GRIOTS READ | The Ultimate Hip Hop Syllabus

Griots Republic reached out to Global Hip- Hop Connoisseur and radio host, Natalie Crüe, for a suggested reading list for readers wanting to learn more about hip-hop as an art form and a social movement. What we received was an education of our own – a categorized and curated list of over 70 books, films, articles, and podcast that she deemed worthy of any hip-hop head looking to seriously study the music genre. Our gut tells us that she could have added far more and that in itself is a testament to the reach and breadth of hip-hop.

We’ve culled the list down to her top 70 choices and without further adieu, we give you your hip-hop Ph.D. syllabus. Ladies and gentlemen, strap yourselves in and let the class begin.


These are the essential reads

  • Black Noise by Tricia Rose
  • The Hip-Hop Wars by Tricia Rose
  • Rap Attack by David Toop
  • No Half-Steppin’ — An Oral and Pictorial History of New York City Club the Latin Quarter by Claude “Paradise” Gray and Giuseppe “u. net” Pipitone
  • The Birth of Hip-Hop’s Golden Era by Claude “Paradise” Gray and Giuseppe “” Pipitone
  • Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation by Jeff Chang
  • And It Don’t Stop?: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years by Raquel Cepeda
  • That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader by Mark Anthony Neal
  • The Book of Luke: My Fight for Truth, Justice, and Liberty City by Luther Campbell
  • Sweet Jones: Pimp C’s Trill Life Story by Julia Beverly
  • It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip-Hop’s 1st Latino DJ by Ivan Sanchez, Luis Cedeño
  • My Voice: A Memoir by Angie Martinez
  • My Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science, and Senseless Love by Dessa
  • Original Gangstas: The Untold Story of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, and the Birth of West Coast Rap by Ben Westhoff

  • Check The Technique 1&2 by Brian Coleman
  • The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop by Dan Charnas
  • Hip Hop Files: Photographs, 1979-1984 by Martha Cooper and Akim Walta
  • Tha Global Cipha: Hip Hop Culture and Consciousness by H. Samy Alim, James G. Spady, and Samir Meghelli
  •  Hip-Hop at the End of the World by Ernie Paniccioli
  • A Time Before Crack By Jamel Shabazz
  • Subway Art by Marta Cooper
  • Rakim Told Me by Brian Coleman.
  • Global Linguistic Flows by Alistair Pennycook
  • The Languages of Global Hip Hop by Marina Terkourafi
  • The Africanist Aesthetic in Global Hip-Hop: Power Moves by Halifu Osumare
  • Classic Material: The Hip-Hop Album Guide by Oliver Wang
  • Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies by Brian Coleman
  • Put Em All To Shame: The Curriculum by Professor Lyrical
  • The BeatTips Manual by Amir “Sa’id” Said
  • Born to Use Mics: Reading Nas’s Illmatic by Michael Eric Dyson
  • Chuck D Presents: This Day in Rap and Hip-Hop History by Chuck D

Hip-Hop, Ethnicity & Cultural Identity

  • “Rappin’, Writin’, and Breakin'” by Juan Flores
  • From Bomba to Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity by Juan Flores
  • Within the Context of a Nuyorican Element by Sandra Maria Estevez  

African Hip-Hop

  • Anything written by Msia Kibona Clark
  • Hip-Hop in Africa: Prophets of the City and Dustyfoot Philosophers
  • Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa by Ni Wakati
  • Hip Hop Africa: New African Music in a Globalizing World by Eric Charry

European Hip-Hop

  • Hip Hop Ukraine: Music, Race, and African Migration by Adriana N. Helbig
  • French Moves: The Cultural Politics of Le Hip Hop
  • Black, blanc, beur: rap music and hip-hop culture in the francophone world by Alain-Philippe Durand
  • Hip Hop at Europe’s Edge: Music, Agency, and Social Change by Milosz Miszcynski and Adriana Helbig
  • “Vivo Per Questo” by Amir Issa (Italian Hip-Hop)
  • UK Hip-Hop, Grime and the City by Richard Bramwell

Asian Hip-Hop

  • Desi Rap: Hip Hop and South Asian America Kindle Edition by Ajay Nair, Murali Balaji
  • Hip Hop Desis: South Asian Americans, Blackness, and a Global Race Consciousness by Nitasha Tamar Sharma
  • Empire of Funk: Hip Hop and Representation in Filipina/O America by Mark R. Villegas, Kuttin’ Kandi, Roderick N. Labrador

Middle East (Arabic Hip-Hop)

  • Muslim Networks from Hajj to Hip Hop (Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks) by Miriam Cooke and Bruce B. Lawrence
  • Rap Beyond Resistance: Staging Power in Contemporary Morocco (Pop Music, Culture and Identity) by Cristina Moreno Almeida
  • Muslim Cool: Race, Religion, and Hip Hop in the United States by Su’ad Abdul Khabeer
  • Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop by Vikki Tobak, QuestloveRebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture by Hisham Aidi

Oceania/Pacific Islands

  • RISE by Michelle G Hunder

Other Good Reads

  • Straight from the Source: An Expose from the Former Editor in Chief of the Hip-Hop Bible by Kim Osorio
  • For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education (Race, Education, and Democracy) by Chris Emdin
  • The Rap Year Book: The Most Important Rap Song From Every Year Since 1979, Discussed, Debated, and Deconstructed by Shea Serrano and Arturo Torres
  • Foundation: B-boys, B-girls and Hip-Hop Culture in New York by Joseph (Joe) G. Schloss
  • #HipHopEd: The Compilation on Hip-hop Education
  • Revolutionizing Urban Education: Hip-hop, Pedagogy, and Communities by Emdin Christopher and Edmund Adjapong

  • Hip Hop Family Tree by Ed Piskor
  • The Art & Science of Respect: A Memoir by James Prince by James Prince
  • Diary of a Madman by Brad “Scarface” Jordan
  • It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop by M. K. Asante
  • The Beattips Manual by Amir Said
  • Prophets of the Hood by Imani Perry
  • Home Girls Make Some Noise by Gwendolyn D Pough
  • I Mix What I Like by Jared Ball
  • Hip Hop Genius by Sam Seidel
  • The Healing Power of Hip Hop by Raphael Travis
  • The Hip-Hop Generation by Bakari Kitwana
  • No Sleep: NYC Nightlife Flyers 1988-1999 by DJ Stretch Armstrong
  • Ego Trip’s Book of Rap Lists by Sacha Jenkins

Since we are a community of readers, please add any of your suggestions in the comments – each one, teach one.


Natalie is an arts advocate, creative consultant, cultural producer, avid connector of all things dope, and global community builder. With over a decade of experience in the non-profit, education & entertainment arenas, Natalie has worked with organizations and creatives across the globe via forward-thinking, participatory grassroots initiatives.

In 2014, she co-founded #CultureFix, a global collaborative network of artivists, influencers, and change-makers who use arts and culture to create social change in communities around the world. Currently, she co-spearheads Slumgood, an organization that bridges and empowers communities in the Global South through new media and the arts.



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