Shea Serrano delivers a fun hip-hop ride with 'The Rap Year Book'
Shea Serrano’s non-fiction work The Rap Year Book is a collection of essays on what he considers the most important rap song of every year from 1979 to 2014. Some of the most enjoyable and entertaining Twitter marketing took place in the lead up to the release of Serrano’s book, the culmination of which was an enormous hike in sales and a hurried order of secondary printing.
FYI if you bought a copy of TRYB i want you to tell everyone you’re an executive producer now ok wow congratulations on your new job
— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) March 21, 2016
Serrano makes it clear in interviews that the song choices are what he considers the most important rather than the best, but still cops flack from those unable to make the distinction. Illustrations by Arturo Torres visually narrate the book, with wonderfully drawn pictures of rappers adorning the cover.
The brilliance of the book is that the reader does not have to be a rap fan, as Serrano’s sense of humour and breaking up of sections combine to make it thoroughly enjoyable for everybody. In an interview with Vice, Serrano expressed that he wanted to avoid traditional essay style blocks of text in order to keep the read entertaining and enjoyable.
Serrano makes note of the context surrounding particular songs, and explains why he considers them important to their particular year. From his 1996 chapter, California Love by Tupac:
“California Love is a great song. It’s a funky, chirping, fever of noise, the sonic weirdness is boxed in by Roger Troutman’s robo charm, pummeled into acquiescence by Tupac’s fury, and weighed and measured by Dre’s steadiness. All three parts play perfectly together. Examined free of the context of Tupac’s career, it would have lived a perfectly pleasant life, and likely even still managed to become critical to the rap genre.”
Serrano then elaborates on why it was important, listing dot points littered around colourful graphics and illustrations that explore the issue more thoroughly than text itself could. One of his emphatically delivered dot points: “It was produced by Dr. Dre.” Simples, obviously!
At the end of the book, the reader puts it down with a greater sense of knowledge of the rap scene throughout history and feeling as though they have been taken on a journey by a great storyteller. Serrano delivers non-fiction in such an entertaining way that it almost seems fictitious. I highly recommend not only this book, but whatever he puts out in the future.
Also, follow the man on Twitter @SheaSerrano.
Twitter: Abrams Books
Website: Abrams Books
By David Jordan