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Jonathan Abrams traces the rise of hip-hop from its roots to its royalty

Hip-hop dominates the music world. According to Nielsen’s measurements, U.S. listeners consume more hip-hop/R&B than any other type of music.

Jonathan Abrams

Author Jonathan Abrams, a Charlotte resident by way of Southern California, spent years talking to the foundational figures of hip-hop — including some who date back all the way to its very beginnings nearly 50 years ago.

Abrams turned those interviews into a new book called “The Come Up: An Oral History of the Rise of Hip-Hop.”

It’s a fascinating look not just at the birth of hip-hop, but its continual rebirth as new artists find new ways to stretch its boundaries.

Abrams is a boundary-stretcher himself: His day job is writing sports features for the New York Times, but he has also written an oral history of the TV show “The Wire.” In hip-hop, as in “The Wire,” all the pieces matter. Jonathan Abrams knows how to put them together.

Other music in this episode

  • "Dear Mama," Tupac Shakur
  • "Rapper's Delight," The Sugarhill Gang
  • "How High (Instrumental)," Method Man & Redman
  • "Hypnotize," Notorious B.I.G.
  • "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)," Jay-Z
  • "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)," Nas
  • "When I B on Tha Mic," Rakim
  • "The Message," Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
  • "Still D.R.E. (Instrumental)," Dr. Dre
Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary, On My Mind, which airs every Monday.