I’ll admit to being something of a hip-hop snob. There’s something about having been present and active in hip-hop’s epicenter during the genre’s so-called “golden age.” I don’t necessarily want to be the guy that adheres to a list of credentials for serious hip-hop fans. After all, I’ve never seen a show at Union Square or been to a park jam-I’m too young. But I do remember sitting in front of the radio all night on Fridays and Saturdays with my fingers on the pause and record buttons as I listened to DJ Red Alert, Marley Marl and Chuck Chillout do their mix shows on New York radio. I remember saving up my allowance so I could buy Brand Nubian’s All For One, 3rd Bass’s Derelicts of Dialect and De La Soul Is Dead (even if the $4 bootlegs from the African dude on Fulton Street or Utica Avenue was all I could afford.) I remember reading my first issue of The Source during my freshman year in high school and buying every new issue for practically the next decade. I remember not only the legendary Video Music Box, but American Hot Video, a hip-hop centric public access video show co-hosted by Stetsasonic’s Bobby Simmons.

Forgive me for thinking that those qualifiers give me a leg up on someone who thinks Lil Wayne is the greatest rapper alive. Or don’t. Your call.

At any rate, if you, like me, consider yourself an “old head” (because that sounds much better than purist/snob) then there is no good reason you shouldn’t own the two volumes of Check The Technique: Liner Notes For Hip-Hop Junkies, an anthology put together by former XXL writer Brian Coleman. These books offer firsthand accounts of the construction of the greatest albums in hip-hop history. Volume 1 has been out for some time, but Volume 2 was just released earlier this month, and it is a treasure trove of information that will rekindle your true school memories and quite possibly empty your wallet as you replenish your musical coffers with some of the best rap music ever recorded.

Order Check The Technique 2 here.

I won’t go into too much detail about what the books cover; after all the premise is quite simple. It’s worth noting, though, that the breadth of music covered is quite impressive. Geographically, the Check The Technique books cover classics from the East Coast (Raising Hell, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, 3 Feet High & Rising), West Coast (AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, Life Is…Too Short), and elsewhere (Philly’s DJ Jazzy Jeff, Houston’s Geto Boys, and more.) Artists, producers, and engineers are interviewed, sample sources revealed, and the vibe is positive. Hip-hop (and modern-day urban music in general) is sorely underserved when it comes to intelligent writing. Coleman’s perspective is of an educated fan, not of a fanboy blogger or a jaded academic (to name the two most prevalent and annoying styles of music writing currently.) Most importantly, he lets the artists themselves do the heavy lifting, which makes sense. After all, who better to tell the story of the music than the people who made it?

Vol. 2 is a bit more insular than the first, with a fair amount of classics that fell under the radar (like Boston native Ed O.G.’s Life of a Kid in the Ghetto) and a lengthy chapter covering KMD’s long-shelved Black Bastards LP. Hearing Zev Love X (more commonly known these days as MF Doom) discuss the genesis of that particular album is worth the book’s cost by itself. You’ll also read about groundbreaking albums by 3rd Bass, The Coup, Black Sheep, Gravediggaz and more. If you’re a newcomer to hip-hop, or you’re young and on a quest for a history lesson, this book is indispensable. If you’re already well-versed in hip-hop history, then you will at the very least appreciate the stories and come away with a couple of revelations about your favorite songs and albums. At most, you’ll empty your wallet on all of the albums you either didn’t get the first time or lost your copies of years ago.

Christmas is coming shortly, and if someone you know is a hip-hop aficionado, this book NEEDS to be in their home. Be a pal and grab one or both of the Check The Technique books. They’ll be appreciated.

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