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Calvin Reid -- 1/17/00

Hip Hop Publishing

In 1999, Philadelphia-based publisher, author and hip hop anthropologist James Spady published the last book of a three-volume collection of firsthand interviews with an impressive range of rap and hip hop groups and personalities from across the nation. Published by Black History Museum Umum/Loh Publishers, the three books--Nation Conscious Rap (1991), Twisted Tales: In the Hip Hop Streets of Philly (1995) and Street Conscious Rap (1999)--are perhaps the most comprehensive collection available of in-depth conversations with rap artists. Spady describes BHMU/LP and another firm called PC International as "publishing cooperatives," and he has been responsible for a number of black literary collections since 1981. Spady tells PW that the hip hop trilogy represents a "mandate to bring cutting-edge African-American voices to a larger audience." The interviews explore each performer's background, techniques and influence as well as the gang violence and misogyny so often associated with hip hop culture. The books cover more than 60 different artists, among them pioneers such as Grandmaster Flash and Kool Herc; women rappers such as Queen Latifah and Salt 'N' Pepa; stars such as LL Cool J and Busta Rhymes; and martyrs such as the late Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. With the third title, the project is complete, but Spady says it is "not my last book on hip hop," pointing to the growing internationalization of the genre. "There is a huge hip hop scene in Algeria; there are French-, Arabic- even Wolof-speaking rappers," he notes. The books are distributed by Red Sea/Africa World Distributors, Ingram and Virgin Megastore Distribution; Brodart and Quality Books provide distribution to the library market. BHMU/LP can be reached at P.O. Box 15057, Philadelphia, Pa. 19130.

From the U.K. to the U.S.

Absolute Press is a 20-year-old English publisher founded by Jon Croft that specializes in food, cookery and wine titles, usually offering U.S. titles to the British market. However, the press is now releasing Outlines, a commissioned series of short biographies on gay and lesbian artists, written by gay and lesbian writers, to be released this month. The series will be published first in the U.K. then distributed in the U.S. by Stewart, Tabori and Chang. Titles include Armistead Maupin, k.d. lang and Tallulah Bankhead. Next to come are books on Rimbaud and Bessie Smith as well as The Ultimate Gay Guide, described by AB's U.S. publicist Mary Bisbee-Beek as "the definitive reference to gay and lesbian travel in the U.K."

Forced to close its New York City office in 1996 in the wake of the returns crisis, U.K. literary publisher Serpents Tail did not disappear from the American scene. ST, which publishes novelist Walter Mosley in the U.K., continues to publish about 20 books a year in the U.S. The house was founded in 1986 by Peter Ayrton, a former philosophy professor, translator and editor at Pluto Press before leaving to found ST. The house specializes in what he calls "books that are memorable and unsettling." U.S. publicist Sally McCartin quipped that ST publishes books for "the punk and fetish crowd," including unusual mysteries, hip, edgy fiction and prominent foreign authors in English. The house also reprints out-of-print classics such as the forthcoming Swimming Underground, a 1960s memoir of Andy Warhol“acolyte Mary Woronov, being published in tandem with her first novel, Snake, which is described by McCartin as "wild." ST's books are distributed by Consortium.
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