rap, editors Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois demonstrate that rap is also a wide-reaching and vital poetic tradition born of beats and rhymes.

This pioneering anthology brings together more than three hundred lyrics written over thirty years, from the “old school” to the “golden age” to the present day. Rather than aim for encyclopedic coverage, Bradley and DuBois render through examples the richness and diversity of rap’s poetic tradition. They feature both classic lyrics that helped define the genre, including Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five’s “The Message” and Eric B. & Rakim’s “Microphone Fiend,” as well as lesser-known gems like Blackalicious’s “Alphabet Aerobics” and Jean Grae’s “Hater’s Anthem.”

Both a fan’s guide and a resource for the uninitiated, The Anthology of Rap showcases the inventiveness and vitality of rap’s lyrical art. The volume also features an overview of rap poetics and the forces that shaped each period in rap’s historical development, as well as a foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and afterwords by Chuck D and Common. Enter the Anthology to experience the full range of rap’s artistry and discover a rich poetic tradition hiding in plain sight.

The Anthology of Rap
Adam Bradley (Editor), Andrew DuBois (Editor), Common (Afterword), Chuck D (Afterword), Henry Louis Gates Jr. (Foreword)

Yale University Press
Available November 9, 2010 in Hardcover

You Don’t Know Me: Reflections of My Father, Ray Charles by Ray Charles Robinson Jr.

You Don’t Know Me: Reflections of My Father, Ray Charles
by Ray Charles Robinson Jr., with Mary Jane Ross

A deeply personal memoir of the private Ray Charles – the man behind the legend – by his eldest son.

Ray Charles is an American music legend. A multiple Grammy Award-winning composer, pianist, and singer with an inimitable vocal style and a catalog of hits including “What I Say,” “Georgia on My Mind,” “Unchain My Heart,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” and “America the Beautiful,” Ray Charles’s music is loved by fans around the world.

Now his eldest son, Ray Charles Robinson Jr., shares an intimate glimpse of the man behind the music, with never-before-told stories. Going beyond the fame, the concerts, and the tours, Ray Jr. opens the doors of his family home and reveals their private lives with fondness and frankness.

He shares his father’s grief and guilt over his little brother’s death at the age of five — as well of moments of personal joy, like watching his father run his hands over the Christmas presents under their tree while singing softly to himself. He tells of how Ray overcame the challenges of being blind, even driving cars, riding a Vespa, and flying his own plane. And, in gripping detail, he reveals how as a six-year-old boy he saved his father’s life one harrowing night.

Ray Jr. writes honestly about the painful facts of the addiction that nearly destroyed his father’s life. His father’s struggles with heroin addiction, his arrests, and how he ultimately kicked the drug cold turkey are presented in unflinching detail. Ray Jr. also shares openly about how, as an adult, he fell victim to the same temptations that plagued his father.

He paints a compassionate portrait of his mother, Della, whose amazing voice as a gospel singer first attracted Ray Charles. Though her husband’s drug use, his womanizing, and the paternity suits leveled against him constantly threatened the stability of the Robinson home, Della exhibited incredible resilience and inner strength.

Told with deep love and fearless candor, You Don’t Know Me is the powerful and poignant story of the Ray Charles the public never saw — the father and husband and fascinating human being who also happened to be one of the greatest musicians of all time.

Harmony
Available June 8, 2010 in Hardcover

Louis Armstrong: The Sountrack of the American Experience by David Stricklin

Ivan R. Dee, Publisher
Available 04/16/10 in Hardcover

In the twentieth century, African Americans not only helped make popular music the soundtrack of the American experience, they advanced American music as one of the preeminent shapers of the world’s popular culture. Vast numbers of black American musicians deserve credit for this remarkable turn of events, but a few stand out as true giants. David Stricklin‘s superb new biography explores the life of one of them, Louis Armstrong.

Duke Ellington’s America by Harvey G. Cohen

University Of Chicago Press
Available 05/01/10 in Hardcover

Few American artists in any medium have enjoyed the lasting international cultural impact of Duke Ellington. From jazz standards such as “Mood Indigo” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”, to his longer, more orchestral suites, to his leadership of the stellar big band he toured and performed with for decades after most big bands folded, Ellington represented a singular, pathbreaking force in music over the course of a half-century. At the same time, as one of the most prominent black public figures in history, Ellington demonstrated leadership on questions of civil rights and America’s role in the world.

