Back to the basics

Music junkies, rap historians, and Hip-Hop fanatics lend me your ears. Brian Coleman has made digging for exclusive threads of info that much easier with his newest book Check The Technique: Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies (Villard Books/Random House).

Coleman is a proud member of Hip-Hop’s baby-boomers repping the Golden Age (1988-1996) to the fullest. His book, Check the Technique catalogs 36 classic albums from that era and breaks them down to their loneliest DNA strand. It covers wax masterpieces like The Fugees’s The Score, Wu Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) , and Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.

Coleman bases the book on first hand interviews with the artists themselves as they give rare back stories on the process behind crafting such legendary albums.

Check the Technique, in a nutshell, is extended liner notes. Actually, describing this beefier re-up to Coleman’s previous, self-published Rakim Told Me as so is an understatement. It is more like super-bionic-genetically-enhanced liner notes.

Each chapter starts with a classic album and features its artist as a Cinderella telling the story of how the said album came to be. The chapter concludes with a track-by-track commentary in the artist’s own words. Artists comment about issues like the budget or lack thereof behind their projects. The rappers talk about how they formulated the lyrics. The producers talk about the beat selection and the samples. They joke about how some managers at record labels said things like, “This is whack”, to songs that went on to be Hip-Hop staples.

One particularly endearing part of Check the Technique is its amazing stories about how certain artists first heard their song on the radio. For example, KRS-one says, “One day while I was mopping, “South Bronx” came on the radio and I was buggin’, with that mop in my hand. I had just put the Mop & Glo down and the record came on.” Meanwhile, Big Daddy Kane confesses that he wore the same suit that he wore to his high school graduation at the video for “Ain’t No Half Steppin’”

The artists in Check the Technique are similar to directors providing sharp and insightful commentary on a DVD extra. The book is beyond just a behind-the-scenes look at the making of classic Hip-Hop projects. Check the Technique is a fine case of intimate journalism from a veteran writer who has managed to make storied albums that much more legendary by providing a looking glass into the genius behind their conception. Coleman has paid a great debt to the music that has so greatly influenced him and codified for us many cherished opuses that we can now relive over and over again.

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