After watching The Get Down on Netflix, me and my husband started talking more about the origins of Hip Hop. So, when I was in the library last week looking for some graphic novels to read, I came across this one. I had originally gotten it for my husband, but after flipping through the book and seeing some of the artwork, I immediately became interested myself. I ended up reading the entire book.
Firstly, let me say, the author and illustrator, Ed Piskor, does a fantastic job with these illustrations. The depictions are exaggerated enough to be interesting, but not so much that you don’t recognize the artist. And I especially love how the paper resembles newspaper print, which gives it an old-school feel, reminiscent of the 1980’s, which is the time-period the book is centered around.
The Hip Hop Family Tree is a series of books beginning with the history of Hip Hop from the 1970’s. I started with volume 4, 1984 through 1985. It chronicles the rise of Hip Hop greats, such as Dr. Dre, The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff, Ice Cube, and Biz Markie. It even touches on the humble beginnings of some of my personal favorites, Salt-n-Peppa and Kid-n-Play. This era was also the beginning of Def Jam Records. Russell Simmons was making his mark in the music industry and Hollywood was capitalizing off the success of the new culture by making films. Some of you may be familiar with early Hip Hop movies such as Beat Street, Breaking, and Electric Boogaloo. And my all-time favorite, Krush Groove, featuring Run DMC, The Fat Boys, LL Cool J, and Sheila E. The book talks about the making and the casting of the movie.
My favorite thing about this book, is how the author ties in historically relevant events, to popular hip hop songs of the time. He gives us a history lesson on the rise of crack cocaine, and an interesting fact about the popular refrain, “The roof, the roof, the roof is fire. We don’t need no water. Let the muthaf*cker burn!” This is some little-known information and makes for great trivia questions.
Piskor uses a mix of narration and dialogue to tell the story, which makes it an enjoyable easy read. The characters come to life in the same way fictional characters would, using speech bubbles. My only complaint, is how the author exaggerates Russell Simmons speech. He amplifies the fact that Simmons speaks with a lisp in all the character’s speech bubbles. It’s so pronounced that I could barely understand what Simmons was saying throughout most of the book. Other than that, I would say this is an interesting book. If you are interested in how Hip Hop started, this is the book for you.
I would also recommend you check out, the Netflix movie, The Get Down. An excellent movie that follows a fictional group during the DJ movement but also includes actors who play real life pioneers, such as Afrika Bambaataa of the Zulu Nation, Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc, and the Treacherous Three. Check it out!