Rap may be the most revolutionary development in poetry over the past thirty years, and yet its originality is often hidden in plain sight. Beneath the beat, the bluster, and the hype, the heart of hip hop lies in its lyrics. Book of Rhymes explores America's least understood poets, unpacking their complex craft and according them the respect they deserve as lyricists. Examining the language and techniques of hip hop's most memorable artists, Book of Rhymes argues that a new world of rhythm and rhyme awaits us if we only put aside our preconceptions and approach rap with new ears and new eyes.
Featuring lyrics and wisdom from Melle Mel, William Shakespeare, Run-DMC, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Rakim, Emily Dickinson, Public Enemy, T. S. Eliot, De La Soul, Langston Hughes, A Tribe Called Quest, William Butler Yeats, The Notorious B. I. G., Robert Frost, Tupac, Edward Hirsch, Jay-Z, Derek Walcott, Eminem, Frances Mayes, Kanye West, Ted Kooser, Lil Wayne, and more.
"Are you a hip-hop fan who can't tell assonance from alliteration? An English major who doesn't know Biggie from Tupac? Adam Bradley's Book of Rhymes is a crash course for you. . . [A] triumph of jargon free scrutiny."
The New York Times Sunday Book Review
"Adam Bradley's Book of Rhymes is a marvelous exploration into the poetic genius of rap and the cultural gravity of hip hop. His analysis is subtle, sophisticated and soulful!"
Cornel West, Princeton University
"Bradley delivers the intellectual dynamite with this astonishingly researched, passionately argued glove-across-the-face challenge to traditional hip hop scholarship. Superb on every level, a revelation and a joy to read."
Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
“All I can say is wow–it was like somebody was reading my mind. So many books have been written about hip hop's history—that time and that magic–but if you don't get it from reading Book of Rhymes, then you're just not going to get it.”
“As comfortable in the company of Jay-Z as he is with John Donne, Adam Bradley is a visionary critic, skillful and wise. His Book of Rhymes is a tour de force, brilliantly renovating hip hop criticism as he rescues the forgotten vanguard of American poetry.”
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
“[A] new paradigm of scholarship is emerging, and Adam Bradley's Book of Rhymes is a solid contribution [that] scrutinizes hip-hop's artistry with rigor and imagination. . . His insights are compelling.”
Adam Mansbach, Los Angeles Times
“Biggie had flow; Jay-Z has flow. For an English professor, Adam Bradley got some flow of his own.”
James Sullivan, Boston Globe
“Here you'll find Yeats and Frost alongside Nas and the Wu-Tang Clan, together forming a discussion on meter and accent, scansion and slant rhymes. More important, the old-timers and the new jacks seem to get along just fine: Book of Rhymes. . .takes great joy in the written and the rapped word, and it will leave you listening to your favorite MCs with bigger and better ears than before. .”
Chris Vognar, Dallas Morning News
“Bradley is emerging as a pioneering scholar in the study of hip-hop. Here, he shows that rap can be analyzed as literary verse while recognizing its essential identity as music. . . This refreshing read challenges common assumptions that hip-hop is simple or mundane. [It] will particularly appeal to hip-hop artists and aficionados, poets, and literature students and scholars of the hip-hop generation or younger”
Joshua Finnell, Library Journal
“Where some hear noise, Adam Bradley hears the past and future of poetics. With taste, precision, and style, Book Of Rhymes explains the art of rap in ways as bold, lyrical, and imaginative as the art form itself. Heads and theorists will find much to love and argue with in this fine work.”
Jeff Chang, editor, Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop