What is Hip-Hop? by Eric Morse and Anny Yi
This book is incredible for so many reasons. It celebrates hip-hop in a way that shows respect for the art and culture. It not only pays tribute to some of the pioneers of the art form, but it does so in a way that is quite entertaining to both young and old.
Eric Morse breaks down the history of hip-hop by recapping some of the artists and innovations we have seen over the past forty years.
In the beginning,
there was a beat
Two records spinning,
and the crowd got on its feet.
It might be hard to believe but that is the essence of hip-hop right there. It started with the DJ and the goal was to simply get people to dance. It moved to huge heights after that simple start and it’s nice to see that we are at a point in time where we can look back and celebrate those humble beginnings and see where we’ve come.
Anny Yi’s art really put a smile on my face. She beautifully captures the essence of hip-hop in her sculpted clay-art dioramas.
I love this spread. LL Cool J is dressed in his old school gear with the iconic radio from his album of the same name on the ground beside him. The background brings to life the visuals we saw from one of his biggest hits, “Mama Said Knock You Out.” The mama is question, his grandma, is even in the scene.
Of course, we have over forty years of history to cover and a typical picture book can only begin to scratch the surface. But some of the stories and legends that don’t get told are represented in the inside cover.
If I was reading this to children, I would tell them stories about Rick Rubin’s brilliant production and how it captured the true sound of hip-hop as heard on the stage. I would tell them about the business savvy of Russell Simmons, and how MC Lyte and Lauryn Hill can rock the mic like no one else.
My only criticism of the book has to do the rhyme scheme. I mentioned this in the last picture book I reviewed. It’s okay for a picture book to not rhyme every single line. Also, this is a book about hip-hop, so I think the rhymes should reflect what is heard on stage and in the records. So the A-B-A-B rhyme scheme that starts off the book seems wrong. Thankfully, it did move into the more familiar A-A-B-B rhyme scheme quickly.
There is one small error in the book, the author seemed to attribute a Queen Latifah song to Krs-One. I understand the sentiment. They both preached unity, but only one of them spelled it U.N.I.T.Y.
It ends with a prediction of the future that remains true to the past.
By now the culture’s spread
to every corner of the globe
. . .
But hip-hop remains, deep down at its heart
a unique expression, and urban form of art.
Make sure you pick up a copy of What is Hip-Hop?
when it drops on September 5th
It will be available wherever you buy books.
My List of 2017 Reads – novels, comics, memoirs, and more.