Previous generations of hip hop fans had it easy. When you only had a decade or two of history to look back on, it was easy to know all there was to know about the early days of hip hop. Today, the culture dates back more than 40 years, and few of today’s artists had even been born by the time Grandmaster Flash was bringing rap to the masses.
Fortunately, there’s history out there like Hip Hop Family Tree, a comic book series that brings hip hop fans young and old up-to-speed on the primordial ooze that gave birth to one of the most important cultural phenomenons of the last century.
Written and drawn by Ed Piskor, Hip Hop Family Tree can be read at Boingboing.net or collected in bound form at Amazon.com if you prefer to hold a comic in your hands as you read. It covers everything from Kool Moe Dee’s early days to the big names in the New York graffiti scene.
The exciting thing about these comics is that they’re set in a time and place when hip hop was still outlaw, when the street gangs that inspired The Warriors still roamed New York City and the Big Apple was a dangerous place to be. The visual style of the series reflects that with a pulpy, gritty sort of look, yet colorful with its bold primary schemes.
It’s fun just seeing the classic rap acts like RUN DMC drawn in comic book form, but more importantly, the series takes the broad, expansive history of hip hop and makes it digestible and entertaining without sacrificing any of the important details. If you want to go from hip hop scrub to hip hop scholar, start with Hip Hop Family Tree and see where it takes you.