Book of Rhymes

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Rap may be the most revolutionary development in poetry over the past 30 years, and yet its originality is hidden in plain sight. Often overshadowed by the beat, bluster, and hype surrounding the music, lyrics are the heart of hip-hop. Book of Rhymes explores America's least understood poets, unpacking their complex craft and according them the respect they deserve as lyricists. Examining the language and techniques of hip hop's most memorable artists, literary scholar Adam Bradley argues that a new world of rhythm and rhyme awaits us if we only put aside our preconceptions and confront rap once again with new ears and new eyes.

In this revised edition, Bradley writes a new introductory chapter entitled "Rap Poetry 201," where he delves deeper into the rap-poetry connection and refines the conversation around the centrality of lyrics and language in rap. This new edition also includes an appendix along with illustrative song lists, sample classroom exercises and other learning tools for using rap lyrics in the classroom setting.

Museum Story

The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) hosted its inaugural Hip-Hop Block Party in 2022, to celebrate the first anniversary of the release of the Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap. More than 8,000 people attended in person and thousands more watched online. The event featured performances by local and national talent, presentations and activities that explored hip-hop music's origins and cultural influence for 12 hours. In 2023, the tradition returned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop.


  • Paperback
  • 288 pages
  • 8.3" x 5.6"
  • Written by Adam Bradley