I know nothing about Hip Hop. I’m a middle aged white lady who has never spent much time in the Hip Hop centers of culture, or much energy on music. I do love history though, and I don’t need to know much about a subject to want to know how it came to be.
Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree, Vol. 1 is amazing and well worth a read, even if Hip Hop isn’t your thing. I recognized maybe one name out of ten, but I had a lot of moments when I went, “oh, that’s where that comes from!” In the grand tradition of white people everywhere, I knew nothing about Hip Hop until a white artist introduced it to me. In this case, it was Blondie’s “Rapture. She didn’t give it the Perry Como treatment. I thought it was weird and had no idea (at 12) that I was looking at the music that was going to change pop culture.
I found myself regularly going back and forth between the ComiXology app and YouTube to watch early Hip Hop videos. I also briefly watched that Kid Rock video with the intro sampling early Rap artists Busy Bee and the Sugar Hill Gang. It’s a testament to how fast Hip Hop’s influence spread, going from a mostly New York City street culture to being appropriated by a greasy-haired white doucheboy in 8 short years.
It was interesting to see how Hip Hop evolved from street music to club music and then how it was forced to change in order to be played on the air. In the parks and clubs, DJs could spin any record they had to create the music and rhythms over which the emcees rapped. Copyright issues wouldn’t allow that for radio play, or for rap crews to make their own records. Early record producers hired musicians to create house music to replace the DJ’s practice of sampling.
Piskor’s artwork, evoking the newspaper comic strip style of the 1970s and 80s helps ground the book in it’s time period. If you are a Spotify user, there is a playlist to go with the volume. If you’re more of a YouTuber, of course there is a playlist.
I’m glad I overcame my initial response of indifference and read this. I still don’t know a lot about Hip Hop, but I know a lot more and it was a fun read.