How to Rap: The Art and Science of the Hip Hop MC
So do you ever wonder how is it possible for Jay-Z; Lil’ Wayne and Nas to each write lyrics in their heads and not on paper? Or why Eminem’s and Ludacris’ versatile deliveries turn into chart-topping singles? Better yet, what goes into creating a million-selling single (or ringtone); a classic collaboration or just a memorable hip hop classic in general?
Shit, it’s all part of the game
Now imagine sittin’ in your favorite professor’s class and reading his or her book. The bind is a manual that never gets too preachy or information overload. How to Rap: The Art and Science of the Hip Hop MC, the latest addition to hip hop’s literary canon, is an anthropological mixtape in print courtesy of British scholar Paul Edwards. He candidly goes in unlike any other so-called hip hop scholar or cultural critic – invisible to the story but transcribing testimonials; oral histories; conversations; commentaries and insights on the fundamentals of rap.
Rap sounds cliché in nature, but it’s true. Knowing the history of rap music and hip hop culture is just as important in developing the skill. Rap is a game of trial and error with infinite possibilities, so writing and rapping are processes that require ongoing education. As an art, rap needs color and substance (i.e. wordplay; similes; metaphors; slang; punchlines and humor) to tell fascinating stories and to paint portraits. On stage, it’s all about crowd participation and rockin’ the mic. Rap is not only music and art; it’s a literary genre accompanied by concepts; style and sound with a multitude of ways to create it. Yet, rap is a magnificent game of sociology in which artists and producers gel and feed off of one another to make memorable recording moments.
No, this book is not Rap Music for Dummies or no shit like that. Instead, Edwards allows the true masters to interrogate rap’s components, which is a great strength. The book itself is a conversation or a series of interactive lectures. The 100+ tenured professors; lyrical scholars and laureates of our time each exchange their wisdom: the legends (Big Daddy Kane; Masta Ace; Q-Tip/A Tribe Called Quest; MC Serch; The Pharcyde; Del the Funky Homosapien; DJ Quik; E-40; MC Shan and Schoolly D; Cormega; Chuck D. Cypress Hill’s B-Real; Buckshot), contemporary acts (Nelly; will.i.am; Twista; David Banner; The Clipse’s Pusha T., The LOX and N.O.R.E.), the voices of the underground (Aesop Rock; Mighty Casey; Ill Bill; Esoteric and El Da Sensai) and the unsung (Royce da 5’9”; Pharoahe Monch; Immortal Technique; The Lady of Rage; Stat Quo; The Alkaholiks and Tech N9ne).
How to Rap is an unbiased road map that cross lists between intellectual craftsmanship and achieving commercial or critical acclaim. It’s a great read that never gets tiresome. No matter the regional affiliations; speed of delivery; writing styles or flow, How to Rap holds the universal truth that writing quality material is a process. Edwards knows how to fall into the gap of explicating the game with precise detailing – feeding off of the energy from artists’ comments and insights. How to Rap is at its finest a documentary.
How to Rap is a series of crash courses that every budding artist needs to matriculate through battles; the stage; the recording studio and social media to carve their niche in the game.
Written by Paul Edwards with a foreword by Kool G. Rap
Cover by Phillip Pascuzzo (Design) and Trevor Traynor (Q-Tip photo)
Chicago Review Press
2009, 2010; Paperback – 334 pages
Category: Book Review