A #HipHop50 Syllabus

This post is part of our forum on “Hip Hop at 50. 

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This syllabus provides resources to understand Hip-Hop Culture’s past and present. While it would be impossible to include everything published on Hip-Hop Culture, this syllabus features an array of sources including listings to archives, anthologies, autobiographies, biographies, podcasts, documentaries, films, and primary and secondary sources. It also offers links to Spotify playlists devoted to documenting hip-hop history.

Archives & Resources

  • The Cornell Hip Hop Collection, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
  • Hobson, Janell. “The Hip-Hop Feminist Syllabus,” Ms. Magazine (2023).
  • Hip Hop Archive & Research Institute at the Hutchins Center, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Leach, Andrew, “’One Day It’ll All Make Sense’:  Hip-Hop and Rap Resources for Music Librarians,” Notes, Second Series, 65, no. 1, ( 2008), 9-37.
  • The Journal of Hip-Hop Studies

Anthologies/Lists/Liner Notes

  • Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series features several books analyzing rap albums including records from Nas, Beastie Boys, J. Dilla, Kanye West, Public Enemy, and The Pharcyde.
  • Bradley, Adam and Andrew DuBois, The Anthology of Rap. New Haven:  Yale University Press, 2010.
  • Coleman, Brian. Check The Technique:  Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies. New York:  Villard, 2007.
  • ____________. Check the Technique, Volume 2:  More Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies. Massachusetts:  Wax Facts Press, 2014.
  • Dyson, Michael Eric and Sohail Daulatzai. Born to Use Mics:  Reading Nas’s Illmatic. New York:  Basic Civitas Books, 2010.
  • Forman, Murray and Mark Anthony Neal. That’s the Joint!  The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. New York:  Routledge, 2004.
  • Jenkins, Sasha, Elliot Wilson, Chairman Mao, Gabriel Alvarez, and Brent Rollins, Ego Trip’s Book of Rap Lists. New York:  St. Martin’s Griffin, 1999.
  • Nelson, Havelock, Bring the Noise:  A Guide to Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture (1991)
  • Pough, Gwendolyn D., Elaine Richardson, Aisha Durham and Rachel Raimist, eds. Home Girls Make Some Noise!:  Hip-Hop Feminism Anthology
  • Serrano, Shea. The Rap Yearbook:  The Most Important Rap Song From Every Year Since 1979, Discussed, Debated, and Deconstructed. New York:  Abrams Image, 2015.
  • St. Felix, Doreen. “Missy Elliot’s ‘Supa Dupa Fly’ Came from the Future,” The New Yorker (2018)

General Histories/Historiography

  • Birkhold, Matthew, “’If You Don’t Move Your Feet Then I Don’t Eat’: Hip Hop and the Demand for Black Labor,” Race/Ethnicity: Multidisciplinary Global Contexts, 4, no. 2, (2011):  303-321.
  • Chang, Jeff. Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop:  A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York:  St. Martin’s Press, 2005.
  • Charnas, Dan. “Was Hip-Hop Really Invented 50 Years Ago?” Wall Street Journal (2023)
  • Kitwana, Bakari. The Hip Hop Generation:  Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture. New York:  Basic Civitas Books, 2002.
  • Hobson, Janelle.  “Turning 50:  Looking Back at the Women in Hip-Hop,” Ms. Magazine (2023). *Series documenting women’s contributions to the history of Hip-Hop Culture.
  • McCoy, Austin. “Rap Music,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History
  • Morris, Wesley. “How Hip-Hop Conquered the World,” New York Times (2023)
  • Newkirk, Van R. II. “King’s Death Gave Birth to Hip Hop,” The Atlantic (2018).
  • Ogbar, Jeffrey O.G. The Hip-Hop Revolution:  The Culture and Politics of Rap. Lawrence:  University Press of Kansas, 2007.
  • Orejuela, Fernando. Rap and Hip Hop Culture. New York:  Oxford University Press, 2015.
  • Reeves, Marcus. Somebody Scream! Rap Music’s Rise to Prominence in the Aftershock of Black Power. New York: Faber and Faber, 2008.
  • Taylor, Yuval and Jake Austen. Darkest America:  Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-Hop. New York:  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2012.
  • Viator, Felicia A. “West Coast Originals: A Case for Reassessing the “Bronx West” Story of Black Youth Culture in 1980s Los Angeles,” American Studies 58, no. 3, (2019):  87-105.

