"One Day It'll All Make Sense": Hip-Hop and Rap Resources for Music Librarians

Article excerpt

Despite being an object of derision within academia for many years, the study of hip-hop culture and rap music ahs now largely gained respectability in the academy, and is considerably less marginalized than it was only a decade ago. Scholars working in a number of disciplines are increasingly recognizing hip-hop culture and rap music as subjects worthy of attention. Consequently, a great deal of scholarly study and writing on hip-hop and rap is being carried out, drawing from fields including African American studies, history, linguistics, literature, musicology, sociology, and women's studies. Hip-hop and rap topics are now commonly presented at academic conferences, and are explored in dozens of books published by university presses, and numerous undergraduate courses and graduate seminars devoted to hip-hop and rap are taught in universities throughout the United States. This acceptance has also resulted in the collection of archival hip-hop and rap materials at research institutions such as Harvard University, Indiana University, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Smithsonian Institution. As the subjects of hip-hop culture and rap music continue to gain further acceptance among scholars, become areas of study in more university courses, and continue to be the subjects of published literature, many music librarians should anticipate that they will require knowledge of hip-hop and rap resources, and need expertise in collecting these materials for their libraries.

This bibliographical essay provides descriptions of wide array of resources relating to hip-hop culture and rap music, and its final section is devoted to the collecting of hip-hop and rap materials by libraries. While the essay is primarily intended to serve as a guide for music librarians who provide reference service and library instruction, and to those with collection development responsibilities, it may also prove useful to educators, students, and those beginning to conduct research on hip-hop or rap. The essay is not intended as a comprehensive bibliography on hip-hop culture and rap music, but rather, it provides information about materials that may be used as reference sources and as starting points for research in these subject areas. Since music is the primary focus of this essay, many worthwhile resources devoted specifically to non-music elements of hip-hop, such as break dancing and graffiti, are not covered here. Unless otherwise noted, the citations within the essay refer to the most recent editions of publications, and items that are out of print at the time of this writing are so indicated. For the reader's convenience, all resources described are listed, with full bibliographic citations, in an appendix following the essay, with an asterisk (*) denoting items that are particularly recommended. (1)


Many people do not have a clear understanding of the meanings of "hip-hop" and "rap," and there is some disagreement about whether the terms are interchangeable. This is true even among hip-hop's most knowledgeable writers, performers, and listeners. The most commonly held view, however, is that hip-hop is a cultural movement that emerged in the South Bronx in New York City during the 1970s, and MCing (or rapping; MC = master of ceremonies, also mic controller) is one of its four primary elements. Hip-hop's other three essential elements are generally considered to be graffiti art (or aerosol art), breaking (or break dancing, b-boying), and DJing (or turntablism; DJ = disc jockey), though some maintain that beat-boxing, fashion, and language are also included among hip-hop's elements. Rap music has become by far the most celebrated expression of hip-hop culture, largely as a result of its being the easiest to market to a mass audience.

While the best comprehensive overviews of hip-hop and rap are generally provided by book-length studies (see the titles described below in the sections titled "Literature on Hip-Hop and Rap: A Brief Overview" and "Historical Information"), several sources offer more succinct overviews and definitions. …


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