Monday, December 29, 2003
SMELLS LIKE A READING LIST, L-Z

Below, the long-promised, unduly withheld, non-canonical, strictly zentronix-style list of stuff I've read and dug, L-Z.

Here's the reading list A-K, just scroll past the old Da Capo rant (argh).

McDonnell, Evelyn and Powers, Ann, ed. Rock She Wrote
Of all the so-called "Best of" anthologies, this one rings the truest. McDonnell and Powers began their project in the Bay Area while they were still working for the pre-New Times version of the SF Weekly as a labor of love. Nearly 70 women get their writing on from the early 70s to the early 90s. Endlessly enjoyable.

Morales, Ed. The Latin Beat
Brand new book by longtime Voice contributor that smartly examines the influence of Latin music on American and global pop. If you dig this, you should also hunt down the groundbreaking study by John Storm Roberts, The Latin Tinge.

Marcus, Greil. Lipstick Traces
When the other most influential critic alive painted his masterpiece, it read like this. His Mystery Train and Invisible Republic are also often great, but his obsessions with Dylan and Elvis often seem to demand parody. This one, though, is such a cult classic, it became an Off-Broadway play.

Palmer, Robert. Deep Blues
Never mind Martin Scorsese. This is the one you want. One of the all-time best.

Reynolds, Simon. Generation Ecstasy
A critic who tirelessly classifies and names the entropic genre proliferation of electronic music like a fizzy botanist somehow also manages to be one of the most provocative. This book has set off a million arguments, but the prose is pure blissed out fandom. Great discography. His blog is here.

Savage, Jonathan. England’s Dreaming
An epic history of the emergence of British punk that spans the personal and the political, covering all the perspectives—from fan in the crowd to fly on the wall to philosopher in dog collar. Nearly 600 pages, but so edifying, you’ll still want more.

Shapiro, Peter, ed. Modulations
Anthology largely including folks from The Wire—writers like Shapiro, Rob Young, Simon Reynolds, Mike Rubin, David Toop, Kurt Reighley, and Kodwo Eshun—that present an overview of electronic music from Stockhausen to Autechre. Nice to look at too.

Tate, Greg. Flyboy In The Buttermilk
A collection of groundbreaking, iconoclastic essays mostly from the Village Voice during its late 80s-early 90s peak. Includes definitive essays on Public Enemy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Miles Davis, as well as eye-openers on William Gibson, Don DeLillo, and Rammellzee. I’ll get in trouble for saying this but to me he’s way better than Bangs. Certainly has been to hip-hop journalism what Bangs was to rock journalism.

Toop, David. The Rap Attack
The other book in the Old Testament of hip-hop journalism. Unlike Exotica and Ocean of Sound, it’s concrete, musicological, and incisive. The first editions’ essay format is vastly superior to the later versions’ chronological catch-up, but that’s just me quibbling. The discographies have set off many a digger’s journey.

Tosches, Nick. Unsung Heroes of Rock’n’Roll
Only covers 1945 to 1955, and only chooses to focus on the bizarre, weird, and fabulous. One of The Wire editor Peter Shapiro’s favorite books, "for largely inventing wise-ass music journalism".

Wang, Oliver, ed. Classic Material
Another brand new book. Attempts to create a canon of hip-hop records with some of the hottest young hip-hop journalists (and warmed-over post-young me). Kinda like Stranded for the hip-hop era, but much better, IMHO! All shameless plugs aside, raises the interesting question of what hip-hop journalism needs to conquer next, now that it's begun to canonize its music (and next year with Raquel Cepeda's book, canonize itself). How does hip-hop journalism recover its progressive spirit when it's entering its downward arc?

Vibe Hip Hop Divas
Much much better than the title suggests. Edited by Rob Kenner, it’s largely a collection of definitive stories that originally appeared in the magazine. But also includes a timeline, boxes on emerging artists, and Cristina Veran’s indispensable essay on the female old-school pioneers.

The Vibe History of Hip Hop
As history it tastes great, but is ultimately less filling. As a collection of the best hip-hop journalists writing at the top of their game, though, it’s incomparable. Danyel Smith's intro and Ben Higa's early LA rap essay are my favorites, though Sacha Jenkins, Rob Marriott, and Chairman Mao and many others rep lovely as well. Unfortunately, most of these folks probably won’t be appearing in "Da Capo’s Best Music Writing [Year X]" anytime soon.


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