Members of the Anthology of Rap‘s advisory board speak out about the book’s errors. Plus: Grandmaster Caz lists the mistakes in his lyrics.
By Paul Devlin
On Nov. 4, I wrote a review of The Anthology of Rap, noting the book’s many transcription errors. Last week, I wrote a follow-up article on the Yale University Press book, enumerating further errors and pointing out that the majority of the mistakes discovered in the book so far—by me and by others—also appear in the transcriptions on Web sites like Online Hip-hop Lyrics Archive. In that follow-up article, I asked the editors to explain their transcription process, and they obliged, outlining a seven-step process. The primary source, they stated, was always the music itself: The editors say they typed out original transcriptions after listening to the songs. They then checked their lyrics against other sources—including sites like OHHLA—and also, when possible, asked the artists themselves to vet the lyrics. According to the editors, “nearly 30” artists reviewed the editors’ transcriptions.
I decided to reach out to one of the artists who checked his lyrics to see how that process worked. In the acknowledgements section of the book, the editors “offer special thanks to the following for reviewing transcriptions of their lyrics, offering insights into their craft, and generally providing support for this undertaking.” The editors then list the names of 29 rappers.
Among them is Grandmaster Caz, a hip-hop pioneer. Caz’s name jumped out at me because, in reading his songs as transcribed in the anthology, I’d noticed what I thought was a substantial mistake. So I got in touch with him and, earlier this week, visited him at his apartment in the Bronx. Reading through the book’s transcriptions of his work with me, he caught a series of errors.
Caz told me the editors asked him to check his lyrics, but not until October, when they sent him a hardcover copy of the book. (The book was published Nov. 9; I received a soft-cover galley over the summer.) Caz also told me he never signed off on the lyrics. I asked the editors why Caz is listed among the artists who checked their work. They didn’t respond to my queries.