Selected Autobiography, Biography, and Oral History

  • 50 Cent, From Pieces to Weight:  Once Upon a Time in Southside Queens. London : Pocket, 2004.
  • Abrams, Jonathan. The Come Up:  An Oral History of the Rise of Hip Hop. New York:  Crown, 2022.
  • Abdurraqib, Hanif. Go Ahead in the Rain:  Notes to A Tribe Called Quest. Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2019.
  • Beastie Boys, Beastie Boys Book. New York : Spiegel & Grau, 2018
  • Charnas, Dan. Dilla Time:  The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, the Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm. New York:  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2022.
  • Gray, Claude and Guiseppe Piptitone, No Half Steppin’:  An Oral History of New York City Club the Latin Quarter and the Birth of Hip Hop’s Golden Era. New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.
  • Grandmaster Flash, The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash:  My Life, My Beats. New York:  Broadway Books, 2008.
  • Hampton, Dream. “The Heartbreak of Kanye West,” The New York Times (2018)
  • Hughes, Charles L. Why Bushwick Bill Matters. Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2021.
  • Hsu, Hua. Stay True:  A Memoir. New York:  Penguin Random House, 2022.
  • Jay-Z, Decoded. New York : Spiegel & Grau, 2010.
  • Kweli, Talib. Vibrate Higher. New York:  Picador, 2021.
  • Laymon, Kiese. How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America:  Essays. Bolden:  Chicago, 2013.
  • Lewis, Miles Marshall. Promise That You Will Sing About Me: The Power and Poetry of Kendrick Lamar. New York:  St. Martin’s Press, 2021.
  • Ma, David. “Everything Writes Itself: An Interview with Black Thought,” The Paris Review (2021)
  • Mane, Gucci. The Autobiography of Gucci Mane. New York:  Simon & Schuster, 2018.
  • Prodigy, My Infamous Life:  The Autobiography of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy. New York:  Touchstone, 2011.
  • Queen Latifah, Put on Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments on the Path to Queendom. New York:  Grand Central Publishing, 2010.
  • Rakim, Sweat the Technique:  Revelations on Creativity from the Lyrical Genius. New York:  Amistad, 2019.
  • Ross, Dante. Son of the City. Los Angeles:  Rare Bird Books, A Barnacle Book, 2023.
  • Shakur, Tupac. The Rose that Grew from Concrete. New York:  Pocket Books, 1999.
  • Thompson, Amir “Questlove.” Mo’ Meta Blues:  The World According to Questlove. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2013.
  • The Rza. The Tao of Wu. New York:  Riverhead Books, 2009.

The Business

  • Charnas, Dan. The Big Payback:  The History of the Business of Hip Hop. New York:  New American Library, 2010.
  • Stoute, Steve. The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy. East Rutherford: Penguin Publishing Group, 2011
  • Richard L. Schur, Parodies of Ownership:  Hip-Hop Aesthetics and Intellectual Property Law. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2012.

Crack, the War on Drugs, and West Coast Rap

  • Donna Murch, “Crack in Los Angeles:  Crisis, Militarization, and Black Response to the Late Twentieth Century War on Drugs,” Journal of American History 102, no. 1, (2015):  162-173.
  • Kennedy, Gerrick D. Parental Discretion is Advised:  The Rise of NWA and the Dawn of Gangsta Rap
  • Ramsey, Donovan X. When Crack Was King:  A People’s History of a Misunderstood Era. New York:  One World, 2023.
  • Viator, Felicia A. To Live and Defy in LA:  How Gangsta Rap Changed America. Cambridge, Mass.:  Harvard University Press, 2020.
  • Westoff, Ben. Original Gangstas:  The Untold Story of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, and the Birth of West Coast Rap. New York:  Hachette Books, 2016.

