Considering the all-too-humble sales of catalog hip-hop albums, it's surprising the number of books dedicated to the genre's history and pioneers. This dynamic is a testament to the obsessive nature of the small but vocal devotees of classic hip hop. These rap addicts now have another excellent read to add to their already stuffed shelves. Brian Coleman's Check the Technique
offers an oral history of 36 great hip-hop albums. Nearly all the major players weigh in and offer interesting insights and riveting anecdotes. Philly proto-gangsta Schooly D relates how he was banned from the stuffy classical studio where he recorded the seminal track "P.S.K." KRS-One remembers the inspiration for his first poems: Watching the looting following the New York City blackout of '77, he asks his mother, "Why are they doing this?" His mother stoically replies, "When there is no light, there is chaos." Sadly, Bushwick Bill expresses bitterness over the infamous cover shot of him being dragged out of the hospital for the Geto Boys' 1991 classic We Can't Be Stopped
, saying, "I still feel the pain from the fact that I have a bullet in my brain. To see that picture only brings it back more so."
Though the book includes chapters on everything from Wu-Tang Clan's Enter the 36 Chambers to Too Short's Life is ... Too Short, Coleman focuses on New York hip hop from rap's golden era the six-year span from '87 to '93 that many consider the high-water mark for the genre. Check the Technique isn't a great book in the way that Jeff Chang's Can't Stop, Won't Stop is little attention is given to the outlining societal conditions but it's a quick read and will no doubt prove indispensible for tried-and-true hip-hop heads. Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson's intro and the photos by Brian Cross (aka B+) serve as an added bonus. I suggest reading this book while listening to the corresponding albums.