With “Duke Ellington’s America”, Harvey G. Cohen paints a vivid picture of Ellington’s life and times, taking him from his youth in the black middle-class enclave of Washington, D.C., to the heights of world-wide acclaim. Mining extensive archives, many never before available, plus new interviews with Ellington’s friends, family, band members, and business associates, Cohen illuminates his constantly evolving approach to composition, performance, and the music business-as well as issues of race, equality, and religion. Ellington’s own voice, mean-while, animates the book throughout, giving “Duke Ellington’s America” an intimacy and immediacy unmatched by any previous account. By far the most thorough and nuanced portrait yet of this towering figure, “Duke Ellington’s America” highlights Ellington’s importance as a figure in American history as well as in American music.

The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success, and Betrayal by Mark Ribowsky

The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success, and Betrayal
by Mark Ribowsky

Da Capo Press
Available 06/25/09

Drawing on intimate recollections from friends, family, and Motown contemporaries, Mark Ribowsky charts the Supremes’ meteoric rise and bitter disintegration. He sheds light on Diana Ross‘s relationship with Berry Gordy and her cutthroat rise to top billing in the group, as well as Florence Ballard‘s corresponding decline. He also takes us inside the studio, examining how timeless classics were conceived and recorded on the Motown “assembly line,” and considers the place of Motown in an era of cultural upheaval, when not being “black enough” became a fierce denunciation within the black music industry.

The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist

The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist
by Deirdre O’Connell

Available 02/05/09

The true story of a black musical savant in the era of slavery. Born into slavery in Georgia, Tom Wiggins died an international celebrity in New York in 1908. His life was one of the most bizarre and moving episodes in American history. Born blind and autistic-and so unable to work with other slaves-Tom was left to his own devices. He was mesmerized by the music of the family’s young daughters, and by the time he was four, Tom was playing tunes on the piano. Eventually freed from slavery, Wiggins, or “Blind Tom” as he was called, toured the country and the world playing for celebrities like Mark Twain and the Queen of England and dazzling audiences everywhere. One part genius and one part novelty act, Blind Tom embodied contradictions-a star and a freak, freed from slavery but still the property of his white guardian. His life offers a window into the culture of celebrity and racism at the turn of the twentieth century. In this rollicking and heartrending book, O’Connell takes us through the life (and three separate deaths) of Blind Tom Wiggins, restoring to the modern reader this unusual yet quintessentially American life.

A Girl Like Me

A Girl Like Me by Ni-Ni Simone
(Dafina, 12/01/08, Paperback)
She’s got a voice like Keisha Cole, attitude to burn–and is the body-rockin’, Bebe-sporting girl everyone in her high school wants to be…or be with. But in real life, sixteen-year-old Elite has a crack-addicted mother, no father in sight, and is secretly raising her sister and two brothers on her own. Now a radio contest has put her up-close-and-personal with mega-hot singer Haneef and their chemistry is too sizzling for Elite to stop pretending. And as the clock ticks down fast for this ‘hood Cinderella, she has only one shot to save her family and make all of her dreams come true…

All About the Beat

All about the Beat

All about the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can’t Save Black America
John McWhorter – Author

Available June 2008

Hip-hop is often extolled as an urgent “political” message to mainstream America about the realities of life in black communities. But is there really any meaningful connection between hip-hop and politics? Could there actually be a hip-hop revolution?

In All About the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can’t Save Black America, bestselling author John McWhorter argues that the vast majority of hip-hop music—despite claims to the contrary—has nothing real or significant to offer black America in terms of political activism that can make a meaningful difference.

In this measured, impassioned work, McWhorter maintains that hip-hop, while infectious and finely-crafted music, is overly inflated with a sense of social and political importance. He argues that activism and acting up aren’t the same thing, that hip-hop politics often amount to an upturned middle finger—which is different from really working on how to help people. “A hundred years from now, what will interest people about us today is how we solved our problems, not how eloquently we complained about what caused them,” writes McWhorter.

All About the Beat is not about putting hip-hop down for the violence and misogyny it extols. Instead, McWhorter calls for a new politics for black America, one not based on the false hope that a form of music—no matter how good or inspiring— can lead blacks to advancement.