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Hip Hop Family Tree, Vol. 3: 1983-1984: 09/06/16

Hip Hop Family Tree, Vol. 3: 1983-1984 by Ed Piskor

Hip Hop Family Tree, Vol. 3: 1983-1984 by Ed Piskor covers the bit of hip hop that I'm actually familiar with. It's 13 years into the new genre and it's exploded out of the Five Burroughs and onto radio, record stores, and now onto the powerhouse of cable in the mid 1980s: MTV.

In 1983-4, I was in 4th and 5th grade. I had a hand-me-down radio in my bedroom and that gave me the power to explore music on my own. Also by dint of my location in the house I had the best radio reception. Being able to turn a dial and listen to things that caught my attention without parental intervention was amazing and liberating.

One of the stations I discovered (on a school bus) was the Mighty 690, an AM station that at one time played a mixture of punk, hip hop, new wave, and stuff that's now called alternative. Mighty 690 became a talk and sports channel and the DJs moved over to FM to 91X. It was there that I heard many of the crossover artists mentioned in Piskor's earlier volumes, as well as one from this one: Run DMC.

Run DMC on MTV

Run DMC as Piskor notes had the distinction of being the first black rap video on MTV. Rapture by Blondie was the first. Though I grew up in a household without cable and rarely watched MTV when I was at my grandmother's, I did see Irwin Corey's introduction to Run DMC's Rock Box.

I may have been growing up in suburbia but even I could see how insulting and patronizing his attempt to explain the shocking sounds of rap to poor, easily shocked, mainstream Americans. What that intro really served as was a stalling tactic for parents to shut off the TV before that "awful inner city music" corrupted their children, as some of my friends' parents did.

My grandmother, though, would not tuck with such behavior. She was more of the, watch, read, listen to anything, just don't use it as an excuse to get into trouble. Maybe too it was her working class background, but she never seemed to mind whatever I decided to watch or listen to at her house. Usually she sat down to watch with me (including the Rock Box video, and later, The Wall).

This three volume graphic novel history of hip hop has been both entertaining and educational. I've found that I actually rather like hip hop.

Five stars

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