6 best new books about music so far in 2022

From the early days of industry icons and unsung heroes to the birth of beats, here is a list of 2022 music must-reads.

by CALEB J. MURPHY of SoundFly

Do people still read books? After all, we’ve got TikTok, so who needs a book?

Well the good news is, most Americans still actually consume books, whether it’s a physical book, eBook, or audio book. According to Pew Research, “75% of U.S. adults say they have read a book in the past 12 months in any format.”

So yeah, we’re back to do another review of the best music books from this year (so far). And there have been a ton of published works out this year about the music industry, and artists operating within it. My job is to give you a quick synopsis of the most promising books so you can decide if you want to read them yourself.

Let us know which ones you’ve read! Or if you have books you’d like to add to the list!

Paul Cantor – Most Dope: The Extraordinary Life of Mac Miller (2022)

This is the first biography of Mac Miller, the Pittsburgh-born rapper who not only gained the respect of his hip-hop comrades but also gained pop culture recognition. He started his career at 15 years old, and tragically died at the young age of 26.

For Most Dope, author Paul Cantor interviewed Miller’s roommates, best friends, and coworkers and collaborators in music. You’ll learn about his upbringing in Western Pennsylvania and his exciting life and dark times in New York and Los Angeles. Whether or not you’re a Miller fan, this book seems like an interesting look into one of the most promising rap artists of the past few decades.

Justin Tinsley – It Was All a Dream: Biggie and the World That Made Him (2022)

We all know Biggie, the Notorious B.I.G. He was a trailblazer in the ‘90s hip-hop world and is respected by every rapper in the game. It Was All a Dream dives into the story of his life as researched and told by journalist Justin Tinsley. Pulling from interviews with Biggie’s neighbors, friends, and professional collaborators, Tinsley tells the story of how this legend changed rap, culture, and the political sphere.

It’s all about where Biggie came from, how his life experiences shaped him, what he accomplished in his career, and the legacy he created.

Danyel Smith – Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop (2022)

Today’s pop music has Black men and women to thank, but especially Black women. Shine Bright tells the story of how these women shaped much of the music that would come after them, and how most of us don’t talk about it enough.

Author Danyel Smith tells the history of Black women’s music, painting it as the foundation of American music. She starts with Phillis Wheatley, an enslaved woman who wrote and sang her poems. Smith also talks about artists like Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Mariah Carey, and many others.

+ Read more on Flypaper: “8 Inspiring Books for the DIY Musician’s Shelf.”

Gerrick Kennedy – Didn’t We Almost Have It All: In Defense of Whitney Houston (2022)

Didn’t We Almost Have It All is a look at Whitney Houston’s rise to fame and then her tragic downfall. The pop icon was and is one of the most well-known voices in recent music history. Yet her struggles with addiction, faith, and sexuality ended up leading her to a sad ending — she passed away too young, partially due to the drugs found in her bloodstream.

She spent much of her life trying to please everyone else first, like her fans, her family, and her mentor Clive Davis. Based on firsthand stories, this biography reveals a lot about her life behind the scenes and shows the secret struggles she faced.

Dan Charnas – Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, the Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm (2022)

Readers say Dilla Time is like a combination of biography and music history. It’s a dissection of how J Dilla, born James DeWitt Yancey, made music that changed the landscape of pop music.

He was one of those artists who worked mainly behind the scenes, so he wasn’t well known among mainstream music fans but his hand touched some of the biggest hits of his day. He worked with big artists like D’Angelo and Erykah Badu, and he influenced huge stars like Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Questlove, and so many others.

And author Dan Charnas writes about Yancey’s childhood, his rise to Grammy nominations, and his eventual premature death due to a rare blood disease. The book also includes graphics that shows the reader how J Dilla created unique rhythms that artists still get inspiration from today. To the naked ear, his beats sound sloppy. But he was no doubt a perfectionist, and his style was intentional.

Jeremy Denk – Every Good Boy Does Fine: A Love Story, in Music Lessons (2022)

In this memoir, respected pianist Jeremy Denk tells his story of artistic endeavors and struggles. But he does it in a way that many people can relate to.

As a six-year-old piano prodigy from New Jersey, he shares stories of family problems, figuring out junior high school, facing strict piano teachers, and eventually moving to university. One aspect that reviewers say sets this book apart is Denk’s ability to tell stories and his enjoyable prose.

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