The Rap Year Book: The Most Important Rap Song From Every Year Since 1979, Discussed, Debated, and Deconstructed
Author: Shea Serrano
Release Date: October 2015
I love music, but I’ve had a hard time finding rap music that I really enjoy. Besides some classic stuff (RunDMC, Public Enemy, Digital Underground) I only knew a few guys that I couldn’t stand (hello Ja’Rule) and a lot that I didn’t know very well. I thought this would be a good book to introduce me to some variety in the genre and have a few laughs, with the writer being one of the funnier Grantland alumni.
Having finished the book, I think it succeeded in introducing me to some better songs in the genre, but didn’t exactly blow me away in terms of variety of songs chosen. Ever single year, the song of the year is a male vocalist, and most of the variety then comes from what the content of the song is about, but a few of them are pretty redundant. For example, one rapper will be very important for making rap from Atlanta main stream, and a few chapters later, the rapper will be picked for being from Texas and making southern rap mainstream, and this is all built off of the Tupac/Notorious B.I.G. rivalry of east coast vs west coast. This is expanded to their proteges like Snoop Dawg, and all of a sudden 1/2 of the songs in the book are just about bragging about the singer’s geography.
The humor was great though, I laughed a lot while reading it. In particular, when Shea Serrano tells stories from his youth about being allowed to say ‘hell’ while rapping along to Will Smith or his two real life experiences meeting pimps I felt more like I could relate to the music. It also made me realize that most of Serrano’s fandom was ingrained from a young age, and that likewise I’ll probably never find something in the genre I enjoy more than the aforementioned 80’s hip hop groups. Between learning that, and that Ice Cube was actually a pretty great rapper, reading the book was a net positive overall.