When Jordan Sommers decided he wanted to do a book on hip-hop culture, he wanted to do it big. Literally.
So the co-founder/President/COO of ARIA Multimedia Entertainment set out to create the culture’s first luxury coffee table book. The result, “Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey,” arrives in stores and online February 8 and boy is it huge.
Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey Quick Facts
- 420 pages
- 337 photos
- 20 lbs. net weight
“Coffee table books, as they’re called, are usually reserved for monumental achievements or iconic subjects or otherwise culturally significant events,” says Sommers, the book’s Editor in Chief. “Hip-hop culture certainly falls under all three of those categories and no one was doing it. So, it just seemed like the right time, especially given how far it’s come in the last 37-plus years.”
Sommers has a keen insight regarding the inner workings of hip-hop culture. As a teenager, he worked as the executive in charge of production for the Russell Simmons television vehicle “New Music Report,” and later worked as manager of A&R at Def Jam Recordings, which Simmons co-founded.
So when Sommers wanted to determine the subject matter for the 30 original essays featured in the book, he pulled from his own experiences as a member of the culture and his own status as a lifelong fan.
“I made a list of all the different obvious things, the elements of hip-hop: b-boying, DJing, graffiti and MCing,” he says. “Then I put female MCs, Latinos in the culture, mixtapes, remixes, regionalism. I put all the different of hip-hop culture on a list and then I started doing my research. I looked at every single book I could get my hands on, the good, the bad, the old, the new, the paperback, the hardcover. Then I looked at ‘What have these guys done right? What have these guys done wrong? What have people missed?’ There were a few things that I didn’t find or there were books that focused on one thing, like old school or graffiti.”
Thus, “Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey” features essays on how hip-hop has impacted the world, as well as a thorough discussion of the mixtape phenomenon and an examination of your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper, which is a common discussion among rap fans.
At least one hip-hop pioneer was thoroughly impressed by Sommers’ mission and, ultimately, the finished product. Afrika Bambaataa wrote the book’s intro. The gesture is particularly gratifying for Sommers. After all, he created the book in order to highlight the genre from its inception up to today.
“With a lot of the books that have come out, you’d think that hip-hop started with Jay-Z and Eminem or Kanye [West],” Sommers says. “While the pioneers are certainly recognized, I don’t think they’ve been able to have the type of forum to tell their own story in a while as they do in ‘Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey.’ One of the things I wanted to reintroduce to the masses was why I fell in love with hip-hop in the first place, the essence of it, which was peace, love, unity and having fun, and how it embraced all cultures. I think that has gotten lost.”
With “Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey,” Sommers hopes he has created a well-rounded book that highlights the significance of hip-hop in all of its manifestations.
My goal is that people will treat it as a celebration of a movement, of a culture that quite literally changed the world
“My goal is that people will treat it as a celebration of a movement, of a culture that quite literally changed the world,” he says. “I’m hoping that people show it to their kids, share it with their parents, their families. Hip-hop culture, to this day, is still misunderstood, misrepresented. It’s got 8 million stories and we tried to fit as many in there was we could, but not all of them are being heard. My goal with the book was to make it a time capsule of the evolution of a global movement.”
For more information on “Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey,” go to http://aria-me.com
Follow Soren Baker on Twitter: @SorenBaker
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