‘Hip Hop: A Cultural Odyssey’ book, Grammy Museum exhibit celebrate the musical movement

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Decades before Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Eminem or Lil Wayne made names for themselves in mainstream hip-hop, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash and Kool Herc introduced the movement to the first adopters, who spread the genre to the masses via not only music, but dancing, art and DJing.

That rich history of hip-hop culture, dating back to the days of b-boys and b-girls breaking on streets, DJs scratching turntables, MCs battling each other on corners and graffiti writers tagging wherever and whenever, is explored in a new coffee-table book and accompanying Grammy Museum exhibit, which opens Tuesday.

“Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey” is a massive, sprawling 420 page opus that includes exclusive photos and interviews with the pioneers, trendsetters and icons of the genre and provides an exhaustive account on the birth, evolution and global ripple effect hip-hop has had over the last four decades.


“There was a realization that there was a huge void in the market for a book like this,” said Jordan Sommers, editor of the book and president of ARIA Multimedia Entertainment, the book’s publisher. “Coffee table books are usually associated with iconic subjects, culturally significant events or impactful movements, and hip-hop culture is all of the above. I thought the time was right to do a book that has the size, scope, depth, quality and significance as the culture itself.”

The book showcases influential rappers -- classified as “game changers” –- such as Jay-Z, Kanye West, Eminem, Run DMC, Queen Latifah,, Diddy, 50 Cent and Will Smith, among others, and has curated a list of influential albums and singles that have pushed hip-hop forward. There are dozens of essays written by hip-hop journalists and authors (one of whom is Pop & Hiss writer Jeff Weiss), that cover a breadth of the culture, including MCs, white rappers, indie rap, the growth of regional hip-hop and the marriage of rap with soul music.

Jeff Wald, chief executive officer of ARIA, said he believes hip-hop has been unfairly overlooked for too long -– despite its cultural significance and prominence in today’s musical landscape.

“One of the biggest complaints of the community was hip-hop being ignored by the Grammys. The Grammy Foundation has sort of treated it like a stepchild,” Wald said. “Some of it was racial, I think. Some of it was the fact that it got off to a bad start with the DeLores Tuckers and people badmouthing it or thinking it was too misogynistic or too gangster.”

The exhibit at the Grammy Museum includes memorabilia -- handwritten Tupac Shakur lyrics, LL Cool J’s Kangol hat and Grandmaster Flash’s turntables -- as well as photos and essays and opens Tuesday, where it will remain on view through May 4.

-- Gerrick Kennedy