“The South Has Something to Say”


  • Asante, M.K., Jr. It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop:  The Rise of the Post-Hip-Hop Generation. New York:  St. Martin’s Press, 2008.
  • Cohen, Cathy. Democracy Remixed:  Black Youth and the Future of American Politics
  • George, Nelson. Post-Soul Nation:  The Explosive, Contradictory, Triumphant, and Tragic 1980s as Experienced by African Americans. New York:  Viking, 2004.
  • Spence, Lester. Stare in the Darkness:  The Limits of Hip-Hop and Black Politics. Minneapolis:  University of Minnesota Press, 2011.
  • McWhorter, John. All About the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can’t Save Black America. New York, N.Y.: Gotham Books, 2008.
  • Shomari, Hashim A. From the Underground:  Hip Hop Culture as an Agent of Social Change. Fanwood, NJ:  X-Factor Publications, 1995.
  • Watkins, S. Craig. Hip Hop Matters:  Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of the Movement. Boston:  Beacon Press, 2005.

Sampling and Technology

  • Asif, Siddiqi, ed. One-Track Mind:  Capitalism, Technology, and the Art of the Pop Song. Abingdon, Oxon:  Routledge, 2023.
  • Lumumba-Kasongo, Enongo. “A(I) Rapper:  Who Voices Hip-Hop’s Future,” Public Books (2022).
  • Patrin, Nate. Bring That Beat Back: How Sampling Built Hip-Hop. Minneapolis:  University of Minnesota Press, 2020.
  • Tracy, Marc. “A ‘Virtual Rapper’ Was Fired. Questions About Art and Tech Remain,” New York Times (2023)
  • Williams, Justin A. Rhymin’ and Stealin’: Musical Borrowing in Hip-Hop. Ann Arbor:  University of Michigan Press, 2014.

Graffiti & Visual Art

  • Malier, Norman and Jon Naar. The Faith of Graffiti. New York: Praeger, 1974.
  • Ernest Paniccioli. Hip Hop at the End of the World: The Photography of Brother Ernie. New York:  Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 2018.
  • Seno, Ethel. Trespass:  A History of Uncommissioned Urban Art. Germany, Taschen, 2015.
  • Tobak, Vikki. Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop.
  • Wimsatt, William Upski. Bomb the Suburbs. Chicago, IL: The Subway and Elevated Press, 1994.

Theory & Criticism

  • Adams, Dart. Best Damn Hip Hop Writing: The Book of Dart. New York:  Superchamp Books, 2019.
  • Baker, Houston A., Jr., Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy.  Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1993.
  • Baraka, Amiri. Black Music: Essays. New York: Akashic, 2010.
  • Brown, Jayna J. Black Utopias:  Speculative Life and the Music of Other Worlds. Durham:  Duke University Press, 2021.
  • Christopher, Roy, ed. Boogie Down Productions:  Hip-Hop, Time, and Afrofuturism. London:  Strange Attractor Press, 2022.
  • George, Nelson. Hip Hop America. New York:  Penguin Books, 1999
  • Hebdige, Dick. Subculture:  The Meaning of Style. New York:  Routledge, 1979.
  • Kelley, Robin D.G. Race Rebels:  Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class. New York:  Macmillan, 1994.
  • Lipsitz, George. Dangerous Crossroads:  Popular Music Postmodernism, and the Poetics of Place. New York:  Verso, 1994.
  • Moten, Fred. In the Break:  The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition. Minneapolis:  University of Minnesota Press, 2003.
  • Neal, Mark Anthony. What the Music Said:  Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture. New York:  Routledge, 1999.
  • Nealon, Jeffrey T. I’m Not Like Everybody Else:  Biopolitics, Neoliberalism, and American Popular Music. Lincoln:  University of Nebraska Press, 2018.
  • Perry, Imani. Prophets of the Hood:  Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop. Durham:  Duke University Press, 2004.
  • Rose, Tricia. Black Noise:  Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Nanover, N.H.:  University Press of New England, 1994.
  • Rose, Tricia. The Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip Hop—and Why It Matters. New York: BasicCivitas, 2008.
  • Tate, Greg. Flyboy 2:  The Greg Tate Reader. Durham:  Duke University Press, 2016.


