Smithsonian Anthology to Hip-Hop and Rap review

Smithsonian Anthology to Hip Hop and Rap review

Back in 2017, I came across a Kickstarter that had one goal: bring to life a project entitled The Smithsonian Anthology to Hip-Hop and Rap.  

The aim was to create a comprehensive package that included a 300 page coffee table book dedicated to hip-hop’s origin, influence and legacy, along with nine CDs full of iconic rap songs loved around the world.

This project was a joint venture between the National Museum of African American History and Culture and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.  And with an advisory board that included rap legends like Chuck D, MC Lyte and 9th Wonder, I jumped on the chance to make this dream project into a reality.

Smithsonian Anthology to Hip Hop and Rap book close-up

So in 2017, I donated about $100 to the project, which insured that I would receive the fully produced Anthology prior to its release to the general public.

While the Anthology was supposed to come out years ago, a variety of circumstances (along with a worldwide pandemic) delayed production significantly.

But they say that good things come to those that wait.  And finally, after years and years of waiting, the Anthology safely arrived on my doorstep.  

So, in this Smithsonian Anthology to Hip-Hop and Rap review, I wanted to unbox this package and give you better insight into what you’ll get for your money (if you’re interested in purchasing it for yourself or a friend).

You can also watch my video review of the Smithsonian Anthology to Hip-Hop and Rap below, as well.

The Packaging of the Smithsonian Anthology

The packaging for this Anthology is something special.  The book comes encased in a foil slipcover, and the way the light hits it makes it appear like platinum.  

The cover practically shimmers in the light and definitely left an excellent first impression on me.

Smithsonian Anthology to Hip Hop and Rap slipcover

There are nine CDs in this package, with three discs housed inside three individual foldout sleeves.  Each CD contains a variety of iconic hip hop songs that have become entrenched in pop culture.  

What I really like about the packaging is that, while the Smithsonian Anthology to Hip-Hop and Rap has no vinyl records, the sleeves that hold the CDs are clearly meant to resemble a gatefold jacket or inner record sleeve.  

Smithsonian Anthology to Hip Hop and Rap fold out booklets for CDs

They’re virtually the same size as a vinyl record, and with hip-hop’s origin being so directly tied to turntables, DJ’s, and vinyl record scratching, it only makes sense that the CD packaging would look like this.

Smithsonian Anthology to Hip Hop and Rap's nine CDs

Despite being a backer to this Kickstarter campaign, I’m not sure why there was no option to include vinyl records in this project.  My guess is that it was deemed either too expensive or too impractical, given the average person who might purchase the Anthology.  

But it would’ve been nice to have seen some kind of variant or exclusive option offered here—one that included one or two black or even colored vinyl records.

Deep Knowledge of Hip Hop History

One thing I like about this anthology is how it’s structured.  

As mentioned earlier, there are 9 CDs in the package, and each CD contains various songs by known hip-hop artists.  

Each CD focuses on a small handful of years in hip-hop history (for example, disc one covers hip-hop from 1979 to 1982, and disc 9 covers covers 2004 to 2013).

Smithsonian Anthology to Hip Hop and Rap covering Disc 1

The book itself is structured very similarly.  Each artist and song that’s on every CD gets special attention, as you’ll learn great historical information on countless artists and songs.

Another thing I enjoyed about this anthology is how deep into hip-hop and rap it goes.  You expect a book like this to cover big names in hip-hop pioneers like Run DMC or Public Enemy or Big Daddy Kane or Africa Bambaataa. 

MC Lyte and Big Daddy Kane featured in the Smithsonian Anthology to Hip Hop and Rap

And you also expect coverage of hip-hop artists and acts that have been relevant for decades, like The Wu Tang Clan or Jay-Z or Snoop Dogg.

Snoop Dogg featured in Smithsonian's Anthology to Hip Hop and Rap

But I think where this book shines is in its appreciation of the rest of hip-hop that lives in that vast, deeply important middle ground.  

You’ll see artists and acts like Arrested Development and Positive K get shine here.  The book even discusses artists that shot to fame like a rocket before flaming out shortly afterward (Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer).

In all, I like the breadth of knowledge and attention paid to the long, winding history of hip-hop and rap.

