Hip Hop in America: A Regional Guide
by Mickey Hess, Editor
November 2009, 734pp, 7x10
2 volumes, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-0-313-34321-6
$182, £135, 157€, A246
eBook Available: 978-0-313-34322-3
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

In the three decades since its beginnings on the streets of the Bronx, hip hop has become a signature genre of American music—a genuine cultural phenomenon. Although hip hop was once defined by its legendary East Coast/West Coast rivalries, New York and LA aren’t the whole story. Around the nation, places as unlikely as Honolulu and Louisville have put their own distinctive spin on the music.

An insightful new resource that looks at the rise of American hip hop as a series of distinct regional events, with essays covering the growth of hip hop culture in specific cities across the nation.

Thoroughly researched, thoroughly in tune with the culture, Hip Hop in America: A Regional Guide profiles two dozen specific hip hop scenes across the United States, showing how each place shaped a singular identity. Through its unique geographic perspective, it captures the astonishing diversity of a genre that has captivated the nation and the world.

In two volumes organized by broad regions (East Coast, West Coast and Midwest and the Dirty South), Hip Hop in America spans the complete history of rap—from its 1970s origins to the rap battles between Queens and the Bronx in the 1980s, from the well-publicized East Coast vs. West Coast conflicts in the 1990s to the rise of the Midwest and South over the past ten years. Each essay showcases the history of the local scene, including the MCs, DJs, b-boys and b-girls, label owners, hip hop clubs, and radio shows that have created distinct styles of hip hop culture.


  • 24 essays in two volumes on U.S. cities that have developed distinctive hip hop identities, from New York and Los Angeles to surprising locations such as Minneapolis and Honolulu
  • 20 contributors, each an established expert with connections to the location they are describing
  • Nearly 100 images of key personalities, clubs, cities, and scenes
  • A chronology highlighting the pivotal moments in the history of hip hop in the United States, from its African and Caribbean origins to the recent rise of Southern rap (Outkast, Ludacris, Lil Wayne)
  • A rich bibliography of print and online sources for further exploration
  • A comprehensive index of people, places, songs, and terms
Mickey Hess is assistant professor of English at Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ. He is the editor of Greenwood's Icons of Hip Hop: An Encyclopedia of the Music, Movement, and Culture and his previous works include Praeger's Is Hip Hop Dead? The Past, Present, and Future of America’s Most Wanted Music and Big Wheel at the Cracker Factory.


"This set provides an excellent historical perspective of the development of hip-hop music and culture in the United States. Urban public libraries and academic libraries supporting curricula in modern culture, sociology, and yes, even music, will find it a welcome addition to their music collections."—Library Journal, Starred Review, March 1, 2010

"This two-volume reference profiles 23 local hip hop scenes across the US, from the Bronx to Honolulu, with a particular focus on the social contexts that fostered the hip hop styles of each region. Writing is intended to appeal to students and fans, but with an academic perspective that meets curriculum standards for history and culture. A 20-page introduction reviews the importance of geographical location in hip hop. Volume I covers the East and West coasts, and Volume II covers the Midwest, the South, and beyond. Each regional essay describes the history and current status of the local scene, touching on influential artists, label owners, clubs, and radio shows. The reference is illustrated with about 100 b&w photos of personalities and clubs, and includes interviews with key figures, a chronology, and indexes of people, places, songs, and terms."—Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 2010

"Hess’ lengthy introduction and detailed time line demonstrate the depth in which he has researched this topic, making this work an important addition to public or academic libraries."—Booklist, April 1, 2010

"This title offers a few fascinating twists that others books on the topic don’t. . . . this is a must-have for hip-hop fans."—School Library Journal, August 1, 2010

"Challenging the orthodoxy of the 'single origin' narrative, Mickey Hess and the authors assembled here throw new light on the nation's myriad back streets and byways, where hip hop has evolved with fierce vitality. This is a must-read book for anyone interested in the ways that local cultures inflect hip hop creativity, and vice versa."—Murray Forman
Northeastern University
Author of The 'Hood Comes First: Race, Space, and Place in Rap and Hip-Hop

"This fascinating volume brings to life the vibrant diversity of hip-hop scenes throughout the US, sensitively portraying the charismatic characters and, at times, unlikely locales that push the music in ever-changing directions. The essays collected here enlighten the mind, feed the spirit, and remind us that hip-hop's capacity to transform the meaning of politics remains vital for a new generation hungry for change."—Ian Condry
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Author of Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization

"This book will be invaluable to studies of place in hip-hop music . For all that that topic has been discussed, nobody before has assembled detailed histories of the scenes in the major American localities where the art forms have developed. That is what Mickey Hess and his contributors have done here, and, together with Hess's deft and admirably clear introduction, Hip Hop in America: A Regional Guide constitutes a major contribution to the academic literature on American hip-hop and place."—Adam Krims
University of Nottingham
Author of Music and Urban Geography and Rap Music and the Poetics of Identity
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