A new edition of Adafruit’s comic reading list — this week it’s Hip Hop Family Tree by Ed Piskor, recommended by Shipping Group Managing Director Zay, who still sort of wishes he was Turbo from Breakin’!
Here’s the thing about Hip Hop: it’s the most DIY of all music genres. The breakbeat, one of the the earliest Hip Hop tools, got its start by figuring out the most danceable, funkiest part of a song, buying two copies of the same record, and extending the break longer than any human ever thought possible. It was DIY music, created through innovative use of technology, mixed live for people to get their groove on.
DJ Kool Herc did that in the mid-70’s. It was the birth of Hip Hop and the beginning of a type of music that required DIY engineers to create, develop, and transform into a truly American art form.
Can’t Stop Won’t Stop is the industry standard for telling the tale of the birth of Hip Hop out of the dismantling of the South Bronx — but if you want the most entertaining, detailed, and fun way into the history of Hip Hop, you gotta go with Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree. You know those Comics History of the United States books? This is like that.
The history of Hip Hop is a kind of cultural restoration that takes place after the dismantling of infrastructure in post-industrial New York. From the destruction of neighborhoods due to the Cross Bronx Expressway, to Government-aided white flight, to the devastating loss of jobs and a nation-wide recession, things were tough in the Sough Bronx. Hip Hop helped pull the community together and create a new kind of culture.
Like any historical epic, Hip Hop Family Tree would be nothing without extraordinary people. Piskor’s take on these Hip Hop legends is grounded and human, but always embedded in the greater story. When we see moments that will alter the course of music history they’re both monumental and minute. Words and ideas that shape our language today happen in playgrounds and street corners, apartments and long gone dance clubs.
Nowadays Hip Hop is everywhere. In a way nobody could imagine in the 80’s, Hip Hop is one of the load-bearing pillars of popular culture. Most hit songs and club hits owe everything to Hip Hop. EDM couldn’t exist without it. It’s so pervasive it’s difficult to see.
But back in the 70’s ajnd 80’s, Hip Hop was about a specific culture in a specific place. It was about relationships and moments and people striving to express themselves and celebrate with their community.
#blacklivesmatter. One way you can show you understand that is by delving into the history of one of the great artistic developments of the 2oth Century. Hip Hop Family Tree is essential reading.
Check out our previous posts Bee and the Puppycat, Spacetrawler, Grrl Power, Krazy Kat, She-Hulk, King City, The Whiteboard, Hubris, Akira, The Wicked and the Divine, Saga, Are You My Mother?, Cairo, Static, and Elfquest!