The best hip-hop books: 7 for your collection

“If you’re reading this, it’s too late,” Drake already knew. Our list of the best and most important hip-hop books from 2019 to 2022 (yes, 2022!) is not too late, but just in time for the wet and cold season. – includes personal recommendations and anecdotes from bestselling author and music journalist Jan Wehn, who already works for redbull.com with RIN and Yung Head & Little Master has spoken and exciting German rap podcasts hosted hat.

Nura Habib Omer – You know what I mean? From asylum to the charts (2020)

A biography just in your early 30s? In the case of most books recently published by rappers, the doubts about what happened in the first three decades of life that were so earth-shattering are completely justified. As for Nura, not really. Because in addition to various golden records, millions of streaming and awards, the rapper has had a turbulent life. She is barely three years old and flees with her family from Kuwait to Germany and spends the first years in refugee homes. The family eventually settles in Wuppertal, but there are always quarrels with the mother – because as a Muslim girl Nura likes much less than her brothers. Finally there is a break and Nura spends her teenage days in the house before finally moving to Berlin where her big career – alone production, then solo – wait. By the way: Nura has just released not only her new solo album, but also a kind of musical sequel to the book, “Auf Suche”. And as a bonus, there is also the book for easy listening:

Kool Savas – King of Rap: The 24 Laws (2021)

Pen and paper: Kool Savas

© Lukas Maeder

“I’ll send you back to your bookstore / lock you in a drawer”, Kool Savas rapped in 2007 on the song “Welle” from his second album “Tot odervivive”. A few years have passed since then, but one thing hasn’t changed for many hip-hop fans: in their eyes, Kool Savas is still the undisputed King of Rap. How Essah managed to defend that title for a quarter of a century? The rapper, who seems to have overcome his aversion to books and the shops in which they are sold, talks about this in his first bestseller and has also drawn up the corresponding 24 laws. However, anyone expecting a business guide or the next self-optimization bible will be disappointed or delighted. “King of Rap: The 24 Laws” tells the story of 25 years of King’s career in a pleasant way for a long time – and also lets many companions, including Eko Fresh, Haftbefehl, Sido or Kida Ramadan, have their say.

Jan Wehn: “There are plenty of rapper biographies. Unfortunately, many of them tell one and the same success story without any sharp edges. For this reason alone, Kool Savas’ book stands out for its concept. Although one day I would like to read the entire life story of the King of Rap.”

Jan Wehn ​​& Davide Bortot – Can you hear us? An Oral History of German Rap (2019)

What is an oral history, please, some will ask when studying the subtitle. In fact, the practice of the oral storytelling tradition stems from historical scholarship, in which contemporary witnesses are interrogated about particular events and individual passages of their descriptions are then assembled one after the other in such a way as to create a coherent narrative. And because a look at other music genres shows that exactly this method was already used in local punk (“Waste Your Youth” by Jürgen Teipel) and in Techno before, during and after the fall of communism in West and East Berlin (“The Sound of the Family” by Sven von Thülen and Felix Denk), the two music journalists Jan Wehn ​​​​and Davide Bortot have also transferred the principle to the last 30 years of German rap, but with Smudo von The Fantastic Four or Toni-L as with Samy Deluxe and BeenCasper and marteriaShindy and RIN talked about it and was told how German rap is doing, if it hadn’t been like that then.

Tobias “Toxik” Kargoll & Phillip Böndel – The Formula for Success in Hip-Hop: Ambition and Underdog Mindset as a Business Factor (2021)

Tobias Kargoll is also a music journalist. Together with former music manager Philipp Böndel, publisher hiphop.de founded The Ambition last year, a management consultancy specializing in hip-hop. With “Hip-hop success formula: Ambition and underdog mindset as a business factor”, the two have now also published a book about their passion. On more than 330 pages, the two decipher the hip-hop code and explain the success of the most important pop-cultural trend of the last decades – because rappers have long earned millions not only from their music, but also from expensive advertising offers, iced tea or pizza. But what exactly is that? Kargoll and Böndel do an exciting deep dive into the whole culture and not only tell about the local success stories of a Specter (Aggro Berlin) or Elvir Omerbegovic (Selfmade Records/Division), but also dare to pursue a career outside of music and talk about artists like Banksy and designers like Virgil Abloh or 6pm mastermind Achraf Ait Bouzalim.

