The Anthology of Rap, Edited by Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois

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The Independent Culture

Containing over 300 lyrics from over 30 years, this must be one of the largest collections in any area of popular music, though the genre is perplexing to all but aficionados.

This impressively edited haul suggests there is much to relish for metaphorical invention (Rakim: "I fiend for a microphone, like heroin/ Soon as the bass kicks, I need a fix"), startling narrative (MC Lyte imagining his death in the safety of a West Side cappuccino bar) and dizzying range (Jean Grae Hater's "Anthem" takes in Jabberwocky, Stephen Hawking, The Parallax View and Mad Max in a style reminiscent of Burroughs).

Few performers in other genres of pop could produce anything comparable on the page. A perfect primer for newcomers.