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The Children of Hip-Hop Take Center Stage at the Bay Area Book Festival

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Hanif Abdurraqib in a "midwest kids" sweatshirt, smiling at the camera
Hanif Abdurraqib.  (Megan Leigh Barnard)

Thinking of a master plan
Ain’t nothin’ but sweat inside my hands
So I dig into my pocket, all my money is spent
So I dig deeper but still comin’ up with lint

What an opening stanza. Poetry. Broke poetry.

That’s the song “Paid in Full,” by Eric B. & Rakim—and, despite its stature as a work of literary prowess, it wasn’t taken seriously as such when it was released in 1985. Hip-hop had yet to become enshrined as literature. That’d take another 20 years or so.

Enter this year’s Bay Area Book Festival, running May 7 and 8, where it’s clear the perception of hip-hop has changed. Among the dozens of authors at the festival, you’ll find Danyel Smith, who grew up among the beats and rhymes of Oakland’s hip-hop scene, and whose latest book is Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop.

Making a special appearance, too, is Hanif Abdurraqib, who wrote one of the all-time great pieces of prose about hip-hop with Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest; his latest is A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance.

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From what I’ve gleaned by reading these authors’ work, both conversations are sure to expand the conventions of a typical author talk. Along with dozens of other authors, including San Francisco staples like Rebecca Solnit and David Talbot, the Bay Area Book Festival runs Saturday and Sunday, May 7 and 8, at various venues in downtown Berkeley and online. Full schedule and details here.

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