Book Reviews – December 2010

Best Music Writing 2010
Daphne Carr – Series Editor
Da Capo Press
Street: 11.09
If you think serious music writing has reached the lowest common denominator since the proliferation of incessant music blogging, Best Music Writing 2010 will remind you of how professional, and good, serious critiques and examinations of music and culture can be. Best Music Writing visits just about every musical neighborhood from tabloid-heavy pop, to classical, jazz, zydeco, to Nitsuh Abebe’s landmark Pitchfork article “The Decade in Indie.” Beyond a collection of great articles about musicians, Best Music Writing has fantastic thoughts about how music reflects America’s changing cultural norms and vice-versa. One such article, Hua Hsu’s “The End of White America,” originally published in The Atlantic, presents the success and hyper-rich lifestyles of African American hip-hop moguls Sean “Diddy” Combs and Jay-Z as guideposts of how to navigate a post-racial America. Topics range from indie rock’s tepid sexuality to Adam Lambert, Merle Haggard and everything in between. –Ryan Hall

Body Type 2: More Typographic Tattoos
Ina Saltz
Abrams Image
Street: 03.01
Some may have to explain the motive and the meaning behind a tattoo. Others eschew explanation and get the word printed on them. Such are the inked denizens who call the Body Type series home. The photography, by well-known documentarian Ina Saltz, literally says it all in this second book. The work is both inspirational (from someone who wants to get some sort of typography on their person) and equally disturbing. Whenever one sees photos of tattoos an either/or reaction takes place—either disdain/questioning or admiration. Body Type 2 lets the viewers make that decision themselves, with very little in terms of explanation behind the majority of the works. This is an interesting read for the casual tattoo observer and an equally interesting book for the more studied artist and purveyor, a perfect piece for a tattoo parlor waiting area. –JP

Understand Rap: Explanations of Confusing Rap Lyrics You and Your Grandma Can Understand
William Buckholz
Abrams Image
Street: 10.08
Understand Rap is a book set out to help people of the elder generation get a better understanding of rap songs. It is an honest effort—the author ultimately does a good job of providing close readings on a small section of lyrics from popular rap songs. My problem with this book is the terrible representation it has of the hip hop community. Aside from the occasional Biggie or Tupac lyric, this book mostly features Lil Wayne, The Game and a slew of those shitheaded bullshit characters like Rick Ross, Trey Songz and Soulja Boy. The close readings, however, were quite enjoyable. One truly forgets how ridiculous people sound when they rap about internet socializing. Next time you’re jamming to your favorite Akon track, try and give it a nice close read. –Jemie Sprankle