“This is dedicated to the #!&&@$ that was down from day one.”
Hip Hop Family Tree Book 1 (1970 – 1981) is the first installment and brainchild of self-proclaimed Hip Hop nerd Ed Piskor. It chronicles the growth of Hip Hop from its early days in an entertaining encyclopedic like fashion.
Ed Piskor is an alternative comics artist operating out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He started his career working for Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor comics before pursuing his own interests. His creation of Hip Hop Tree is a result of his philosophical comparison between Hip Hop and comics seeding from his love of both.
The first thing to note about this comic is it’s not like most comic books. Unlike Darryl “DMC” McDaniels’ project, it doesn’t juxtapose a Hip Hop superhero or hyperbolize the culture but rather narrates its birth. The comic reads as a collection of first-handed stories told by an opinionated narrator, adding his skepticism into captions. The number of influential people in Hip Hop is short of uncountable, especially during the early years, but that does not stop Ed Piskor to try to give proper credit to as many as possible as well as integrate competing narratives within the confines of his pages. It’s jam packed full of names with seemingly insufficient explanation, analysis, and even dates jumping from character to character and story to story in what can only be assumed as a chronological order.
Despite this, any true Hip Hop enthusiast would be captivated by the stories (if not only to see how he makes Russell Simmons look like a fool… lisp and all). The array of characters makes one see the full scope of the story, humanizing the founders and truly teaching the history. The retro artwork and aged comic book texture adds to this transverse back in time. Piskor not only includes a bibliography and index but also includes a discography as well as a somewhat compelling illustrated comparison between Hip Hop and comic books. The only true complaint is that breakin’ is all but ignored and, with the exception of Fab Five Freddy, graffiti is a bit downplayed.
The second volume (1981-1983) has just been released in comic stores and both volumes are available online. Piskor is currently working on Volume 3 and you can check out the current strips via Boing Boing.
Have you read Family Tree or have anything to add??
Let me know in the comments.