Hip Hop Family Tree, Vol. 1: 1970s-1981: 11/28/15
Hip Hop Family Tree, Vol. 1: 1970s-1981 by Ed Piskor came across my radar via a post I saw online. I'm not entirely sure where and I didn't think to note it down when I decided to read the book. I do recall thinking that I like nonfiction presented in a graphic novel or comic format and I knew next to nothing about hip hop. So it seemed like a perfect fit for me.
Here's the thing about hip hop, it's as old as I am. But it grew up in boroughs of New York and spread to similar urban settings. I grew up in a San Diego suburb. Hip hop wasn't even mentioned as a musical form or a cultural phenomena where I lived until it was about a decade old and I don't recall anything positive being said about it either.
That tells you how lily white my neck of the woods was back then.
Piskor's comic (originally done as a two volume graphic novel and is now a monthly comic) starts at the earliest mentions of hip hop and rapping and traces the forces most influential in the artform. He does it chronologically rather than by celebrity, so people come and go. It gives it a more historical feel to it, as if we're reading illustrated history, rather than a celebrity biography.
For the first volume it's fascinating to see both the performers and the big music producers not seeing any future or financial potential in hip hop, even though each performance drew larger crowds than the previous ones. Performances early on where free and performers were spending oodles of their own money on equipment and old records for their scratch material and loops.
Yet there were fans willing to pay for recordings of performances. And eventually the industry grew up from self made records, purchased airtime, to big name labels finally taking notice.
Now for people like me who grew up outside of the realm of hip hop, the big breakaway hit was Blondie's Rapture which came out in 1980. It was #48 on MTV's debut day. But here's the thing, I didn't have cable. The youtube video is my first time of actually seeing the video which features now-familiar-to-me faces thanks to Ed Piskor's book.
In fact, the first time I heard Rapture wasn't until 1983 when 9IX switched to an alternative music format which included Blondie's rapture in regular rotation.
Thankfully Piskor's book includes a list of important songs for those of us clueless readers. Also, thankfully, my local library's Freegal Music accounts provides easy and free access to the songs I've missed out on.
This is good. Very good!