“Hip Hop Family Tree, Vol. 1: 1970s-1981”
Author: Ed Piskor
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Release Date: Nov. 16
“I’d like thum cocaine and thum puthy!” shouts wide-eyed manager Russell “Rush” Simmons, who can barely believe the perks of his first European tour with rapper Kurtis Blow after “Christmas Rappin'” becomes an unexpected hit in 1979. Scholars and serious fans may already know much about how hip-hop emerged from the streets of the Bronx in the ’70s, but Ed Piskor’s graphic novel history of the culture’s early years captures the personalities, imagery and milestones with a hilarity and efficiency that no other medium could. Beginning with DJ Kool Herc’s rec-room parties and ending with the 1981 “20/20” segment that introduced hip-hop to much of mainstream America, the first of hopefully more volumes of “Hip Hop Family Tree” is thoroughly researched. But it also uses just enough narrative license to give unique voice and immediacy to the pivotal events in the evolution of hip-hop from a live, organic phenomenon to one of the recorded-music industry’s most important products. Piskor’s art is detailed and expressive, setting the reader right in the thick of drama between figures like Grandmaster Flash and Sylvia Robinson, and highlighting connections among rap, punk and fine art with both visual and textual brilliance. Bonus material includes pin-ups of influential rap groups by acclaimed cartoonists and a highly entertaining strip in which Piskor notes intriguing parallels between the cultures of hip-hop and comic books.