By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
While the book impressively surveys more than 50 different topics and personalities, it’s still a top-down approach that valorizes rap music as the monster phenom it‘s become. Much like Nelson George’s astute but ultimately myopic Hip Hop America (1998), VHHH has the macro locked down but leaves the micro largely untouched, missing the more foundational elements of hip-hop life that don‘t make the cover of Newsweek or as an MTV buzz clip. Lost in its dizzying whirl of chapters is a scant seven pages devoted to the regional scenes, giving brief lip service to the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest and other hip-hop pockets in the backwoods away from New York and L.A. The Vibe History of Hip-Hop is a book about producing music, producing images, producing ideas, but it rarely tries to converse with those who actually consume hip-hop. Despite its thoroughness and generally strong writing, it seems meant to be looked at once, then put on display as a reflection of the reader’s discriminating taste.
If the Vibe edition is destined for the coffee table, people will likely call Ego Trip‘s Book of Rap Lists the ultimate bathroom bible. Inspired by Dave Marsh’s Book of Rock Lists and edited by Sacha Jenkins, Elliott Wilson, Chairman Mao, Gabriel Alvarez and Brent Rollins, the BRL is one of the most obsessively detailed explorations of hip-hop ever undertaken. The book is organized in a series of more than 400 lists, compiled into 25 chapters. The topics span from ”Best Rap Advertising Copy“ to ”5 Acts of Random Violence Between Rappers“ to ”8 Songs About Body Odor“ (No. 1: ”The Dragon“ by Biz Markie).
Filled with pages of intricate esoterica and acerbic asides, BRL is ostensibly a supreme rap trivia book. In its manic minutiae, however, it‘s historically thorough -- BRL isn’t meant to proffer encyclopedic knowledge like Rap Attack 3 or VHHH, but the Ego Trip team finds factoids and anecdotes that fill in the many gaps left by the other books‘ trickle-down approach. The sheer volume of information is mind-boggling, a laborious attempt to cover every facet of hip-hop’s influence, whether serious or humorous. While the Ego Trip approach is arguably arrogant, cynical and sometimes maddeningly parochial (not unlike the former zine itself), the act of actually writing the BRL -- of spending the endless hours to conceptualize, research and collect the hundreds of lists included -- is a testament to hip-hop‘s spark in the human imagination.
Ego Trip’s Book of Rap Lists is a remarkable book. Underneath its fanatically comprehensive cataloging, eccentric inclusions and twisted humor is a love letter dedicated to the passion and catharsis that rap music engenders every day for millions of fans worldwide.