Best 7 of 2007: 7 Interesting Books To Read That Came Out Last Year

What's good everyone,

I know it's the beginning of February 2008, but in between maintaining this site, working my 9 to 5 and the general state of hectic and wackiness that is my life, I haven't gotten to putting out our Best of 2007 lists and articles here on

Basically, I'm going to do a series of Best 7 of 2007 articles counting down things that really stuck out in my mind for folks to check out that came out that year and hopefully, if y'all are so inspired, will do some nice legal purchases of said items at the store, on the 'net, etc. sometime in the future.

Note: If one must due to economic restraints have to hit up the bootleg man first, it's understandable. But evenutnally get something through other channels eventually so that the folks how create all of these things can eat.

Since we folks at are big promoters of literacy and things to provoke thought, we're finally jumping off our Read A Book bi-weekly section with the list below of seven books - in no particular order - that stuck out in regards to quality, interesting subject matter and smooth reading flow (in other words, books that didn't one's mind wandering and kept me involved).

For my authors, book publicists, publishing company peoples, etc., feel free to hit folks up to get your book reviewed at

Hope that everyone gets a chance to check these works out and enjoy!

Check The Technique: Linear Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies by Brian Coleman (Introduction By ?uestlove Thompson from The Roots):

Next time you have some character coming up to you in some throwback Adidas suit and dookie gold chain at your local indie Hip-Hop show talking about how they brought a DJ Shadow's test pressing online on a Japanese website for $2000 and babbling some half-a**ed diatribe about the greatness of Cash Money Records rhyme schemes in comparison to the old school Hip-Hop of 1996 based off of their latest readings on the Internet forums and talking about how anyone can make a great Hip-Hop record with Pro-Tools, you can promptly smack them upside the head with this book.

Then when they come to, you can politely point out some of the great interviews in Check The Technique that show how some of the classic Hip-Hop albums of yesteryear where made, with details of the creative struggle and influences that got things rolling straight from the music artists.

Over 36 music artists and their crews are covered in the book, including De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Too Short, Ice-T, Redman, The Fugees, Slick Rick and Boogie Down Productions being just a few.

Brian Coleman's Check The Technique is a great and fun oral history to read of various stages of Hip-Hop and it's regional influences (the interviews cover albums from the 1980s to the mid-to-late 1990s as well as East Coast, West Coast and Southern MCs) as well as what goes down with blending the creative with the business ends of things (Rule #4080 has been in effect for a LONG time).

Blue Rage, Black Redemption by Stanley "Tookie" Williams (Foreword By Tavis Smiley, Epilogue By Barbara Becnel)

Everyone has very strong feelings about the legacy and impact of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, the co-founder and leader of the infamous street gang, the Crips. He has inspired thoughts in one direction or the other about things he did and influenced in the Black Community in California (and all over the United States, eventually) as well as his eventual arrest and execution through the U.S. Justice system.

Some can see a Black American youth who as a man was molded by his negative envoirnment (racism, poverty, etc.) to find any means necessary to feel powerful and strong, even if it meant preying upon his own - another victim of a warped society. Other folks can look at him as a cold-blooded bully, murderer (the charge he was convicted on that was denied until his death) and Grim Reaper who lead others towards a seemingly never ending spirial of criminality and nihilism that regardless of possible psychological and spiritual changes deserved to be punished by any means necessary.

I doubt this book would change the minds of those who feel one extreme or the other about the man, but from his own words (written before his death), all sides will definitely get more of an understanding about why Tookie Williams developed to be the man he was and how through this story and experiences in prison he tried to makes changes for the better (which through his books, etc. are disputable for some). It's a pretty fascinating biographical work, whether you're interested in gang culture, mid-20th century Black American History, pyschology and lots of other things.

The Five Percenters: Islam, Hip-Hop and the Gods of New York by Michael Muhammad Knight

There's a lot of slang in Hip-Hop culture and music that is said as naturally as breathing - Word Is Bond, Peace, God, Knowledge Of Self, etc. - especially from some of our classic Hip-Hop MCs. But where did these terms come from and why do folks use them? Was this just the regular ways of youth gaining and starting off new terms of language or was it part of a deeper movement?

In The Five Percenters: Islam, Hip-Hop and the Gods of New York, folks learn that these terms came from the Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE) also knowns as the Five Percent Nation. Founded in New York City in the 1960s by Clarence Jowars Smith a.k.a. Clarence 13X (known later as Allah or Father Allah) after he became disillusioned with the Nation of Islam's direction and teachings, it was based off his interpetation of the N.O.I.'s 120 Questions from the Supreme Wisdom Lessons (especially that the concept that the Black Man was the Original Man and through that, were Gods) and the creation of the Supreme Mathematics and Supreme Alphabet.

