Knock You Out...

Knock You Out...
Reviewer: SteveJ
Rate this Review
Rate this Reviewer
Rate this Book
The Book of Rhyme & Reason:
Hip-Hop 1994–1997: Photographs by Peter Spirer
240 pages
November 07, 2023
ISBN 10:
ISBN 13:

The ultimate backstage pass: a photographic inside look at the making of the pioneering hip hop documentary "Rhyme & Reason."

Hip-hop changed everything: music, fashion, culture, politics…hell, even the English language. It’s hard to believe this music from the ghetto streets is now front and center at Super Bowl halftime shows, Grammy and Oscar-awards broadcasts, and television commercials. But it is mainstream music now. It’s amazing to see kids everywhere singing along to a once-hardcore music genre that turns 50 this year.

But it wasn’t always that way. Born out of the Bronx, via Jamaica, DJ Kool started playing records and improvising at neighborhood block parties. He is credited as the founding father of the beats, which took over New York before famously moving west to Cali. If you want to see the roots of rap, check out Peter Spirer’s documentary “Rhyme & Reason.” In their recent list of 70 best music docs, Rolling Stone magazine placed Spirer’s film at #35. They note “the ambitious doc stands out both for its breadth of testimonials and skill in placing hip-hop as part of a broader contextual musical continuum…eschewing flash for substance.”

Spirer has also just released a gorgeous hardcover book tied into the movie for the music’s golden jubilee. At the time of filming, the director was also playing with a still camera, taking shots of the 80+ people he interviewed for the film. His backstory about photography and getting to this camera is included and is essential reading before enjoying the amazing pictures of now-legends such as Dr. Dre, Ice-T, KRS 1, Chuck D., and Biz Markie. And that list goes on and on…

So let’s talk about the pictures at the heart of called The Book of Rhyme & Reason: Hip-Hop 1994-1997. Spirer talks about the process, and the experimentation of shooting during down-time in the filming of “Rhyme & Reason,”  And that’s what makes this book and these photographs so unique. The photos, all black and white, present these artists in a way not usually seen in rap: unguarded. It’s a very compelling look into the everyday, sometimes ghetto life of many men and women who would become superstars, and the voices and soundtrack of a generation. Poolside, eating lunch, in the barber’s chair, napping, at the mixing desk and, yes, sometimes frontin’ with their crew. It’s a very personal take on another time and a different world. The pull-quotes and mini bios that appear throughout the book — as well as an introduction by Ice-T — are the perfect, concise take for information, but keep you flipping through the photographs.

If you are a fan of the original OGs and the early and formative days of their music, this is a must see. A beautiful piece of work of a time long ago…

Follow me on Twitter: @stevejreviews