Justin Bua's new book Legends of Hip-Hop would look nice in your living room, but if you get a chance to snag the renowned portratist on his promotional swoop through the Bay Area this weekend (Thu/10-Sat/12) don't feel like you have to call it a coffeetable book. This thing's got wisdom to impart to the Beyonce feat. J. Cole generation.
You've probably seen Bua's work before. He's that “new urban realist” whose iconic DJ print hangs in just about every hip-hop gearhead's hallway. He did the cityscapes for Slum Village's “Tainted” video – a sober East Coast version of Sirron Norris' Mission District send-ups.
In Legends of Hip-Hop readers get to find out exactly why Bua has dedicated his lifework to exploring hip-hop culture. The man feels it deeply. He chose 50 artists for the pages of the book, each honored with a luminous image and page-long reflection on their importance in history, in music, in Bua's own life. He's picked old school classics like Sha-Rock, B-boy Mr. Wiggles, and pioneering tagger Lady Pink, and goes up straight through today's greats that even the MTV generation can recognize as legendary: Jay-Z, Jay Dilla, Missy Elliott.
And it's not just rote explanations, either. Like any great hip-hop artist (he is one) Bua is unafraid to put some weird blanket statements out there, like his unexplicably tender profile of Snoop Dogg, subtitled “The Beloved,” no less.
“Snoop transcends definition, and everyone – from soccer moms to gang bangers – loves him.” [emphasis author's own] Well...
Legends makes a good read for anyone stuck in that hip-hop-is-Auto-tuned miasma, and instructs also on the music's greater influence on our culture as a whole. The book's first profile is Muhammed Ali, progenitor of hip-hop's swagger and patter. It ends with Obama, who Bua says quietly signaled hip-hop lovers when he gave daps to Michelle onstage and brushed his shoulders off during speeches. Perhaps those movements weren't quite as under-the-radar as he thinks, but there's no doubt that Obama is the first president to successfully use hip-hop's power to organize his own campaign.
Legends of Hip-Hop concert
Thu/10 9 p.m., $25
Feat. DJs Qbert, Shortkut, and Apollo
628 Divisadero, SF
Legends of Hip-Hop book signing
Fri/11 6 p.m., free
1644 Haight, SF