Jan Wehn: “I did my first internship as a music journalist in 2008 at hiphop.de. It’s been 13 years now and rap has grown from a niche genre into the biggest music genre in the country. Toxik and Phillip expertly track this development – ​​and much more – in their book.”

Vanessa Seifert & Tan Erbas – German Rap Undercover (2021)

Author and graphic artist Vanessa Seifert and co-author Tan Erbas at the Berlin restaurant Burgeramt

Vanessa Seifert, Tan Erbas and the first edition of “Deutschrap Undercover”

© Mellow

It is what it says: “The story behind the artworks from the early 90s to the present”. Graphic artist and author Vanessa Seifert, along with Tan Erbas, director of Berlin’s probably most hip-hop-affinity burger restaurant, researched the origins of more than 70 album covers, spoke with graphic designers, photographers and rappers and brought amazing things to light. 240 pages thick, “Deutschrap Undercover” is both a geek manifesto and a coffee table aspiring — and now available

Questlove – Music is history (2021)

Questlove at seiner Red Bull Music Academy Lecture

Living Music Encyclopedia: Questlove

© Christelle de Castro/Red Bull Media House

The fact that Questlove is a gifted drummer and not just an essential member of the Roots should be well known to culture consumers interested in pop culture. Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is much more than that, much more. Namely a music nerd for de Heer, an unrivaled connoisseur and checker, who also has the necessary specialist knowledge to substantiate his expertise with the right facts. And what could be more logical than a book about exactly this talent? Only. “Music Is History” is a treatise on modern music history, beginning with Questlove’s birth year in 1971 and spanning the next five decades, while also devoting itself to the history of America and Questlove itself.

Robert Winter – (Prod. By) (2020)

Hard to believe, but there was a time when producers* in German rap didn’t really exist. Instead, the people responsible for the music lived a gloomy existence as silent parts of duos and crews in the background or in the credits of books that no one read anyway, or were simply called “DJs”. A lack of respect that is thankfully a thing of the past. Today, producers are often more important or on an equal footing with the people in whose shadow they have stood for years. An indication of this, for example, is that their names are prominently displayed after the track title. Robert Winter skilfully uses this novelty for the title of his photo book about the German beat scene. The Cologne native has been taking cover, artist and concert photos for years, getting closer to the producers than anyone else. The book, which started as a crowdfunding project, collects the best of these black-and-white photos on 256 pages and is supplemented with texts, portraits and interviews in German and English by music journalists such as Ralf Theil and Stephan Kunze.

Jan Wehn: “It’s a shame that a photographer has to come first to give producers their well-deserved shine – but it’s all the better that it’s Robert Winter, who not only supports the community, but has also been many capable colleagues Beautiful to look at – and exciting to read.”

Dan Charnas – Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla (2022)

Hip-hop purists often wear “J Dilla Changed My Life” T-shirts to express their deep respect for the exceptional Detroit musician who died in 2006 of the incurable autoimmune disease lupus. Because James Dewitt Yancey has shaped hip-hop like no other over the past ten years with his very own and forward-looking production style. As a member of the Slum Village crew and solo, the Detroit producer has provided well-known rappers such as Common, De La Soul and Busta Rhymes with his sound. Producers like Kanye West still look up to him. Based on more than 150 interviews with companions and admirers, “Dilla Time” becomes a perfect blend of biography as well as musicological and cultural-historical treatise on one of the most important musicians of the last hundred years.

Jan Wehn: “It hasn’t been published yet, but it can certainly be on the list – for me it is already an absolute must!”

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