The movement had great growth amongst the Black Youth, especially young Black men from all sides of society. Unlike other movements, it did not die out when the creator was not present (Father Allah as killed in an unsolved assassination in 1965) and in fact flourishes throughout the world from the travels and teachings from NGE members and the advent of the musical form of Hip-Hop spreading the message today.

One of the vital strengths that propels this book are the first hand interviews and research about the NGE from various diverse sources from original and current NGE members as well as others in New York City who were affected by the NGE's growth by author Michael Muhammad Knight. Reasons as to why people came into the NGE, from the ground members who came in as teenagers to those such as Wu-Tang Clan's The RZA and Brand Nubian's Lord Jamar are fascinating.

It also shows why the NGE was looked on so highly (or by other parties, at the least as a pain and at worst a gigantic threat to the status quo) to those how saw it's power firsthand - from the positive role the NGE played during the Harlem Riots after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the collection of Black Youth who were not fitting in one extreme or another of the Civil Rights movement and it's own internal turf wars.

All of this information puts the NGE into a vital historical context by covering the influence of previous pro-Black secular and religious movements, the Great Migration of Black Americans from the North to the South and it's effect, the Civil Rights Movement, great details about the Nation of Islam's history and the U.S. Justice system, amongst other topics.

The Five Percenters: Islam, Hip-Hop and the Gods of New York is also strong in covering some topics that are usually not put in detail with regular coverage about the Nation of Gods and Earths in the book, including the Father Allah's own history, the various ways the media covered them from the past to the present (it hasn't always been negative), that there are white members (from Azreal in the beginning and interviews with others), how the local and national goverment viewed the organization, where women stand in the movement, the evolution of the organzation, Hip-Hop's ways of spreading information about the NGE via song lyrics (some cool examples are in the book) and so forth.

For those who are interested in studying anything from Black and U.S. History, Hip-Hop, the Nation of Gods and Earths, Religion and other things, this book is for you.

Raw Law: A Hip-Hop Guide To Criminal Justice by Muhammad Ibn Bashir

NOTE: This is the latest run of this book, which originally came out in 2005.

I first encountered Muhammad Ibn Bashir, Esq. and his writing in and issue of Don Diva Magazine a few years back, talking very bluntly about the U.S. Criminal Justice System and what really goes on behind the courtroom doors. It was amazing to me that a lawyer was that open about telling it like it is in regards to the treatment of People of Color who get caught up in that system with everything from the types of charges and sentences placed on them (usually more harsh than your average mainstream - white - American) to the backroom dealings of both the police, lawyers and justices with peoples' lives.

After reading a few more articles, I did some searching and got the latest edition of his book, Raw Law: A Hip-Hop Guide To Criminal Justice and feel as though I am the better for it. Mr. Bashir masterfully and straightfowardly puts out information from his personal experience as a criminal law attorney in the state of New Jersey and gives out knowledge about legal terms and actions for different sorts of court cases, from those caught with drugs to rape to murder. He also covers the numerous and unfair injustices by the U.S. Justice System placed on People of Color and how in the long run, it is stacked against such people.

The book also doesn't make any excuses at all for those who get involved directly or otherwise in criminal activities, but puts out a vibe that folks understand why and how people get involved in those situations, which puts a realness and honesty that is sometimes not put out there by those who cover this sort of material. It is a high benefit that Raw Law: A Hip-Hop Guide To Criminal Justice is written this way and doesn't come off as being overly preachy or looking down upon people, since it will reach a great diaspora of people who truly need to check this information out.

Clocking in at a light 197 pages, anyone who is remotely interested in the legal system and/or how it affects you in your day to day life as a Person of Color should cop this book immediately. For those folks are doing dirt for whatever reasons, Raw Law: A Hip-Hop Guide To Criminal Justice will definitely be a clear reminder of why one should get out of such a scenario as soon as possible and with that, will make a huge positive impact.

In The Hot Zone by Ken Sites

Most of what is known as journalism in mainstream media is a pure spin zone of tightly regulated information that folks just want you to have without really trying to get to the heart of what is really going on. This type of scenario comes most often into play with news of war and politics (from local to international).

