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The Come Up: An Oral History of the Rise of Hip-Hop

by Jonathan Abrams

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"The essential oral history of hip-hop, from its origins on the playgrounds of the Bronx to its reign as the most powerful force in pop culture-from the award-winning journalist behind All the Pieces Matter, the New York Times bestselling oral history of The Wire. The music that we would later know as hip-hop was born at a party in the Bronx in the summer of 1973. Now, fifty years later, it's the most popular genre in America and its electric impact on contemporary music is likened to that of jazz on the first half of the twentieth century. And yet, despite its tremendous influence, the voices of many of hip-hop's pioneers have never been thoroughly catalogued-and some are at risk of being lost forever. Now, in The Come Up, Jonathan Abrams offers the most comprehensive account so far of hip-hop's rise, told in the voices of the people who made it happen. Abrams traces how the genre grew out of the resourcefulness of an overlooked population amid the decay of the South Bronx, and from there how it overflowed into the other boroughs and then across the nation-from parks onto vinyl, below to the Mason-Dixon line, to the West Coast through gangster rap and G-funk, and then across generations. In more than 300 interviews conducted over three years, Abrams has captured the stories of the DJs, label executives, producers, and artists who both witnessed and made the history of hip-hop. He has on record Grandmaster Caz detailing hip-hop's infancy, Edward "Duke Bootee" Fletcher describing the origins of "The Message," DMC narrating his introduction of hip-hop to the mainstream, Ice Cube recounting N.W.A's breakthrough and breakup, Kool Moe Dee elaborating on his Grammys boycott, and many more key players. And he has conveyed with singular vividness the drive, the stakes, and the relentless creativity that ignited one of the greatest revolutions in modern music. The Come Up is an important contribution to the historical record and an exhilarating behind-the-scenes account of how hip-hop came to rule the world"--… (more)
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The Come Up: An Oral History of the Rise of Hip-Hop, by Jonathan Abrams, is a wonderful look at the history through the recollections of those involved.

Many oral histories, no matter the subject, consist of a collection of accounts, each told by a participant (or large excerpts from the people grouped thematically). I find the approach here to be both very effective and a lot of fun. Abrams offers the structure through paragraphs that set up what is being discussed. Then shorter but very on-point quotes are used to almost simulate a conversation. So rather than just reading about the history or reading what would amount to several versions of the history if each person was included separately, you feel like you are listening to all of these icons sitting around and remembering what happened.

The one thing this does require of the reader is keeping the various people straight. Abrams includes their roles each time and after a few pages you begin to just follow naturally. So, if you are initially unsettled by always switching speaker, give it time. You'll get used to it and once you do, you'll be well rewarded for the effort.

No matter how well you know the history of hip-hop, this book will offer new information and great perspectives on things you knew. Even having read a couple of other books and taken a MOOC, this volume still both educated and entertained me.

Highly recommended for those with an interest in hip hop and music history more broadly. Many of the insights also speak to how the music industry itself has changed.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley. ( )
  pomo58 | Jul 8, 2022 |
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"The essential oral history of hip-hop, from its origins on the playgrounds of the Bronx to its reign as the most powerful force in pop culture-from the award-winning journalist behind All the Pieces Matter, the New York Times bestselling oral history of The Wire. The music that we would later know as hip-hop was born at a party in the Bronx in the summer of 1973. Now, fifty years later, it's the most popular genre in America and its electric impact on contemporary music is likened to that of jazz on the first half of the twentieth century. And yet, despite its tremendous influence, the voices of many of hip-hop's pioneers have never been thoroughly catalogued-and some are at risk of being lost forever. Now, in The Come Up, Jonathan Abrams offers the most comprehensive account so far of hip-hop's rise, told in the voices of the people who made it happen. Abrams traces how the genre grew out of the resourcefulness of an overlooked population amid the decay of the South Bronx, and from there how it overflowed into the other boroughs and then across the nation-from parks onto vinyl, below to the Mason-Dixon line, to the West Coast through gangster rap and G-funk, and then across generations. In more than 300 interviews conducted over three years, Abrams has captured the stories of the DJs, label executives, producers, and artists who both witnessed and made the history of hip-hop. He has on record Grandmaster Caz detailing hip-hop's infancy, Edward "Duke Bootee" Fletcher describing the origins of "The Message," DMC narrating his introduction of hip-hop to the mainstream, Ice Cube recounting N.W.A's breakthrough and breakup, Kool Moe Dee elaborating on his Grammys boycott, and many more key players. And he has conveyed with singular vividness the drive, the stakes, and the relentless creativity that ignited one of the greatest revolutions in modern music. The Come Up is an important contribution to the historical record and an exhilarating behind-the-scenes account of how hip-hop came to rule the world"--

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