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The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-Hop

4.15  ·  Rating Details ·  1,108 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
In the underground labyrinths of New York City's subway system, beneath the third rail of a long forgotten line, Saul Williams discovered scrolls of aged yellowish-brown paper rolled tightly into a can of spray paint. His quest to decipher this mystical ancient text resulted in a primal understanding of the power hip-hop has to teach us about ourselves and the universe aro ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published February 1st 2006 by MTV Books (first published January 31st 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,046)
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Jun 01, 2009 Kim rated it it was amazing
Okay, You’re probably wondering what's a white girl from Vermont doing reading this? Oh, and she’s also… French Canadian. (shudder)

I know, I was too. I mean, I really have nothing in common with Saul Williams, I grew up in suburban NH where the ‘hood’ was a mile long strip mall and it was considered dangerous to hit TJ Maxx on a Friday night.

This being said, I was mesmerized. Granted, I had to have whole parts translated to me, but it was beautiful. I want to be a Saul Williams groupie. I want
Dec 31, 2012 Rowena rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of poetry and hip-hop
Another great one by Saul Williams. It offers a social commentary on the importance of hip-hop in the African-American community in particular, and the unfortunate misogynistic turn hip-hop has taken (the main reason I don't listen to it anymore). Most of the poems in this book are hip-hop inspired, so perhaps a little knowledge on the history of hip-hop from the 80s onwards would be beneficial.

Many of the poems are also activist and political in nature.A few are very personal. Some bemoan loss
Dec 28, 2009 Matt rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, favorites, hip-hop
A book of poetry about hip-hop. And it is hip-hop. The Lost Teachings of Hip-Hop. Another reviewer stated that they didn't come away with any more of an understanding of hip-hop than before. The book seems to be more geared towards those already familiar with hip-hop. But even then, I don't think it's going to give a whole new understanding because chances are that if you're reaching for this book you're already in line with what Saul is saying about the state of hip-hop.

The book is about more t
Joshua Donellan
Dec 03, 2011 Joshua Donellan rated it really liked it
Saul Williams is unquestionably one of the most important poets currently breathing. His contributions to hip-hop and modern poetry include film, theatre, poetry both written and performed as well as a number of vastly creative albums. This book compromises selections from some of his best work over the years as well as new work. It's a piece that manages to be political and personal, transcendental and introspective, joyful and furious.

"Pupil my sight with orange balls of light
And echo my plig
adrian anderson
Oct 15, 2014 adrian anderson rated it it was ok
After reading the fantastic She and , said the shotgun to the head., I was excited to read The Dead Emcee Scrolls especially based on the subject matter. However, it was disappointingly disjointed and vauge, and was oddly repetative in a way She and Shotgun were not. Perhaps it'll grow on me the way Shotgun did.
Feb 09, 2008 Chris rated it it was ok
Shelves: society, culture
Nope, I still don't get hip-hop.

I got this as part of our Secret Santa project over at The True Meaning of Life forums from the guy I was Santa to. I do appreciate the chance to expand my horizons, but I don't think it really helped me to "get" hip-hop any more than I do already, which is to say not at all.

I think the reason I don't get hip-hop, or at least one of the reasons, is that I'm not lyrically focused. When I hear a song, the lyrics are not usually the first thing I catch on to. I like
Robert Beveridge
Nov 30, 2009 Robert Beveridge rated it it was ok
Saul Williams, The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-Hop (MTV, 2005)

I was really impressed by , said the shotgun to the head, the first Saul Williams book I read, and so I reached for this one as quick as I could get my library to loosen its taloned grip on it. Pity that, because The Dead Emcee Scrolls has all the things I didn't like about , said the shotgun to the head and none of the things I did like about it.