The Huge Influence of Hip-Hop and Rap 

Another thing I appreciated about this Smithsonian Anthology is how well it puts the world surrounding hip-hop into focus.  

What you get here is a better understanding of the influences hip-hop and rap were born out of, as well as insight into how hip-hop and rap entrenched itself into American popular culture.

This anthology covers topics like graffiti culture, the break dancing scene, hip-hop heroines, and the influence of fashion and jewelry in rap music.  

Graffiti discussed in the Smithsonian Anthology to Hip Hop and Rap book
Fashion trends are covered in the Smithsonian Anthology to Hip Hop and Rap
Lil' Kim featured in the Smithsonian Anthology to Hip Hop and Rap

You’ll also learn about the many people behind the scenes (like the Godmother of hip-hop Sylvia Robinson) that were involved in producing some of your favorite rap hits.

The Godmother of hip-hop, Sylvia Robinson, featured in the Smithsonian Anthology to Hip Hop and Rap

The book also succeeds in emphasizing how hip-hop culture and rap isn’t homogeneous.  It has a distinctly different flavor depending on where in America the music is coming from. 

In fact, there’s a nice section in the book entitled “The South Got Something to Say” that’s dedicated to the likes of OutKast, The Hot Boys, Trina, and the massive rise of southern rap.

This Smithsonian Anthology book covers southern rap, as well.


If you are a big fan of hip-hop and rap, then perhaps you didn’t really need to read this Smithsonian Anthology to Hip-Hop and Rap review.  Maybe you were already sold the minute you saw the title or viewed the striking images.

But this is an anthology package that costs about $160, so for anyone that’s on the fence, hopefully this helped you better understand what you can expect out of this product.

With that said, I’ll also provide a complete track listing for all nine CDs below, as well.

Overall, for anyone that’s looking to get an education on the birth of hip-hop and rap, as well as how it’s morphed and adapted over the past couple of decades, then this Smithsonian Anthology needs to be on your radar.

You can purchase this Anthology at various locations, including the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings website.

You might also enjoy:


Disc 1

  • Fatback – King Tim III
  • Sugarhill Gang – Rapper’s Delight
  • The Sequence – Funk You Up
  • Kurtis Blow – The Breaks
  • Funky Four +1 – That’s the Joint
  • Spoonie Gee feat. The Sequence – Monster Jam
  • Treacherous Three – The Body Rock
  • Blondie – Rapture
  • Grandmaster Flash – The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel
  • Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force – Planet Rock

Disc 2

  • Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – The Message
  • The Fearless Four – Rockin It
  • Cold Crush Brothers – Punk Rock Rap
  • Herbie Hancock – Rockit
  • Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force – Looking for the Perfect Beat
  • Run-DMC – It’s Like That
  • Whodini – Friends
  • Cold Crush Brothers – Fresh, Fly, Wild & Bold
  • T. La Rock – It’s Yours
  • The World’s Famous Supreme Team – Hey! DJ
  • Newcleus – Jam On It
  • UTFO – Roxanne, Roxanne

Disc 3

  • Roxanne Shanté – Roxanne’s Revenge
  • Fat Boys – Fat Boys
  • Doug E. Fresh & MC Ricky D – La Di Da Di
  • LL Cool J – I Can’t Live without my Radio
  • Schoolly D – P.S.K. ‘What Does It Mean?’
  • Run-DMC feat. Aerosmith – Walk This Way
  • Beastie Boys – Paul Revere
  • Ultramagnetic MC’s – Ego Tripping
  • Ice-T – 6 ‘N The Mornin’
  • Kool Moe Dee – How Ya Like Me Now
  • LL Cool J – I Need Love
  • Eric B feat. Rakim – Eric B is President
  • Mantronix – King of The Beats

Disc 4

  • Stetsasonic feat. the Rev. Jesse Jackson & Olatunji – A.F.R.I.C.A.
  • Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – Parents Just Don’t Understand
  • Audio Two – Top Billin’
  • MC Lyte – Lyte As A Rock
  • Big Daddy Kane – Raw
  • Marley Marl feat. Master Ace, Craig G, Kool G Rap, & Big Daddy Kane – The Symphony
  • MC Lyte – I Cram to Understand U (Sam)
  • Tone Lōc – Wild Thing
  • Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock – It Takes Two
  • Jungle Brothers – I’ll House You
  • N.W.A. – Fuck Tha Police
  • Public Enemy – Fight the Power
  • The Stop the Violence Movement – Self Destruction
  • Too Short – Life Is…Too Short
  • Slick Rick – Children’s Story
  • 3rd Bass – The Gas Face

