Word Up knows more about books than hip-hop, but there's bigdeal publishing news for Cambridge-based hip-hop critic Brian Coleman. His highly acclaimed, self-published Rakim Told Me: Hip-Hop Wax Facts, Straight from the Original Artists, an oral history of seminal hip-hop artists from the ’80s, recently got picked up for publication by Villard/Random House for release in mid-2007. In addition to 21 chapters on the likes of Ice T, Slick Rick, and Chuck D, the book will be updated with 30 to 35 new chapters including interviews with Cypress Hill, the Fugees, the Roots, Naughty by Nature, Wu-Tang Clan, Digable Planets, and A Tribe Called Quest, among others. Coleman, who writes for XXL, URB, and the Phoenix, among other publications, has called his compilation “invisible liner notes,” and has sold about 2000 copies to date, primarily in record stores and online at turntable.com and dustygroove.com.
As for how the pick-up came about, Coleman did most of the leg-work himself, he explains over email, getting friends with connections to put the book into the hands of editors at a few major publishing houses, letting them know he was working on Volume Two with plans to self-publish again. He ended up with two offers (as well as the bragging rights for being included in an MTV news rundown with Justin Timberlake, Mariah Carey, and Ludacris.)
“In the end,” he wrote to Word Up, “I think I was in a good bargaining position since I knew I could sell Vol. 2 on my own, so I was prepared to walk away from any dealings.”
As for how much more work he has in front him: “TONS!” In addition to the 30-35 new chapters, there will be an additional 50 interviews at least. “I’m finishing up my interviews by August and handing in my first draft soon thereafter. But the new version will be the definitive one, with much better layout, lots of artist photos, and actual distribution.”
Check out A hip-hop history interview and podcast with Brian Coleman and Jeff Chang, author of Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation.