In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Rap/Hip-Hop

  • Introduction
  • Resource Guides and References on Rap Music/Hip-Hop
  • Discographies
  • Periodicals
  • The Business of Rap Music/Hip-Hop

Music Rap/Hip-Hop
Cheryl L. Keyes
  • LAST REVIEWED: 04 December 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 June 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0260


Rap evolved as a vernacular term used among African Americans to define a stylized way of speaking. Over the years, black radio disc jockeys, musicians, literary figures, and 1960s political figures incorporated rap into their performances or way of speaking to appeal to black audiences. By the early 1970s, rap continued its development in the urban streets among “rhymin’ emcees” (MCs) accompanied by pre-recorded music, provided by a disc jockey on two turntables. This concept became associated with a youth arts movement driven and populated by black and Latino youth in New York City called hip-hop. Comprised of four elements—breakdancing (b-boying/b-girling), graffiti (writing), disc jockeying (DJing), and emceeing (MCing)—hip-hop also distinguishes a distinct form of dress, gesture, and language that embodies an urban street consciousness. By the late 1970s, the rhymin’ MC/DJ combination attracted music entrepreneurs who recognized the commercial potential with the release of the recording “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang. Subsequently, music trade magazines such as Billboard contributed to popularizing the MC/DJ concept as rap music. Additionally, the production of hip-hop arts via the silver screen, advertising, and fashion industries further contributed to its rise to global prominence. Realizing its viability to a growing youth constituency, entrepreneurs placed significant value on certain elements of hip-hop believed to be more marketable to youth consumers in the popular music mainstream. For example, MCing and DJing became primary markets while breakdancing and graffiti served as hip-hop’s secondary markets. As such, rap music eventually eclipsed in popularity breakdancing and graffiti, thus solidifying this music category. Occasionally, critics and aficionados use rap music interchangeably with hip-hop. The sources herein will be used interchangeably as rap music/hip-hop along with their associates (breakdance and graffiti), and allied traditions. Similar to the burgeoning success of hip-hop culture in the mainstream popular culture, rap garnered the attention of academicians during the late 1980s, who perceived it as fertile ground for the study of popular youth culture. This is evident with a flurry of theses, articles, books, journalistic writings, and photo-essays leading to the establishment of hip-hop studies. Today, there are thousands of written sources on hip-hop. Rather than attempting to present all of these written sources, which would be beyond the scope of this bibliography, this article instead offers a survey of book sources and seminal journal articles that reflect the erudition, scholarly depth, and interdisciplinary scope of hip-hop studies.

Resource Guides and References on Rap Music/Hip-Hop

In the realm of general music reference works, Oxford’s New Grove Dictionary of American Music (second edition, 2013) includes several entries on hip-hop related topics. However, before 2013, several reference volumes specific to rap and hip-hop culture appeared, while a few larger works on hip-hop, such as Hoffmann 2006, Larkin 1994, and Meadows 2010, were available. While there are other sources that are encyclopedic in scope, including Bynoe 2006, Hess 2007, Stancell 1996, Stanley 2009, and Hess 2009, which offer a more regional look at rap/hip-hop throughout the United States with emphasis on specific rap music scenes and venues, Lazerine and Lazerine 2008 includes references regarding hip-hop on the silver screen. Perhaps the most expansive to date is the annotated bibliographic source Gray 2016 that includes a more global account.

  • Bynoe, Yvonne. Encyclopedia of Rap and Hip-Hop Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006.

    Covers thirty years of hip-hop cultural movement. Contains one hundred photographs and discography.

  • Gray, John. Hip-Hop Studies: An International Bibliography and Resource Guide. Nyack, NY: African Diaspora Press, 2016.

    Comprises over seven thousand annotated references that range from general works to specific topics, for example, censorship/First Amendment issues, education, gangsta rap, gender and sexuality, Internet/cyberculture, MCing, regional studies (both national and international).

  • Hess, Mickey, ed. Icons of Hip Hop: An Encyclopedia of the Movement, Music, and Culture. 2 vols. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007.

    With a foreword written by Jeru the Damaja and a hip-hop timeline of historical events, this two-volume work consists of twenty-four biographical entries of noted hip-hop artists. Hess also includes interviews with DJ Premier and twenty-four overlooked MCs in hip-hop’s history, penned by Masta Ace.

  • Hess, Mickey, ed. Hip Hop in America: A Regional Guide. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO/Greenwood, 2009.

    Twenty-four essays on US hip-hop written by expert critics/scholars. It features one-hundred entries on artists, scenes, clubs, and cities as well as a historical account of US hip-hop, comprehensive index, and extensive bibliography.

  • Hoffmann, Frank W. Rhythm and Blues, Rap, and Hip-Hop. New York: Facts on File, 2006.

    Features fourteen hundred entries on musical artists, styles, and related topics. This volume also has an extensive bibliography, index, and appendices.

  • Larkin, Colin. The Guinness Who’s Who of Rap, Dance & Techno. London: Guinness, 1994.

    Offers an account of rap, dance, and techno music. The first half of the book explores noted figures of rap music.

  • Lazerine, Cameron, and Devin Lazerine. The Ultimate Guide to Hip-Hop and R&B. New York: Grand Central, 2008.

    Resource that includes profiles of rap music artists, hip-hop moguls, hip-hop and R&B, neo-soul, hip-hop on the silver screen, and a nice historical overview of hip-hop.

  • Meadows, Eddie S. Blues, Funk, Rhythm and Blues, Soul, Hip Hop and Rap: A Research and Information Guide. New York: Routledge, 2010.

    Divides guide into the following sections: “Blues Resources,” “Funk, Rhythm and Blues, and Soul Resources,” and Hip Hop Rap Resources.” In the book’s latter section, there are 544 annotated entries ranging in topics, for example, general topics, autobiographies/biographies, b-boying/b-girling, cinema, discographies and listening guides, journalism media, gender, regional studies, global studies, politics, and sampling among others mentioned.

  • Stancell, Steve. Rap Whoz Who: The World of Rap Music. New York: Schirmer Books, 1996.

    Considered the first biographical encyclopedic source on rap music artists/producers. Alphabetically arranged, this book covers hundreds of artists and includes biographical information and recordings.

  • Stanley, Tarshia L. Encyclopedia of Hip Hop Literature. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2009.

    With more than 180 entries, this encyclopedia index has an entry related to hip hop literature. Stanley credits such works by novelists Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim as precursors to hip-hop literature. The encyclopedia also lists and discusses contemporary writings reflective of hip-hop culture (e.g., fictions, poetry, and autobiographies) and covers other aspects of hip-hop literature to include fashion designers, directors, as well as artists.

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