  • Condry, Ian. Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization. Durham:  Duke University Press Books, 2006.
  • Chang, Jeff. “It’s a Hip Hop World,” Foreign Policy (2009)
  • Clark, Msia Kibona, Hip-Hop in Africa: Prophets of the City and Dustyfoot Philosophers. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2018.
  • Daulatzai, Sohail. Black Star, Crescent Moon: The Muslim International and Black Freedom beyond America. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.
  • Fernandes, Sujatha. Close to the Edge:  In Search of the Global Hip Hop Generation. New York: Verso, 2011
  • Sharma, Nitasha Tamar. Hip Hop DesisSouth Asian Americans, Blackness, and a Global Race Consciousness. Durham:  Duke University Press, 2010.
  • Tiongson, Antonio T. Filipinos Represent:  DJs, Racial Authenticity, and the Hip-hop Nation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.

Women & Hip-Hop Feminism

*See Janell Hobson’s “The Hip-Hop Feminist Syllabus” for a more comprehensive listing of sources related to feminism, gender, and sexuality in Hip-Hop Culture.

  • Collins, Patricia Hill. From Black Power to Hip Hop:  Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism. Philadelphia:  Temple University Press, 2006.
  • Aria S. Halliday & Nadia E. Brown, “The Power of Black Girl Magic Anthems:  Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, and ‘Feeling Myself’ as Political Empowerment,” Souls 20 (2018); 222-238
  • Love, Bettina L. Hip Hop’s Li’l Sistas Speak:  Negotiating Hip Hop Identities and Politics in the New South.
  • Morgan, Joan. When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost:  A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down. New York:  Simon & Schuster, 1999.
  • Pough, Gwendolyn. Check It While I Wreck It:  Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere. Boston:  Northeastern University Press, 2004.
  • Aisha Durham, Brittney C. Cooper, and Susana M. Morris, “The Stage Hip-Hop Feminism Built:  A New Directions Essay,” SignsJournal of Women in Culture and Society 38, no. 3, (2013): 721-737.
  • Vibe Hip Hop Divas. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001.

Gender & Sexuality

  • Carter, Mickell. “Gen Z Hip Hop, Rod Wave, and Black Masculinity,” Black Perspectives (2021)
  • hooks, bell. We Real Cool:  Black Men and Masculinity. New York:  Routledge, 2004.
  • Jeffries, Michael P. Thug Life:  Race, Gender, and the Meaning of Hip Hop. Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 2011.
  • Smalls, Shanté Paradigm. Hip Hop Heresies:  Queer Aesthetics in New York City. New York:  New York University Press, 2022.


  • Karp, Jensen. Kanye West Owes Me $300:  And Other True Stories from a White Rapper Who Almost Made It Big. New York:  Three Rivers Press, 2016.
  • Kitwana, Bakari. Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop:  Wankstas, Wiggers, Wannabees, and the New Reality of Race in America. New York:  Basic Civitas Books, 2005.
  • Tate, Greg. Everything But the Burden: What White People Are Taking from Black Culture. New York:  Random House, 2003.

Select Podcasts

  • 50 Years of Hip Hop (KEXP)
  • The Bridge:  50 Years of Hip-Hop
  • Combat Jack Show
  • The Crate 808 Podcast
  • Dad Bod Rap Pod
  • Drink Champs
  • Louder Than a Riot
  • Questlove Supreme
  • Joe Budden Podcast
  • People’s Party with Talib Kweli
  • The Questions Hip-Hop Trivia
  • Rap Radar
  • What Had Happened Was

Select Documentaries & Films

  • 8 Mile
  • Beats, Rhymes, and Life:  The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest
  • Biggie:  I Got a Story to Tell
  • Brown Sugar
  • Fight the Power:  How Hip Hop Changed the World
  • Hip Hop Evolution (Netflix)
  • Krush Groove
  • Ladies First:  A Story of Women in Hip-Hop
  • Murder Rap:  Inside the Biggie and Tupac Murders
  • Nas:  Time is Illmatic
  • Public Enemy:  It Takes a Nation—The First London Invasion Tour 1987
  • Sample This (Netflix)
  • Straight Outta Compton
  • Stretch and Bobbito:  Radio that Changed Lives
  • Style Wars
  • Wild Style

Spotify playlists that I have created for use in my Hip-Hop History courses:

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Austin McCoy

Austin McCoy is an assistant professor of history at West Virginia University. His research interests focus on African American history, the U.S. left, labor and political economy, and social movements and activism. His current manuscript project is tentatively titled, The Quest for Democracy: Black Power, New Left, and Progressive Politics in the Post-Industrial Midwest.' Follow him on Twitter @AustinMcCoy3.