The Rhythm of Rap | Performing Arts Reviews, December 2018

Whether readers are familiar with or new to the music, they’ll appreciate this oversize full-color tome that communicates the energy, power, culture, and images of hip-hop; the theme is ultimately love, and this work will resonate with rap lovers and memoir fans

 redstar Tobak, Vikki. Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop. Clarkson Potter: Crown. Oct. 2018. 288p. photos. index. ISBN 9780525573883. $40. MUSIC
Journalist Tobak (Detroit News; Paper) provides a valuable lens into the history of hip-hop, offering iconic photographs spanning 1979–2012, along with the contact sheets. Commentary from the photographers gives context on how the shoots developed, locations were selected, interactions with the musicians, and other observations. There are essays by contributors such as photo collector and former Def Jam Recordings publicity director Bill Adler, artist Questlove, record producer DJ Premier, and Rhea L. Combs, curator of film and photography at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Among the photos are Gordon Parks’sA Great Day in Hip-Hop (a remake of A Great Day in Harlem featuring more than 200 artists, including Fab Five Freddy, Twista, and Pete Rock), along with images of Tupac Shakur, Aaliyah, Run-DMC, Notorious B.I.G., Slick Rick, Queen Latifah, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and many more.
VERDICT Take out your magnifying glass and dig into these famous shots. Whether readers are familiar with or new to the music, they’ll appreciate this oversize full-color tome that communicates the energy, power, culture, and images of hip-hop. [See also Mahnaz Dar’s “Testifying to the Power of Hip-Hop at the New York Public Library,” Lani Smith, Ohone Coll. Lib., Fremont, CA

Vidal, Juan. Rap Dad: A Story of Family and the Subculture That Shaped a Generation. Atria. Sept. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9781501169397. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501169410. MUSIC
This compelling memoir from musician, journalist, and NPR cultural critic Vidal is a story of direction found in a morass of difficult relationships, poverty, social and political violence, and community and societal pressure. At 26, while starting to enjoy musical success, Vidal became a father. His model for fatherhood was lacking—his dad struggled with drug addiction and run-ins with the law. So the author looked to the hip-hop culture that for so long sustained him. His prose maintains a vivid hold on readers, even if the book suffers somewhat from repetition and—as Vidal himself states—the author seems to be taking credit for “doing something [he’s] supposed to do.” Still, it’s great to have a Rap Dad who is inspired by one of our most popular forms of music (and Vidal’s use of lyrics throughout works beautifully) and who demonstrates his commitment to his “greatest creation,” his children.
VERDICT Myths are busted, rhymes are decoded, and lives are unpacked. The theme is ultimately love, and this work will resonate with rap lovers and memoir fans.—Bill Baars, formerly of Lake Oswego P.L., OR

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