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

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4.41  ·  Rating details ·  3,174 ratings  ·  275 reviews
The Rap Year Book takes readers on a journey that begins in 1979, widely regarded as the moment rap became recognized as part of the cultural and musical landscape, and comes right up to the present. Shea Serrano deftly pays homage to the most important song of each year. Serrano also examines the most important moments that surround the history and culture of rap music—fr
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Kindle Edition, 240 pages
Published October 13th 2015 by Abrams Image
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Average rating 4.41  · 
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 ·  3,174 ratings  ·  275 reviews


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Start your review of The Rap Year Book: The Most Important Rap Song From Every Year Since 1979, Discussed, Debated, and Deconstructed
Mickey Kowaleski
if you don't like this book FOH
Brandon Forsyth
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always been confused that there's not a greater crossover between my literary friends and my hip-hop friends. Both rely on a love of language, the way words can twist and stretch and hit, and both are about storytelling, about immersion and experience and emotion. Also: puns.
And I have longed for the day where a writer talented enough to bridge those worlds could write the book that explains the joyful mischief and soulful depths of great hip hop to an audience that hasn't got it yet.
Shea
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Benoit Lelièvre
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book raised as many questions as it taught me things, but in a good way.

Now that I know which song was most important every year since hip-hop became a music genre in collective consciousness, I want to know: who were its most important artists? There are none nominated more than two times, but West-Coast hip-hop had an eleven years run where it was at the forefront of the genre's innovation, so what does that mean? Is Dr. Dre the most important rapper of all-time, at least statistically.
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Raphael Harel
The Rap Year Book by Shea Serrano was, as an authoritative read on the history of rap, a decent read until 1998, until it completely fizzles out of control when Serrano starts to require forming his own opinion.

Major themes, and driving forces were unforgivably omitted - notably the role of the female rapper as an antithesis to the flamboyance and brutality of gangster rap (see- The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill), picking Lifestyle (?!) as best song over Kendrick Lamar's ode to breaking free from
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Shenanitims
Apr 20, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ugg, I was gifted this over Christmas by a buddy who already had a copy. (He wrote one of the rebuttals.) It's an interesting book in theory (picking the best rap song by year since 1979) and one I should've loved considering how often I reference EgoTrip's list of greatest rap singles found in their Book of Rap Lists. Unfortunately it falls apart in execution.

It loses points right off the bat for having "Style Maps." Basically clip art used by Serrano to pad out the length of his book. Is readi
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Kady
Mar 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this so much. I've always been a fan of the Grantland style: definitively ranking subjective things in such specific ways. So detailed, so funny. I laughed out loud and also cried at one point (during the chapter about "Same Love"). Bummed that the only woman really highlighted was Nicki (her verse on "Monster" IS iconic), like where's Kim? Queen Latifah? Salt 'n Pepa? MISSY?! But again, subjective. Super fun read. Highly recommended.
Ethan Scholl
Feb 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quintessential example of why I wish Goodreads had a 3.5 star rating. Excellent primer to hip-hop for the casual fan, introduces the reader to most of the major players and narratives in the genre's history which tends to seem more like the world presented in comic books or action movies than real life. Serrano's writing is specific and sporadic in the best ways, jumping around between objective history, personal opinion and a smattering of other details from his subjects' lives and his own.

The
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Marc
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This started out as such a great and fascinating book. In the early years, it talked about the history of a song and it's importance. Yet as the years went on, it would talk about that less about that instead being filled with antidotes from the author or pop culture references that had nothing to do with the song. When that happened, the book started to lose my interest.

I feel like this happened because the author wasn't born in the early years or didn't grow up with the songs. We're about the
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Maria Lewis
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best pieces of pop culture writing from one of the best pop culture writers currently working. Shea's work is like creative fuel because it makes you want to be better, funnier, wittier, smarter, more insightful. This was a gorgeous combination of hip hop history lessons and deeeeep fangirl/boy rantings, which is precisely what I would want a Rap Year Book to be. Also, the illustrations and charts are GORGEOUS. Would kill for a few wall-sized posters of these.
Marcella
Oct 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
Like all good music writing, it is very funny, overflowing with love for rap music, history, and culture, and imbued with a healthy and sensible fear of and love for DMX.
Annie
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First book I finished in 2016, what a great start to the year.
Kusaimamekirai
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh how I love everything about this book. The reasons are many but I’ll unpack it in four parts.

First: The Concept.

How can you not love the idea of sifting through every rap song from 1979-2014 and choosing the most “important” one of each year. It is just as it seems, a monumentally difficult and subjective task. Some years it’s fairly clear, others there are 4 or 5 that could easily fit author Shea Serrano’s criteria of not simply being the “best” but contributing something either to the ev
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Kate
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The conversational tone of this book and absolutely gorgeous illustrations really put it over the top for me. It is a deliberately highly subjective text, and that is the only reason I will forgive Killer Mike's "Reagan," which is iconic and transcendent, being passed over for Macklemore's "Same Love," which is not. I'm delighted to own this book, and TRYB is a warm, enthusiastic read for even casual fans of the genre like myself.
Frank
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
As the title says, not necessarily the best song from each year but the most important--what song changed the game, made a statement, or announced a major new voice. Overall, real solid choices and excellent perspective on the evolution and lasting impact of the genre.

