Oh, Minya. Bling Bling: Hip Hop's Crown Jewels. New York: Wenner Books. 2005
I wanted to like this book, it came out around the same time as an identically-named auction of some pretty amazing bling by Phillips de Pury, Hip Hop's Crown Jewels. There the overwrought jewelery of the street met the overformed prose of the modern auction catalog. Take, for example, the description of Lil John's "Crunk Ain't Dead" pendent:
One of the most outrageous artifacts in the sale doubles as a defiant missive to hip hop critics proclaiming the demise of "Crunk", a catchy southern style of hip hop. With a pendant standing 7.5 inches tall and 6 inches wide, Lil' Jon's Diamond and Fancy Yellow Diamond and gold "Crunk Ain't Dead" Pendant and Necklace created by Jason of Beverly Hills is fittingly documented by the Guinness Book of World Records as the World's "Largest Diamond Pendant."
Sadly this book was none of that, not even a glossy heavily-photographed catalog of actual bling it is more of a series of interviews with promenant Rappers, and hanger's-on (see Jacob Arabo). Much of the photography is historical and of low quality, and not balanced with much in the way of modern studio work to illustrate the actual pieces, rather all of it tries to capture the artists. Much of it is uncited and uncaptioned. Sadly much ofthe text comes across as an exercise in "I know that slang term, I'm from the street too", occasionally you can almost hear the interviewee cringe.
In summary, perhaps the one redeeming element was the odd joy I got reading the copy of this book owned by that bastion of hip hop glamour and excess, Harvard's Widner Library.