Read Up: 10 Good Rapper Biographies

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If you're in need of some good reading over the holidays, we've got you covered, with 10 rapper biographies to keep you occupied.

Rappers are not only given a talent to create stunning lyrical masterpieces, but often times, they've also survived incredibly rough upbringings and dangerous circumstances. While some document their story and their struggle in song, there are often plenty of details overlooked, which is why getting a biography on your favorite rapper is usually pretty exciting. 

Several of the rap artists on this list have grown up in the treacherous ghettos of New York City, Los Angeles and other inner-city urban areas. Most of them idolized drug dealers, since they were individuals who came from the same streets and saw what drug-dealing money could get you: cash, women and success. A lot of young men, who later became rappers, followed in the footsteps of these drug dealers, in an attempt to rise above their living situations.

You'll find each biography tells a unique story, and is littered with personal anecdotes and opinions, views of the world, and moments that aren't necessarily covered in their music. Take a look through the list to find yourself a new book or two to read.


Decoded by Jay Z

Read Up: 10 Good Rapper Biographies

Decoded is the sort-of-autobiography and memoir of rapper Jay Z, which was released on November 16, 2010. The book, published by Random House, contains analysis of 36 of the rapper’s songs, some of which only present partial lyrics. Jay Z said the reason he wanted to compose this book was to make a case for hip-hop lyrics as poetry. He believes hip-hop tells the story of his generation and is also relatable to a mass audience. The autographical portion of the book encapsulates his story growing up in the Marcy Houses in Brooklyn, drug dealing, fights and how he began rapping. The rapper also explains how these experiences shaped him into becoming the rapper he is today. Jay Z also touches on the stresses that come with being in the rap industry. A significant amount of the book is dedicated to his political opinions and reflections of his own life, thus really connecting the reader with who Hov is a person.

 

The Way I Am by Eminem

Read Up: 10 Good Rapper Biographies

Eminem released his The Way I Am autobiography on October 21, 2008. The book, published by Dutton Adult, is named after the rapper’s famous song of the same name. Some of the rapper’s personal stories and reflections, along with exclusive photographs, original artwork and lyric sheets are included in the volume. A significant portion of the book details the rapper’s struggles with poverty, drugs, fame, heartbreak, family and depression. He also touches on his ascent into the rap game and gives his personal insight into past controversies.

“From Pieces To Weight: Once Upon a Time in Sout

Read Up: 10 Good Rapper Biographies

50 Cent’s autobiography, From Pieces to Weight: Once Upon a Time in Southside Queens, was published by MTV and released on August 15, 2006. The book, co-written by Kris Ex, chronicles the rapper’s upbringing in Jamaica, Queens and his journey to rap stardom. His drug-dealing mother, who was murdered when he was eight, is mentioned, and he elaborates on how he fell into the same lifestyle. The rapper speaks on the danger and trouble brought on by his drug-dealing past, but also touches on his big break into the music business when he first met Run DMC’s Jam Master Jay. In addition, he touches on his famous feud with Ja Rule and the 2000 shooting, which left him with nine bullet holes.

Death Rap – Tupac Shakur: A Life by Barnaby Legg

Read Up: 10 Good Rapper Biographies

Death Rap – Tupac Shakur: A Life is an biographical graphic novel detailing the life of the one and only, Tupac Shakur. The book, published by Omnibus Press, was released on March 15, 2006. Barnaby Legg, known for writing graphic novels since his early childhood, teamed up with writer and illustrator Jim McCarthy to create this unique rap comic strip. The book details the rapper’s life events leading up to the enigmatic shooting, which left him dead on September 13, 1996 in Las Vegas. Tupac was such an intriguing character, there are so many levels to him as a person and as a rapper that we will never completely understand, but at least we can understand the circumstances he was raised in and hopefully learn a bit more about him in the process.

Ready To Die: The Story of Biggie Smalls Notorious

Read Up: 10 Good Rapper Biographies

Ready To Die: The Story of Biggie Smalls Notorious B.I.G., is a biography of Biggie Smalls written by Jake Brown. The book, published by Amber Communications Group, Inc., was released on May 28, 2004. Brown reveals how the rapper set out to become one of rap’s biggest household names within the East Coast hip hop scene and achieved this feat before his death on March 9, 1997 in Los Angeles. While Biggie was confident when it came to rapping and fame, he also had a soft side, which, along with his motivations, loyalties and roots, is detailed in the book as well.

