The Austin Chronicle

A Drunken Poet's Dream

Thirty-six rap songs, one for each year of hip-hop's life

Reviewed by Thomas Fawcett, December 11, 2015, Music

In the hands of Shea Serrano, what could have been an overly serious intellectual exercise – pick the most important rap song from every year since hip-hop's birth in 1979 and dissect it – results in a hilarious read. The onetime Houston science teacher writes with an aggressively casual style that borders on stream of consciousness. So you have the opening paragraphs of a chapter ostensibly about Kurtis Blow's "The Breaks" existing largely as an elaborate setup for a footnote (there are lots of footnotes) about NBA star Kevin Garnett wondering if playing with a boner would help his defense. Between wandering anecdotes, Serrano offers compelling insight into the evolution of hip-hop and hits by the Geto Boys, Tupac, and Jay Z. Comic book-style illustrations by Arturo Torres and gonzo infographics chart everything from death threats made on record by DMX to every curse word on Straight Outta Compton.

The Rap Year Book: The Most Important Rap Song From Every Year Since 1979, Discussed, Debated, and Deconstructed

by Shea Serrano, illustrated by Arturo Torres
Abrams Image, 240 pp., $18.95 (paper)

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