Hip hop has come a long way since New York City DJs in the 1970s started spinning records that would allow rappers to take center stage in the music industry. The genre has served as the soundtrack for generations of youth and pop culture and has found audiences worldwide. Hip hop continues to evolve as new acts make waves with fresh styles and trends, while the beats and rhymes from OGs like DJ Kool and Queen Latifah continue to "Rapper's Delight."

Whether you love funky West Coast rhythms or favor hard East Coast beats, these seven hip hop books are required reading for any fans of the genre.

Back In The Days (amazon.com)
Back in the Days
Jamel Shabazz, Fab 5 Freddy and Ernie Paniccioli (powerHouse Book, 2001)
Telling the story of hip hop through pictures, Jamel Shabazz gives the reader a throwback to the 1980s on the streets of New York City. The author showcases how ordinary people set the fashion standards as hip hop began to take off and dominate pop culture, and gives each reader the chance to flip through the enduring genre's history.

Price: $36

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The Come Up (amazon.com)
The Come Up: An Oral History of the Rise of Hip-Hop
Jonathan Abrams (Crown, 2022)
Jonathan Abrams goes under the surface in “The Come Up,” interviewing and collecting knowledge from some of hip hop’s earliest members. The author and journalist manages to take the reader on a journey from the South Bronx through the rest of New York City as he traces the popularity of the sounds so many of us love today. Abrams manages to do the impossible, packaging over three hundred interviews into one amazing story of hip hop history.

Price: $21

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Mo_ Meta Blues (amazon.com)
Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove,
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (Grand Central Publishing, 2015)
Musician and Late-Night TV staple Questlove shares his hip hop insight with fans in this memoir. Writing about his own life as a musician from West Philadelphia, Questlove gives an inside look into the state of hip hop and his view on pop culture. Audiences and experts alike will agree: There’s no one better to learn about hip hop culture from than from smooth-talking storyteller Questlove.

Price: $18

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Chronicling Stankonia (amazon.com)
Chronicling Stankonia
Regina N. Bradley (The University of North Carolina Press, 2021)
Once reigning supreme on the charts as the rap group with the most certified albums in the United States, author Regina Bradley explores Outkast’s explosive impact on hip hop culture. “Chronicling Stankonia” not only gives the group the praise it deserves but also shows how members Andre 3000 and Big Boi brought the Southern rap sound to the mainstream. Readers will undeniably want to stream Outkast’s hits on repeat once they manage to put down Bradley’s book.

Price: $20

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Hip Hop at the End of the World (amazon.com)
Hip Hop at the End of the World: The Photography of Brother Ernie
Ernest Paniccioli (Universe, 2018)
Thanks to the talents of the prolific photographer known as Brother Ernie, “Hip Hop at the End of the World” is the perfect archive of street culture. Spanning over four decades of images, the collection traces the genre's history from early pioneers like Queen Latifah to '90s supergroups like TLC and Public Enemy. Fans get a full view of hip hop’s biggest acts, thanks to the must-see photos and Brother Ernie's own hip hop culture anecdotes.

Price: $27

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Break Beats in the Bronx (amazon.com)
Break Beats in the Bronx: Rediscovering Hip-Hop’s Early Years
Joseph C. Ewoodzie Jr. (The University of North Carolina Press, 2017)
Joseph Ewoodzie Jr. takes a deeper exploration into the origins of hip hop and its celebrated pioneers. In particular, Ewoodzie Jr. focuses on late 1970s street culture, when the genre was just finding its footing, and the artists whose contributions to hip hop have been buried with time. He manages to put together new puzzle pieces of the story of hip hop and showcase the side of the music we love that has been lost to time.

Price: $23

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