Two turntables and a microscope
Anyone who’s picked up a Master P album or Gucci Mane mix-tape knows that great graphic design and hip-hop typically don’t mix. Thankfully, the folks at Pop Chart Lab are bringing beauty, order and a little bit of biology to rap. The Grand Taxonomy of Rap Names poster ($20) breaks down MC names by genus and species, like “Audacious Misspelling” (Cli-N-Tel, Xzibit) and “Doggs” (Nate Dogg, Snoop Dogg, Top Dogg). It’s a far classier way to show your love of the genre than putting a bejeweled crunk cup on the mantle. Buy it at popchartlab.com.
Pompadour and circumstances
Morrissey—the man, his voice and his music—is most brilliant in small doses. At some point he’s going to put his foot in his mouth or you’ll reach for a noose. Which is why the format of Mozipedia: The Encyclopedia of Morrissey and the Smiths (Plume Books, $30) works so well. The reference-tome approach is perfect for such a mercurial and guarded subject. Simon Goddard has exhaustively researched every song of King Mope, and he’s refreshingly critical. Entries cover all the kitchen-sink films, melodrama actresses and girl groups that populate his milieu. Who knew he was obsessed with Bea Arthur? Available at most bookstores.
Air guitaring is finally a legitimate instrument with Paper Jamz ($25). (There are Paper Ampz to plug in to and drum pads, too.) The Gibson replica, pictured, comes preloaded with crummy hillbilly ditties. Instead, nab the flying V model to strum along to the Ramones, BÖC and Halen. Or, in freestyle mode, you can legitimately string together rudimentary barre chords and go your own way. The distorted digital crunch sounds better than the guitars on the new No Age album. See paperjamz.com for retail stores.