Ghostnotes: Music of the Unplayed is an extended photo essay with more than two hundred images that represent a mid-career retrospective of B+’s photography of hip-hop music and its influences. Taking its name from the unplayed sounds that exist between beats in a rhythm, the book creates a visual music, putting photos next to each other to evoke unseen images and create new histories. Like a DJ seamlessly overlapping and entangling disparate musics, Cross brings together LA Black Arts poetry and Jamaican dub, Brazilian samba and Ethiopian jazz, Cuban timba and Colombian cumbia. He links vendors of rare vinyl with iconic studio wizards, ranging from J Dilla and Brian Wilson to Leon Ware and George Clinton, David Axelrod to Shuggie Otis, Bill Withers to Ras Kass, Biggie Smalls to Timmy Thomas, DJ Shadow to Eugene McDaniels, and DJ Quik to Madlib. In this unique photographic mix tape, an extraordinary web of associations becomes apparent, revealing connections among people, cultures, and their creations.
Brian “B+” Cross is one of the most prominent music photographers working today. He has photographed more than one hundred album covers for artists such as Company Flow, Damian Marley, David Axelrod, DJ Shadow, Flying Lotus, Eazy-E, J Dilla, Jurassic 5, Madlib, Mos Def, and Q-Tip. Cross was the director of photography for the Academy Award–nominated documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, and he has made several feature-length music films and many music videos. His photos have appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Vibe, the Fader, and the Wire.
B+ is an assistant professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego, and cofounder of Mochilla, a production house whose output includes feature-length music documentaries, music videos, music, and photography. A former student of award-winning author Mike Davis and photographer Allan Sekula, Cross was the photo editor of the music magazine Wax Poetics from 2004 to 2010, and Rap Pages from 1993 to 1998. Cross’s 1993 book on the LA hip-hop scene, It’s Not About a Salary, was on “best book of the year” lists for Rolling Stone and NME magazines, and Vibe named it one of the top ten hip-hop books of all time.
Writer, musician, and producer Greg Tate is a contributor to Rolling Stone, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Artforum, Essence, and Vibe. He is a former staff writer for the Village Voice, cofounder of the Black Rock Coalition, and author of four books, including Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader. Tate has been a visiting professor in Africana studies at Brown University and in jazz studies at Columbia University.
Award-winning author Jeff Chang is executive director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University and a contributor to the Nation, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Believer, Mother Jones, Vibe, and Spin, among other publications. Chang’s first book Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation won the 2005 American Book Award, and he was a 2008 USA Ford Fellow in Literature.
Writer and historian Dave Tompkins writes frequently about hip-hop and popular music. His work has appeared in Vibe, the Village Voice, the Believer, the Wire, Grantland, and Wax Poetics. His 2011 book How to Wreck a Nice Beach: A Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop was called one of the greatest music books ever written by the Los Angeles Times.