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Ego Trip's Book of Rap Lists
It is said that the first sign of a movement's impending doom is when people start writing books about it.  You can debate the merits of that line of thinking, but it's hard not to think it's correct after reading this book.

Actually, this is not a book that you read in the traditional sense, for it's a compilation of lists, roughly organized by topic, put together by the good folks at the short-lived Ego Trip magazine. So perhaps it is best to look at this as a scrapbook of hip-hop history up to the late 1990s. Viewed from that perspective, the sense of loss is even stronger.

Flipping through the 350 pages, you are reminded time and time again of how far rap has changed from its days as a way for Bronx kids to pass the time.  For example, reading Kool Herc's list of top old school DJs or the roll call of acts that used two DJs makes you yearn for the moment when DJs were an essential, integrated part of the hip hop experience, and not isolated into the snobbish turntablist set.   

It's not just the DJ memorials that give you  cause for reflection. Reliving classic emcee battles seems quaint compared to the significantly hotter water rappers find themselves in today.  And perusing milestones such as the first acts signed to major labels or early examples of hip-hop cinema are a valuable lesson for a generation that has grown up with rap as the cultural norm as its influence has spread into nearly facet of global pop culture. 

Most indicative of rap's transformations during corporate rule are the lists of most notable singles from every year between 1979 and 1999.  Let's take a random sampling of cuts from the early 1980s, late 1980s and late 1990s.  Disco-based party rap ruled 1981 with the Funky 4 + 1's "That's the Joint," "Catch the Beat" from T Ski Valley and Bambaataa's "Jazzy Sensation." By 1988 there was enough diversity for Rob Base ("It Takes Two"), Run DMC ("Run's House) and Public Enemy  ("Don't Believe the Hype") to make the grade, establishing that point as perhaps the apex of rap music.  Fast forward to 1998 and there you find Superthugs (Noreaga) and mush mouth club anthems (Juvenile, No Limit) running the road against the likes of Dilated Peoples, Loot Pack and Lauryn Hill. Not an ending that gives much hope for commercial rap.

What the Ego Trip gang has produced isn't likely to be acknowledged as part of the hip-hop canon but it would probably be the first book I'd include in a hip hop time capsule. This may be a trip down memory lane for some, a history lesson for others, but a vital chronicle of hip hop for all.

Copyright 2001 Anthony Lamar Rucker.  All rights reserved.

 

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Compiled by Sacha Jenkins, Elliott Wilson, Chairman Mao, Brent Rollins and Gabriel Alvarez.  Published 1999 by St. Martin's Press.

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