The pop-culture writer returns with “a celebration of rap, one of the three or four things I love the most in this world.”
Hip-hop culture is so ingrained in the pop mainstream that it’s easy to forget that today’s stars are only fragments of the broader culture and products of a rich history. Serrano, best known for his work at the Ringerand Grantland, tries to rectify that with his latest collection of essays and artwork (by Dallas-based artist Torres), using the same creative style he popularized in his bestsellers Basketball (And Other Things)and Movies (And Other Things). Serrano asks thought-provoking—some might say argument-inducing—questions and then answers them with a compelling mix of history, memoir, criticism, and creative writing. The chapter titled “How Do You Talk About Missy Elliott’s Supa Dupa Fly?” shows Serrano at his best, approaching the classic album from a variety of perspectives. “It gets in your ears and then in your brain, and then, instantly and fully, all the parts inside your skull are soaked,” he writes, explaining how the album makes you feel. The author also writes knowledgeably about the best rappers with the best verses in various eras of hip-hop; sure to inspire heated debate among hip-hop fans is his in-depth comparison of Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, m.A.A.d City and Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which he considers “the two best albums of the 2010-2019 decade.” All of the material is entertaining, even when Serrano’s fanboy perspective leaves out a problematic swath of Lauryn Hill’s career in a chapter about her being nearly perfect. Even when a particular chapter doesn’t quite grab you, the warm, creative illustrations—e.g., 50 Cent and Eminem playing Skee-Ball or Nas styled as Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator—sure will.
This quirky, wide-ranging collection of essays, paired with gorgeous art, is a well-informed love letter to hip-hop.