Rap Genius Interview: Adam Bradley, editor of the Yale Anthology of Rap

Because there are no free websites devoted to the analysis of rap lyrics, Yale Press put out a thousand page anthology of rap lyrics!

The result? A handsome joint-rolling tray that Rap Genius recommends you BUY!

Adam Bradley, the editor of the anthology (also a true G), sat down for an interview with us…

How did you get interested in rap?

Andrew and I grew up in the two hotbeds of hip hop: rural Alabama and Salt Lake City, Utah respectively. How could we not be interested in rap??? Actually, I think the fact that we each encountered rap in places where you’d think rap just couldn’t exist speaks to the universality of the music. You can go from Cleveland to Cairo, from Brooklyn to Bangkok and people bob their heads to the same beats.

Is it easier to get tenure on the streets or in Academy?

I’m sure they both have their challenges. As long as I have tenure in one or the other, though, I’m happy.

Tell us about the Yale Anthology. Who is the intended audience?

The intended audience, to quote Big Daddy Kane, is “from eight to eighty, dumb, crippled, and crazy.” The anthology gives different things to different audiences. For hip hop heads—say, readers of Rap Genius—it gives you lyrics you know and many you may have forgotten or never heard. For people who are new to rap, it gives you another way into the music. Consider someone like Sam Anderson, a self-proclaimed “language dork” and rap neophyte who reviewed the book recently for New York magazine. He dug the book because it gave him a way to relate to a music that might otherwise have remained unapproachable. Ultimately, we want the book to lead readers back to the music (and maybe to Rap Genius too).

Has rap gotten better or worse since it started? Or apples and oranges?

Comparing old school to new school is more like comparing apples to almonds. Yeah, somewhere back in the primordial forest they’re connected (they’re both part of the Rosaceae family if you want to get all technical about it), but in their present forms they’re distinct. In the early days, rap was driven by catchy chants, simple rhymes, and spare production—which, come to think of it, sounds exactly like Wacka Flocka Flame. Maybe it’s apples and apples after all.

Who is your favorite rapper?

Should I say Cam? Cam is dope. After going over these hundreds of lyrics, though, I can honestly say that my favorite rapper changes every day. Today? It’s DOOM.

Are you upset that so many rap lyrics are about cocaine?

No. Why would we be? (sniff)