Oddly for a poetry book, the best parts of The Dead Emcee Scrolls are i
Nick Black
Dec 29, 2008 Nick Black marked it as to-read
Shelves: to-acquire
So I'm not much into modern poetry (how on earth does one start, or even get bearings? You may well be diving but I, I am merely sinking), but you've got to keep trying things out. Anyway, if you've missed Blackalicious's epic performance of Dr. Williams's "Release (Parts 1, 2, 3)" on 2002's Blazing Arrow, go acquaint yourself with some of the most daring, innovative, inspiring rap made this decade -- seriously, go do it; the album's an epic achievement and represents everything good about hip-h ...more
Nov 02, 2015 Ian rated it liked it
It took me so long to read this book mainly for my lack of interest in the way the book is structured. Some of the poems are too short to be stand-alone pieces, but somehow, all in all, it was OKish.

There were some interesting aphorisms by Saul Williams, and it definitely helped me understand hip-hop a little bit more from a different perspective, an insider perspective from a slammer.

The poems also deal w life issues and mainstream frustration that the poet feels are an on-going issue with ar
Oct 22, 2014 Mafalda rated it it was amazing
As a big Saul Williams fan, I had committed the outrageous omission of not having read his works. This is incredibly outrageous because for: 1) I admire the man immensely; 2) I am a huuuge rap fan and; 3) I love to read. So you combine two of my favorite things in the whole wide world, to listen to rap music and to read.
As I failed to expect, this combination was divine: it combines the lyrics I look for in rap music and the written rap form, two worlds brought together.
Not all rappers are capab
Matt Sautman
Aug 15, 2015 Matt Sautman rated it it was amazing
In this volume, Saul Williams becomes a hip hop Walt Whitman, transcending through ghetto culture and black history by the means of a musical/poetic salvation, aided with a scholastic perspective, enabling him to comment upon society with an academic persuasion through his timely lyrics and occasional prose that make the Dead Emcee Scrolls one of the best collections under his name.
Sep 18, 2014 Rainey rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Openly political in nature, Williams herein interprets the inherent value of hip-hop culture, as well as the difficulties in its evolution. Another volume grabbed hungrily from the shelves of a local bookstore. I can only hope for more.
May 04, 2015 Kathryn rated it really liked it
A surprisingly poetic and intelligent look into hip-hop, its history, its culture, and its direction. Powerful and imaginative, Saul Williams writes some insightful lines (mixed with more typical hip-hoppy lines).
Oct 19, 2008 Nickolette rated it it was amazing
Had no problems reading the prose in this book but since English is not my first language, reading the poetry part and getting it was kind of hard at times. Mainly because of the use of slang words. The effort, though, was totally worth it and i found the book profound and inspiring. It gets to the essence of hip hop (and life) in its purest form and is just another proof of Saul Williams' genius. I always appreciate the touch with an artist like him, no matter what media he uses - literature, m ...more
Apr 06, 2009 Oscar rated it liked it
I give the poetry 2 1/2 stars, as I felt like the same poem was being repeated over and over again. I also wasn't feeling that almost half this book is older material that continues to be recycled by Williams' publishers.

Big props however for the prose pieces where Williams speaks directly to his reader, creates the myth of the Dead Emcee Scrolls, and continually refers to the mythology throughout the text. The closing prose–an examination of the past, present and possible future of hip-hop as
Andrew Dietz
Aug 25, 2013 Andrew Dietz rated it liked it
I can't help but think that Mr. Williams may have put more effort into the titular pun and its inherent concepts than the actual poetry therein. Much of it reads like scribbled journal entries; unedited, half-baked, and chock full of overwrought metaphors and vague symbolism. But when he scores he scores, particularly in the poems that read smoothly and rhythmically as 16-bar rap verse, and his rambling prose in re: the nature of hip-hop and What-It-All-Means is pretty interesting and insightful ...more
May 30, 2014 William rated it really liked it
Those who burned, those still aflame, and the countless unnamed...

