Hustlers Convention. LIGHTNIN' ROD, aka Jalal Mansur Nuriddin.

Hustlers Convention

New York: Harmony Books, 1973. First Edition. Nearly pristine copy of this absolutely seminal work, a book-length jive masterpiece chronicling street-life in Harlem from the Fifties through the Seventies, glorifying the violent lives of crap-shooters, pimps, drug dealers and gang-bangers. Nuriddin recorded the work (also under the nom-de-guerre "Lightnin' Rod") in 1973; no promotional copy for that recording is present here, leading us to assume that the book preceded the album by some months.

Among hip-hop afficionados, Hustlers Convention (in its recorded version) is widely cited as one of the "lost masterpieces" of rap music, preceding Sugar Hill Gang's Rapper's Delight (generally hailed as the first true "rap" album) by some six years. In a 2014 profile of Nuriddin in The Guardian, critic Graeme Thomson calls Hustlers Convention "...a crucial but largely overlooked link in hip-hop's evolutionary chain. The genre's pioneers – Melle Mel, Grandmaster Caz, Fab 5 Freddy – knew it by heart. Grandmaster Flash played it at early block parties, and it was later sampled by the Beastie Boys, Wu Tang Clan and countless others...[the album is] a premonition of gangsta rap, a vivid depiction of ghetto life lived large, complete with shoot-em-up sound-effects..."

Indeed, both the cadence and the ethos of much early hip-hop is evident in Nuriddin's metrical six-line stanzas, in which one finds a clear link between the "toasting" tradition which preceded him and the rap tradition which followed. In the opening stanzas, for example, we encounter rhymes which could just as easily have been written and rapped by Big Bank Hank or Melle Mel :

I've seldom lost,
'cause my game was so boss,
I mean I had my shit down pat,
and I was runnin' through bitches,
like rags to riches,
'cause that's where my heart was at

Yes, I was a down stud's dream
a hustler supreme,
there wasn't no game that I couldn't play,
and if I caught a dude cheatin'
I would give him a beatin'
and I might even blow 'em away!

Though released by the music division of a major trade publisher (Harmony was a subsidiary of Crown), the book is surprisingly uncommon, with no others located in commerce (2014) and few copies in university special collections. We would suggest that copies in collectible condition, such as this one, are seldom-seen. A documentary of Nuriddin's life, also titled Hustlers Convention, has been scheduled for release in Spring, 2015, directed by Mike Todd and executive produced by rapper ChuckD. Paperback original. Octavo (20.5cm); illustrated card wrappers; 125, (2)pp; author portrait and promotional blurb at rear. Light shelfwear and rubbing to extremities, with wear to base of spine; unread, Very Good+ or better.

Price: $850.00

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