What author and journalist Kevin Sites' does with In The Hot Zone (along with the accompanied DVD * warning - some of the scenes in there are insanely harsh *) is do a enlightening and sort of scary job in showing how all of this affects how people view the situations happening conflict zones (not surprisingly, in the United States, not very knowledgably or balanced) and showing the other sides of what is actually happening in said areas covered, good and bad, throughout the year he was traveling and capturing documentation, which include Iraq, Somalia, China and Haiti among 20 countries.

The book goes by really fast and is engrossing in each segment that Sites documents, but one has to be warned - if you expect either total doom and gloom or a sunshine in the sky sort of book, you're down to be disappointed. While the horrors of war and poverty are fully documented, he also has stories about how average people get by everyday in said countries that are at once uplifting and heartbreaking.

In The Hot Zone also shows the things he had to deal with on a personal level while covering all of these areas and the various politics and behind the scenes reactions of the companies that he worked with in regards to the information he was putting out and caputuring via the internet and broadcast channels (including NBC, Yahoo, etc.).

To check some samples of the book and the DVD, hit up the In The Hot Zone website.

Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present by Michael Oren

One would think that the United States' history and involvment (or interference, depending on the point of view) in the region that is known as the Middle East is pretty recent, perhaps at most beginning sometime in the early 20th century. Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present is a book that shows in what I've found to be one of the most balanced research and writing on this subject matter and is a quality counterbalance to the straight up anti-Islamic and anti-Arab rants that one can get from mainstream society due to the current war situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Professor and author Michael B. Oren in a quick, entertaining and plainly written (not bogged down in academic speak to drive average heads away, thankfully) 700+ pages shows that the influence and involvement of the United States by various politicians, activists and religious groups has shaped the current destiny of the Middle East region and it's countries.

Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present by just stating the facts is a pretty damning document of how greed (via not wanting to mess up various certain trade routes in the U.S. beginnings to the discovery and dependence on oil today), religious intolerance and ego (from certain constituents of Jews and Christians in the United States holding a feeling of dominance over the peoples of the Middle East, even those who followed the same religion) and racial bias can get things from a not so great situation in said countries to bad.

The book is also interesting in regards to wanting to bring understanding to readers by educating and dispelling some trains of thought that have been ingrained in our society (for example, that the U.S. was always a strong supporter of the creation of the country of modern day Isreal) as well as on other parallel happenings in history at that time with the effects of colonialism in the world in general, both of the World Wars, the pan-Arab Movement/Arabism and Zionism.

Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present is a great primer to have an idea of what's going on in the Middle East and to show that history's effects runs very deep into the modern day.

Pimpology: The 48 Laws of the Game by Pimpin' Ken

This book may come as kind of a surprise being on my list - I certainly wouldn't have thought it would be on here so when I first got this joint in my hands. But that's the wonders of books - on the real besides looking at the cover, you never know what you're going to get into.

I ended up reading this on the Amtrak while doing my travels and the beauty shop (even is DJ-ing bloggers like to get the wig tight every once in a while) and was into it enough times to read it a few times throughout the year.

First off, this is one of the few times to not let a book be judged by it's cover - don't let the title and/or the author put you into thinking about stereotypical sorts of things like it's a manual to get on the way to getting some Gators and Ladies (or hell, Men) of the Evening to make you money on the street while you site pretty and get manicures all day (which even author Pimpin' Ken says is crazy as hell to think folks can get into on a humbug or want to get into this day and age, which one has to give some sort of props for).

Pimpology: The 48 Laws of the Game is essentially the easy to carry around, condensed plain, direct-and-to-the-point and blunt English version of the bestseller 48 Laws of Power book by Robert Green.

Is the language out there? Yup.

Are some of the examples mad embarrassing to read if you're a woman? Pretty much (after all, this man made his money as a pimp - while there are some laws where women don't play a role, positively or negatively, usually they are not good looks).

Are some of the things said crazy amoral where if you just wanted to straight up do some of the advice without thought or direction you would probably be a cold hearted S.O.B.? Absolutely.

But then again, so is the 48 Laws of Power.

Take the right things out of the Pimpology (which is essentially watching your back, helping out your peoples who help you, don't get too caught up in the B.S., etc.) and I think it all helps in business, personal and other things for folks to climb out of certain situations - poverty, spinning one's wheels in various scenarios and not growing to be a stronger person and so forth.

Which in all honesty, is information, regardless of harshness of the words said and written by Pimpin' Ken, that the community the book is aimed towards needs to have as reinforcement - the Black Youth.

Heck, even Pimpin' Ken isn't on the street pimpin' anymore which shows that at the end of the day, the book is about climbing upward in life.

Take the info Pimpology in hopes for just pure material gain and you'll be messed up like that.

Just my 2 cents.