Monday, June 7, 2010
GET LIT: The Book of Hip Hop Cover Art
The Book of Hip Hop Cover Art
Andrew Emery, 2004
You better already have this joint because I’ve been sleeping. First appearing in Great Britain in 2004, “The Book of Hip Hop Cover Art” is slowing appearing on your friends’ coffee tables.
British hip-hop journalist Andrew Emery supplies a great trip down memory lane for older heads and an ill history lesson for new jacks. Though the covers are telling, and hilarious at times, the book’s real merit lies in Emery’s focused text. He passionately summarizes entire eras.
Something must be said for the appreciation of hip-hop from afar. Though an ocean separated Emery from hip-hop’s humble beginnings, he writes like he was there. He knows his shit and eloquently dissects marketing trends, label politics and shifting morals that dictate the look of hip-hop.
Lacking in coverage of hip-hop’s later years, the book tracks most of the early releases, at least the ones with real jackets. Vinyl collectors will be enthralled, while other heads will be shocked to see how normal wax was. Sure, we rocked tapes in our boxes, but the j-cards were just reproductions of a square 12-inch jacket. Shit, they were so small you really couldn’t see them. Well, here they are. More importantly, here you’ll find the stuff you’ve never actually seen. Hip-hop’s earliest releases were singles, solely on wax and barely reaching past the tri-state area. They were later collected in compilations, but most of us just dubbed the joints off the radio. We used to have great rap radio in Atlanta when I was coming up. I guess I was appreciating it from afar, too.
Showcasing the wide spectrum of hip-hop’s early aesthetic, the book seems to ask what happened? Emery is excited between 1978 and the early 90s, but quickly loses steam. It may be the sheer quantity of hip-hop releases and massive attention it gained with its pop breakthrough, but the book’s coverage falls way off at the end.
Though writing about the explosion of No Limit’s Pen-n-Pixel-style covers and the mainstream’s flossy tendencies, the related covers do not appear. There is also little mention of hip-hop’s design renaissance in the 2000s, which is seen in the amazing work of underground releases, independent magazines and clothing companies. Hip-hop’s aesthetic is closer to its roots than ever.
Maybe he just likes hip-hop the way he remembers it, and maybe, the way it’s supposed to be.