Growing up, I was never the type of kid who liked to read fiction and fairy tales, it never sparked my interest. I was always interested in reading biographies or historical books. The reason is, I would rather get to know the world around me before I entered a fictional world of dwarfs and trolls all over the place! Anyway back on track, I’ve read many books about different artists, from The Beatles to Run DMC. If you’re like me and you’re interested in music biographies or autobiographies, here are some of my personal favorites (in no particular order):
This book captures the pure essence of hip hop from its foundation. Named after the groups third album, this book was written by Ronin Ro with the help of Joseph Simmons (Rev Run) and Darryl McDaniels (DMC). Together they were able to vividly explain the birth, growth and destruction of the group while painting an extremely detailed picture of the hip hop scene in the 80’s. The book also chronicled the life of Russel Simmons and highlighted other artists such as Kurtis Blow, LL Cool J, The Beastie Boys, Def Jam co-founder and producer Rick Rubin, and Aerosmith.
Reading this book I felt as though I was a fly on the wall of their whole career. Every memory was detailed, down to the socks they wore on stage, to the them reaching after parties. The thing that turned me off about this book (and prolonged me finishing it) was the fact that they spent almost 4 whole chapters on how badly Russel Simmons was bullied when he was younger…maybe that’s just me though? All and all this book gets 4.5 /5.
This book was written by Donda West, Kanye West’ mother, in 2005. In the book you learn a lot about not only Kanye, but his family life. Kanye was an only child who lived with his parents in Atlanta until he was three and then moved and grew in Chicago. Personally, I think Donda did an amazing job chronicling the life of her son, I mean who can write a better bio about you than your mother?
Who knew Kanye lived in China for a year and he even spoke the language! Although this is one of my favorite books and Kanye is one of my favorite artists, I feel as though she spent a lot of time bragging about her educational background and luxuries, sometimes going completely off topic. However, Donda seemed like an extremely good person and an amazing mother. I’m sure she is proud of the accomplishments her son has achieved since her untimely passing in ’07. This book gets a 4/5.
Written with the help of dream hampton, a long time friend of Hov, this book documents the “Life and Times of Shawn Carter” in about 300 pages. This book in a nutshell is the tale of the once drug dealer, Shawn Carter (Jay Z) who became the Billionaire Business man that he is today, who is well respected by many. I really enjoyed this book because Jay speaks on everything.
Every chapter he analyses about 2 or 3 of his songs, takes a verse and a hook (once or twice he did the full song) and breaks them down bar for bar, even sometimes word for word. He goes REALLY deep into his life as a coke dealer and the transformation he made. Jay also speaks highly about his ex partner in crime Dame Dash, his wife Beyonce Knowles and his idols and rivals. Jay spoke about many artists without bias (50 cent specifically). Decoded was definitely a dope read! Only thing that I didn’t care for was that in every single chapter all he talked about really was the crack game. However, he did make great connections between the dealer life and the life of hip hop. It was touching to see his transformation into who he is now. (Shoutout to Dame Dash) This book gets 5/5.
This book hits home for me, literally. Written by Maestro and his wife Tamara, Stick to Your Vision chronicles the life of the “God Father of Canadian Hip Hop”. Maestro gets deep about his struggles as a Canadian artist moving to the US and about that “hole” that a lot of rappers try to act like they never experienced. The “hole” is that time in your career where you just don’t think you will ever be relevant and that you cant top your first joint. I think that this book is near perfection on so many levels. It’s difficult writing about this book without sounding extremely bias but the it’s so dope. The references about Canada and Toronto make the book that much more enjoyable. It’s like “YO, I know who and what hes talking about son”. Maestro’s career spans music, movies, TV shows and a book! Maestro what is next? This book gets a 5/5.
These are books that I’ve read in the past year and a half and wanted to share them with you, giving you my outlook on each of them without spoiling them for you. I’m always looking for good books to read, so please feel free to let me know about some of your favourite books!
Question: What Canadian artist or group of any genre would you love to read about? For me personally, I would like to learn more about K’naan, k-os, and Kim Davis.
If your interested in purchasing any of the above-mentioned books here are their Amazon number codes:
Raising Hell (Run DMC): 0060781955
Raising Kanye: 1416544704
Stick to Your Vision: 0771088833