Disc 5

  • Queen Latifah feat. Monie Love – Ladies First
  • Public Enemy – Bring the Noise
  • De La Soul – Me Myself and I
  • Biz Markie – Just a Friend
  • The D.O.C. – It’s Funky Enough
  • 2 Live Crew – Me So Horny
  • Digital Underground – The Humpty Dance
  • MC Hammer – U Can’t Touch This
  • Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby
  • Brand Nubian – All for One
  • Geto Boys – Mind Playing Tricks on Me
  • A Tribe Called Quest – Scenario
  • Black Sheep – The Choice is Yours
  • Salt-N-Pepa – Let’s Talk About Sex
  • Yo-Yo feat. Ice-Cube – Can’t Play with My Yo-Yo
  • Naughty By Nature – O.P.P.

Disc 6

  • Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg – Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang
  • Ice Cube – It Was a Good Day
  • Sir Mix-A-Lot – Baby Got Back
  • Arrested Development – Tennessee
  • Digable Planets – Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)
  • House of Pain – Jump Around
  • Positive K – I Got a Man
  • Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth – They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)
  • UGK – Pocket Full of Stones
  • Wu-Tang Clan – C.R.E.A.M.
  • Cypress Hill – Insane In The Brain
  • The Pharcyde – Passin’ Me By
  • Eightball & MJG – Comin Out Hard
  • Common Sense – I Used to Love H.E.R.
  • Da Brat – Funkdafied
  • Nas – N.Y. State of Mind
  • Craig Mack feat. The Notorious B.I.G., Rampage, LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes – Flava In Your Ear

Disc 7

  • Beastie Boys – Sabotage
  • The Notorious B.I.G. – Juicy
  • Gang Starr feat. Nice & Smooth – DWYCK
  • Warren G feat. Nate Dogg – Regulate
  • Snoop Doggy Dogg – Murder Was The Case
  • E-40 feat. Suga T – Sprinkle Me
  • Goodie Mob – Cell Therapy
  • Coolio feat. L.V. – Gangsta’s Paradise
  • 2Pac – Dear Mama
  • Mobb Deep – Shook Ones, Part 2
  • Method Man feat. Mary J. Blige – I’ll Be There For You / You’re All I Need To Get By
  • Foxy Brown feat. Jay-Z – I’ll Be
  • Lil Kim feat. Puff Daddy – No Time
  • Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – Tha Crossroads
  • Wu-Tang Clan feat. Cappadonna – Triumph
  • Busta Rhymes – Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See
  • Master P feat. Silkk The Shocker, Mia X, Fiend – Make ‘Em Say Uhh!

Disc 8

  • Missy Elliot – The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)
  • Lauryn Hill – Doo Wop (That Thing)
  • DMX – Ruff Ryders’ Anthem
  • The Roots – The Next Movement
  • Mos Def – Mathematics
  • BG – Bling Bling
  • dead prez – Hip Hop
  • Eminem feat. Dido – Stan
  • OutKast – Ms. Jackson
  • Nelly – Country Grammar (Hot Shit)
  • Ludacris feat. Pharrell – Southern Hospitality
  • Nas – One Mic
  • 50 Cent – In Da Club
  • Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz feat. Ying Yang Twins – Get Low

Disc 9

  • Talib Kweli – Black Girl Pain
  • Kanye West – Jesus Walks
  • Three 6 Mafia feat. Young Buck, Eightball & MJG – Stay Fly
  • Rick Ross – Hustlin’
  • Lupe Fiasco feat. Nikki Jean – Hip-Hop Saved My Life
  • Young Jezzy feat. Nas – My President
  • David Banner feat. Chris Brown & Yung Joc – Get Like Me
  • Lil Wayne feat. Robin Thicke – Tie My Hands
  • Jay Electronica – Exhibit C
  • Nicki Minaj – Super Bass
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Wanz – Thrift Shop
  • J Cole feat. TLC – Crooked Smile
  • Kanye West – Blood On The Leaves
  • Drake – Started From the Bottom

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