What Do Rappers Read?

Some rappers happen to be thoughtful, intelligent people. Every Monday that isn't a national holiday, Rocks Off will have some of them here discussing issues relevant to their culture.

This Week's Panel: Bun B, Chingo Bling, The ARE, Kyle Hubbard, Rob G the General, the guys from Simple Success, Yung Redd, Renzo and Brad Gilmore

Not Invited: Waka Flocka, because he's Waka Flocka

This Week's Prompt: The topic this week seems fairly simple and comes to us from an apparent regular reader of the Round Table discussions. Here's the most important part of his email:

I flipped through that new Jay-Z book [Decoded] and was struck with a thought: Do rappers read books? I know the stereotype is that they don't, but that can't be true, can it? Can you make this a Round Table discussion please? Ask them what's the last book they read.

So there you have it: What's the last book you read, and why did you read it?

Bun B: Decoded, to see if I was in it [laughs].

Rocks Off: That's the same reason we read it. Sadly, we were not.

Bun B: Awww, next time maybe.

Chingo Bling: I read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell because he is a trill author.

Rocks Off: We're willing to bet that's the first time anyone has ever described Malcolm Gladwell, or any author for that matter, as "trill."

The ARE: Sorry, I'm lagging in the book department. Between music and my daughter, not much time left.

Rocks Off: Ha. A children's book works, sir. We read those every day. We're just about sick of Henry Keeps Score.

The ARE: I was gonna say that. I read Bee and Me to my daughter.

Kyle Hubbard: The last book I read was actually Decoded by Jay-Z. I finished it last night in fact. That book should be required reading for anyone who is striving to be an MC. It was brilliant and gave me a new appreciation for a dude who was already my favorite artist, and new insight for the craft I have dedicated my life to.

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The reason I first read the book was because I am a huge Jay-Z fan, but the reason I will the read the book again is because of the knowledge I absorbed from it. I think it's safe to say the majority of rappers read; I mean, words and the way a person uses the language is pretty much the end-all-be-all of our existence.

I have always been a heavy reader from comic books to novels and beyond. My affection for comic books is well publicized, but I tend to lean towards nonfiction, mostly in the political realm. My favorite book currently is probably James Moore and Wayne Slater's Bush's Brain. My favorite thing to bring to any book burnings is anything by Glenn Beck.

So yes, rappers do in fact read, and I am willing to wager they read more than most people.

Rob G the General: Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. Madd Hatta and J-Mac suggested I read it.

Kyle, Simple Success: The last book I read was an audio engineering instructional textbook entitled Modern Recording Techniques, 7th Edition by David Miles Huber and Robert E. Runstein. The art of recording, mixing and mastering fascinates me. I read the book to further my knowledge of audio engineering and also just because I'm a studio geek and love reading anything pertaining to music recording.

I love to read. I would much rather pick up a book than watch TV any day. And actually, I haven't sat down with the intent to watch TV in probably four years. But I dig all types of literature. Fiction, nonfiction, biographies, world studies, anything. I like learning a lot.

Edgar, Simple Success: I don't remember the last time I read a book and if I did, I was forced to do so by a teacher [laughs].

Yung Redd: I read books like Behold a Pale Horse, all the Donald Goines books, anything to feed the mind. My grandmother was a teacher; she raised me, so I think reading is needed because rappers talk about the same shit: Rims, paint and how real you is [laughs].

Renzo: I'm a pretty avid reader, as you can tell by my use of the word "avid." My power card has plenty miles on it and has even had some late fees. I don't like science fiction because it's a fantasy world I don't plan to be in. I like to use my imagination, but not like that.

I'm the guy who was reading the stuff on the side of the porno magazines as well as looking at the pictures. I'm a Bible reader, as well as a Zane reader. Last book I read was The Art of War and I plan on checking out Decoded soon. I'm currently in the middle of 48 Laws of Power. With all that said, I be readin' and shit.

Brad Gilmore: Well if it's a surprise to people that rappers read, then it will be a shock to them to know the last book I read. Being a huge fan of all genres of music, the last book I read was Johnny Cash's autobiography. I have been a huge fan of Johnny Cash ever since I can remember. My dad used to play all these old-school songs for me from back in his day and he would always play some good 'ol Cash.

When the movie Walk the Line came out in 2005, I became a die-hard fan of his. I went and bought his American Recordings series, and became very interested in his whole life story. It's like Snoop Dogg said on the song "My Medicine" from Ego Trippin': "this one goes out to my main man, Johnny Cash, the real American Gangster." It expresses Cash's overall appeal to all cultures and to all walks of life.

When you think about it, Johnny Cash was hip-hop before there was hip-hop. He was busted on drugs before any rapper, he was locked up before any rapper; hey, he was even born before any rapper [laughs]. I remember talking to Hollywood FLOSS one day and he mentioned to me that one of his influences was Johnny Cash; it just goes to show how Cash's influence surpassed country music and crossed over to rock and hip hop.

But to conclude, rappers read.

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