This earns five stars thanks to the mindblowingly good 'Co-Dead Language' - the written version of Saul's 'Coded Language', found on his first album Amethyst Rock Star. If you haven't heard it, or seen him read the poem, head over to YouTube now and give it a whirl.The rest of the book is also really good, and i'd hate to understate this, but seriously, this one poem in particular is just so damn good that it overshadows the rest,
Shanel Adams
Apr 07, 2016 Shanel Adams rated it it was amazing
Incredible body of work.
Feb 25, 2014 Fellowman rated it it was amazing
awesome metered poetry
Vanessa Thompson
Jan 03, 2014 Vanessa Thompson rated it liked it
This author had a book signing Newburg, NY. My friend was there and brought the book for me as a signed copy.

I am a poetry writer and when I read this book, it was deep. He spoke about a variety of topics surrounding the music industry.

I will enjoy reading something else this author wrote.
Edmund Davis-Quinn
Oct 21, 2011 Edmund Davis-Quinn rated it really liked it
The conceit of the Dead Emcee Scrolls is too clever by half. That being said, there is some interesting stuff about the power of hip-hop here and the disappointments of modern rap.

I prefer the spoken word side of hip-hop myself and am active in the spoken word scene in Portland, Maine.

Honestly on this book, I prefer the journals to the Dead Emcee Scrolls themselves. Interesting book, very fair criticism of what hip-hop can be but doesn't always reach.
Jun 14, 2007 Celeste rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I must admit, I like Saul Williams performances better than his books. The same words on a page seem to lose their life somehow. Still, the concept of this book is awesome: Saul claims to have found scrolls of ancient poetry written in a language that he eventually deciphers through a magical sort of vision. It is these poems that he credits with his rise in the Slam Poetry world and many of them will be familiar to anyone who has listened to his cds.
Leigh  Kramer
Mar 19, 2015 Leigh Kramer rated it really liked it
I haven't encountered Williams' work in over a decade but he's just as good as I remembered him to be. There were lines and sections that took my breath away. I can only imagine how they'd come to life when he performs!
Derek (Torrefaction)
Aug 01, 2008 Derek (Torrefaction) rated it it was amazing
One of the single most enlightened people writing today. He's poetry is deep and moving, and the themes are complex and intelligent. Our politics may differ, but the things we want do not. An amazing book, and even better when listening to The Rise and Fall of Niggytardust (An amazing album that is something of a compliment to the book, even utilizing some lyrics from passages in the Dead Emcee Scrolls.)
Oct 11, 2007 Lacey rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all true hip hoppers
this is an incredibly brillant - sometimes too genius - work of art. anyone who loves hip hop and understands what it is, will love this book and Williams' interpretation of it right now. this brother is such an incredible artist. it also has a classic hip hop musicality to its verses, which is awesome for musicians who like to read. please pick this up if you're into poetry...i'm so sincere in that!
Feb 29, 2016 Evans rated it really liked it
Enjoyed it greatly!
Sep 21, 2015 Andrea rated it it was amazing
Corey Deiterman
Aug 02, 2010 Corey Deiterman rated it liked it
Saul Williams is a great rapper and poet. I really loved this collection, however I must admit that I was disappointed in how little of it was new. Most of these poems have turned up in his songs or other writings before. It's a nice collection of them in one place though.
Garrick Jannene
Oct 02, 2015 Garrick Jannene rated it liked it
Just didn't seem as coherent as She or ", Said the Shotgun to the Head". I enjoyed Saul's essays on hip hop and poetry at the beginning and the end more than I did the actual "scrolls" themselves. Still worth reading, but I just don't think it's his best.
Oct 28, 2009 Emily rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I had trouble connecting with this work until I stopped trying to make sense of the words on the page and, instead, started hearing Saul's voice delivering this message in my mind, with his distinct rhythm and inflection and flow. Then it became magic.
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Saul Stacey Williams is an American poet, writer, actor and musician known for his blend of poetry and hip-hop and for his leading role in the 1998 independent film Slam.
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“A lie preserved in stained glass doesn't make it more true.” 65 likes
“She, the first-born daughter of water, faced
darkness and smiled. Took mystery as her
lover and raised light as her child. Man that
shit was wild. You should have seen how
they ran. She woke up in an alley with a gun
in her hand. Tupac in lotus form, Ennis’ blood
on his hands.”
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