Unruly: The Highs and Lows of Becoming a Man by Ja

Read Up: 10 Good Rapper Biographies

Ja Rule's recent autobiography, Unruly: The Highs and Lows of Becoming a Man, was released on July 1, 2014. The book, published by Amistad, chronicles the rapper’s story from his youth to his rise to fame to his two-year stint in prison. He speaks on how several young black men, such as himself growing up, lack positive role models, citing how his only role models were drug dealers. Men he met while in prison, who were ill advised about their masculinity, are mentioned throughout the book. The rapper also reflects on being a husband and father, while realizing the important responsibilities of these roles. The book also contains sixteen pages of black and white photos.

Dr. Dre: The Biography by Ronin Ro

Read Up: 10 Good Rapper Biographies

Dr. Dre: The Biography, written by Ronin Ro and published by Da Capo Press was released on March 17, 2007. This Dr. Dre biography captures the essence of the rapper's early days in the rap game with groups such as the World Class Wreckin’ Cru and N.W.A. It details his emergence into the music business when he released his critically-acclaimed debut album, The Chronic, and his time spent at Ruthless and Death Row Records. The book also speaks on Dre forming his current record label, Aftermath, and working with renowned artists, such as Eminem, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent and The Game.

Ice Cube: Attitude by Joel McIver

Read Up: 10 Good Rapper Biographies

Joel McIver’s biography, Ice Cube: Attitude, published by Foruli Classics was released on October 1, 2012. The book offers an inside look into the life of Ice Cube as a rapper, actor, industry mogul and entrepreneur. McIver touches on Cube’s founding of the first gangsta rap group, N.W.A. He also details the rapper’s liberal stance on government and American society.

The Dirty Version: On Stage, in the Studio, and in

Read Up: 10 Good Rapper Biographies

The Dirty Version: On Stage, in the Studio, and in the Streets with Ol’ Dirty Bastard, published by Dey Street Books, was released on November 4, 2014. This biography of Ol’ Dirty Bastard is the rapper’s story told by his friend since childhood, Buddha Monk, and is co-written by Mickey Hess. The book chronicles the founding Wu-Tang Clan member’s life as a rap star to his deadly overdose in 2004. Some of the stories in the volume cover the rapper and Buddha’s early days on the streets of Brooklyn, his rise to fame with the Wu-Tang Clan, stints in prison and rehab, and the unbelievable story of when he lifted a burning car off a four-year-old girl in Brooklyn.

E.A.R.L.: The autobiography of DMX by DMX and Smok

Read Up: 10 Good Rapper Biographies

E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX, written by the rapper himself and journalist Smokey D. Fontaine, was released on October 21, 2003. The book, published by It Books, tells the story of the Earl Simmons’ journey to becoming one of the most successful rappers in the world. From his early days in Yonkers, New York, being born to a single mother and being beaten by her boyfriends to his life on the streets and his involvement in several robberies, this book gives a look into DMX’s tough upbringing. There are also stories of his countless jail terms and the moment he was discovered by Def Jam.

About The Author
<b>Contributor</b> Vanessa Oswald is a contributing writer for HNHH. She’s also written for CentralPark.com, Broadwayworld.com, Resource Magazine and RTT News. Along with writing, her other love is dance—specifically hip-hop dance. Ever since she danced to Aaliyah’s “Try Again” back in 2000 in her first hip-hop class she was hooked. As time went on she started taking breakdancing classes as well and from then on became a lover of all things hip-hop. A native from Buffalo, who now lives in Brooklyn, she relentlessly shows pride for her hometown. In her spare time she also likes to read, listen to all genres of music, snowboard and attend concerts. What Motivates Me: Family, friends, music, writing, film, art and dance. <strong>Favorite Hip Hop Artists:</strong> Notorious B.I.G., Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill, Kanye West, Salt-N-Pepa, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar and Run DMC.