Okay, here's one I would have picked differently: 1995 ("Shook Ones Pt. II" over "Dear Mama").
Neel Amin
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While it was a great read, it wasn't exactly what I was expecting. Ended up being more of a history of Rap rather than a discussion/debate on why certain songs were picked over others as the most influential song of each year. Would have appreciated a list of which songs were in consideration for each individual year.
Katie Florida
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was completely enthralled throughout. Serrano's writing is hilarious, witty, and amazing.
David Ranney
SPIN: Do you consider yourselves prophets?

CHUCK D: I guess so. We're bringing a message that's the same shit that all the other guys that I mentioned in the song have either been killed or deported: Marcus Garvey, Nat Turner, all the way up to Farrakhan and Malcolm X.

What is a prophet? One that comes with a message from God to try to free people. My people are enslaved within their own minds.

Rap serves as the communication that they don't get for themselves to make them feel good about themse
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Corina
Oct 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
so rap, especially the 1994-2002 (or so) incarnations of it, is pretty dear to my heart. I defend Kanye to anyone who will listen, I went to the On the Run tour for the Jay Z half of the bill, I get in fights with my students (who weren't alive at the time) about West Coast 90s rap. I'm no expert, but I do love it. & then Shea Serrano, my fave Grantland writer/Twitter genius, went and wrote "The Rap Yearbook," which dissects the most important rap song each year going back to 1979. I downed it i ...more
Karl Ocampo
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even before Shea blew up, I was with him and other 36K followers on Twitter (now he has like more than 250K). More than the book itself, I feel proud of the guy for accomplishing so much and being just a good example of how working hard can literally take you to places. He remains one of my idols. The book was really insightful and entertaining. I loved all the chapters, but my favorites would have to be the one about 1992, 1994, 2002 and 2011.

Side note: It's funny that while I was reading throu
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Laura
Jan 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Laughed out loud multiple times with this one. Could not recommend it more.
Pedro Calmell
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book in general is pretty funny. I love Shea Serrano's writing style.
Scott Tappa
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nostalgia trip, history lesson and comedy all in one. Well done, Shea.
La'Tonya Rease Miles
I spent several years teaching college students NOT to write like Shea Serrano, i.e., rambling, unconnected, unnecessarily self aware. But I am no longer teaching and Shea has written several books, so what does that say?

Up until around the year 1994, I read the book with fervor and dedication. While I definitely did not agree with everything Serrano says, I still nodded and shrugged and kept it pushing. The things he says about the early years make sense for the most part. But then we get to 1
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Dave
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mostly loved this book. I laughed way more than I expected to--Serrano is sharp and funny and equal parts insightful and self-deprecating. Footnotes can often be distracting in this type of book, but they are super-helpful here for both information and jokes. Tons of great anecdotes, both from Serrano's life and the hip hop world, run throughout, along with mostly great art and analysis.

On to my complaints. First off, I wish there were more female voices and fewer typos. The former is way more
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David Keaton
Mar 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Where have you been all my life? Hilarious, informative, with great charts and timelines and footnotes and cool artwork full of symbols and clever semiotic situations. An informal, conversational (but no less brilliant) tone throughout that'll stop and say things sorta like "Don't worry this chapter is like the other chapters but I'm going to front-load it so I can tell a long story later about when I found a wallet..." Most of the author's points are as funny as they are bulletproof, like where ...more
Jesse
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I loved this book! This had me thoroughly entertained for the entire read, and I didn’t want to finish it! I wanted it to keep going!
I bought this as a Christmas gift for my girlfriend, and then never let her have it because I was obsessed. I really enjoyed the way it was put together!
Great format, loads of info delivered in a very casual way (at times hilarious), tons of facts, interesting connections, and great illustrations.
I wish I could read a book like this about all the things I’m intere
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Autumn
Writing more enjoyable than it has to be, fun infographics, solid information and critique, and cool illustrations. I found this book irresistible! Using 'the most important song of the year' is a fair rubric that allows me to forgive the lack of Digital Underground content. And uh, I make lists and comparisons for a living, so thanks for the inspiration, Shea Serrano!
Neil Mach
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This encyclopedia is fun, rude, irreverent, and a critical analysis of the literary language of hip-hop ... and Serrano touches on the hierarchical oppositions and internecine wars (not always of words) between tribes. But, best of all, this is full of joy and thoroughly enlightening.
SY77
Apr 06, 2019 rated it liked it
I don't know much about rap so it was an interesting read, a lot of detail. Perhaps even a bit too much sometimes. For me, the most interesting was to read about the early days of rap – the 80s-90s years.
Courtney Chartier
Mar 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So much fun! And the only sadness in reading it is that it came out before Kendrick Pulitzer, Kayne's descent into full-Kanye, Jay-Z's involvement with the NFL and the true rise of Soundcloud rappers. I need the update for 2015-2019. Let us know, Shea.
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