What Is Hip-Hop?
It’s hard to say if What is Hip-Hop? is a better book for kids or adults because it is so brilliantly created for any audience. The use of Claymation figures feels like a throwback, but the sharp and clever rhyme of the story is as fresh as this morning’s sunrise. Produced by Nelson George, what Eric Morse and Anny Yi have managed to do with What is Hip-Hop? is nothing short of genius.
The book begins with iconic images of hip-hop set against a stark white background: sneakers, a can of spray paint, a red Kangol hat, and a boombox. If Afrika Bambaataa is correct, and I think he is, then the five tenets of hip-hop—breakdancing, graffiti art, emceeing, DJing, and intelligence—are all present here on the opening pages. The book is a visual and lyrical delight, opening in “the Boogie Down Bronx” with DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, KRS-One, and Kurtis Blow. As the story of hip-hop is told, other artists emerge, from LL Cool J to Queen Latifah, Tupac and Biggie to Jay-Z and Kanye, the Beastie Boys to Eminem to Nikki Minaj and Kendrick Lamar. The breadth of the book is wide, and the humor in the rhyming story never disappoints.
When writing about Run-DMC, the book reads: “It’s tricky to rock a rhyme,” a play on a huge hit for the group, “It’s Tricky.” For adult fans, the book is filled with gems like this one, and for the newly converted or those simply interested in the history of the movement, there is something for everyone. The writers aren’t shy about addressing controversy, including the songs of Salt-N-Pepa that “weren’t always clean” or violence and “other bad things too” in the songs of NWA, but that’s what makes the book so perfect. Neither a sanitization nor a revision of the history of hip-hop, What is Hip-Hop? is a clear and honest look at what makes this “urban form of art” so important and so worth exploring. It is unlikely there will ever be a more accessible or entertaining entrée into this world, and that is why the book is worth not just reading but purchasing, studying, and sharing with friends.
|Page Count||40 pages|
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