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Hip hop music

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When Jared Soares started photographing rappers in Virginia, they were suspicious. But he won them over with his love of hip-hop culture. In turn, they taught him a few things about creativity, expression - and straight-up hard work.

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What are the names that pop to mind when you think of ’80s rap? The Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, LL Cool J—all essential hip-hop artists, all signed to Def Jam Records. If you know just one thing about the history of Def Jam, it’s probably the story of its birth: created in an NYU dorm room by Rick Rubin, a young, white musical wunderkind. The first EP with the Def Jam logo was for a band called Hose, a punk-“artcore” outfit in which Rubin played guitar. Several years later, at a party in downtown New York, Rubin crossed paths with Russell Simmons—an artist manager (and older brother of the Run in Run-D.M.C.) who had helped Kurtis Blow land his first record deal—and Def Jam Records as we know it today was born.

Adler Archive

Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin, New York, 1984

Half oral history, half photo portfolio, the coffee-table book Def Jam Recordings: The First 25 Years of the Last Great Record Label (October, Rizzoli) sketches out the tales of a record label that became one of the greatest forces in American pop culture. That is not an exaggeration. Def Jam spread hip hop music far beyond its black New York roots, pushing it deep into the bedrooms of white suburbia—the one place any music needed to grow a fan base were it to become a late-20th century phenomenon. That it did. Former New York Times music critic Kalefa Sanneh, who writes the introduction for this book puts it simply: hip-hop went from being underground to being “the country’s definitive youth culture.”

That arc is made clear through the testimony of those who experienced the rise of Def Jam as well as photos of them. Near the front of the book is a picture of a young, shaggy Rubin in a powder blue puffy coat, wearing sunglasses, holding a drink from Blimpie’s sandwich shop, and a gun (Is it real? Is it fake? Hard to tell). In the back is a shot of Rubin (with his unforgettable Moses beard) and Simmons, tuxedoed out at this year’s Vanity Fair Oscar Party.

In between is a visual feast for anyone who’s listened to popular music in the past three decades: early shots of Public Enemy, which remind us how groundbreaking they were and how Flavor Flav was once someone who didn’t look like a clown all the time; LL Cool J in the Ivory Coast, wearing a tank top, gold dollar-bill rings, and a tribal robe; the pirate-patched Slick Rick in a tender shot with his mother/manager; Redman covered in mud smoking a cigar; enough busty photos of Foxy Brown to make you look around and confirm that no one is watching; and enough Jay-Z, Kanye and Rihanna shots to keep the younglings pleased. “Who would have thought, back in the ’80s, that we’d ever see a coffee-table book about rap,” writes former Def Jam chairman Lyor Cohen. Well, here it is, with enough boomboxes, gold chains and Kangol hats to please newbies and devotees alike.

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Michaelschmelling

There are few photographers who have a pure and original vision – Michael Schmelling is one of those few and he recently released his fifth monograph titled Atlanta about the hip hop scene down in the ATL. Accompanying the book is an incredible site: Atlanta Revisited.

www.michaelschmelling.com
www.atlbook.com

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Electronic artist and hip-hop beat-maker Flying Lotus - who's real name is Steven Ellison - has made a podcast for Stones Throw Records. According to Ellison, his Lovers Melt Mix includes "no theme, no loops, just 'records found in the valley'". The mix is available on iTunes.

Click here to download Lovers Melt mixed by Flying Lotus.

www.stonesthrow.com

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