Tim O'Hearn's Reviews > The Rap Year Book: The Most Important Rap Song From Every Year Since 1979, Discussed, Debated, and Deconstructed

The Rap Year Book by Shea Serrano
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it was amazing
bookshelves: rap

I'm a big fan of Chuck Klosterman's writing. Sometimes I'll quip that I wish he was younger. Mostly because I'd prefer to imagine him as an old brother rather than a young uncle. Also because I'd rather him fixate on rap rather than rock. He really likes classic rock and I don't. Much to my surprise, it turns out that Shea Serrano, who wrote alongside Chuck at Grantland, really likes rap. I learned this five days ago and it's been a good week.

Mr. Serrano has constructed a well-balanced and important work. This is rare because the genre, by nature, invites an uncanny number of low quality critiques. In The Rap Year Book, which was recommended to me by a friend who thumbed through it in a barbershop, you're forced into a chamber of critical thought. It will teach you your place on the spectrum of rap fandom. What the book does best is provide historical context and attempt to guide the conversation for rap's first 35 years. In a world where Youtube commentators and B-list bloggers frequently pull facts out of the air, a high quality compilation such as this is invaluable.

For me, a serious rap fan, Shea filled in the blanks for the years I never made much of an effort to understand, namely the 80's and early 2000s. The 80s were never interesting to me aside from the historical aspect, and my father laughed at me when I made Paid in Full my ringback tone in 2007.

Where the controversy might start for some is his coverage of the mid 1990s. Personally, I thought it was fair, but I also find it necessary to remind you that, considering I discovered Rakim in 2007, it's not likely that I had any emotional connection to Biggie and Tupac when they were alive and making music. The coverage of the East Coast/West Coast feud was done well.

The Jay Z and Nas beef was also covered, and covered as perfectly as it could have been. I've read a lot of Jay Z vs Nas comparisons but this was the best- bar none. There's no doubt that it was an academic stance, but Shea is right on.

I noticed a fair amount of J. Cole hate in the book, which is a popular stance for the more brainy hip hop writers to take. I just don't see how Wale and Cudi could have possibly come into the conversation as mixtape superstars (albiet, ones who flopped) without J Cole (or even Big Sean, to a lesser extent) being a part of the conversation.

I agree wholeheartedly with Nicki Minaj's verse on Monster being one of the greatest of all time. It was validating to see it stated here, more so than anything else in the book. The entire 2005 - 2011 catalogue is insightful yet highly agreeable. 2007 should have been Crank That or Throw Some D's, though.

We all have our opinions, and Rap is lucky that Shea Serrano articulated his.

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Reading Progress

June 23, 2017 – Started Reading
June 28, 2017 – Shelved
June 28, 2017 – Finished Reading
November 24, 2017 – Shelved as: rap

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