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The lore of the early days of hip hop has become the stuff of myth, so what better way to document this fascinating, epic true story than in another great American mythological medium — the comic book? From exciting young talent and self-proclaimed hip hop nerd Ed Piskor, acclaimed for his hacker graphic novel Wizzywig, comes this explosively entertaining, encyclopedic history of the formative years of the music genre that changed global culture.
Originally serialized on the hugely popular website Boing Boing, Hip Hop Family Tree is now collected in a single volume cleverly presented and packaged in a style mimicking the Marvel comics of the same era. Piskor's exuberant yet controlled cartooning takes you from the parks and rec rooms of the South Bronx to the night clubs, recording studios, and radio stations where the scene started to boom, capturing the flavor of late-1970s New York City in panels bursting with obsessively authentic detail. With a painstaking, vigorous and engaging Ken Burns-meets-Stan Lee approach, the battles and rivalries, the technical innovations, the triumphs and failures are all thoroughly researched and lovingly depicted.
Piskor captures the vivid personalities and magnetic performances of old-school pioneers and early stars like DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, the Funky 4 + 1, Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, The Sugarhill Gang, and three kids who would later become RUN-DMC, plus the charismatic players behind the scenes like Russell Simmons, Sylvia Robinson and then-punker Rick Rubin. Piskor also traces graffiti master Fab 5 Freddy's rise in the art world, and Debbie Harry, Keith Haring, The Clash, and other luminaries make cameos as the music and culture begin to penetrate downtown Manhattan and the mainstream at large.
Like the acclaimed hip hop documentaries Style Wars and Scratch, Hip Hop Family Tree is an exciting and essential cultural chronicle and a must for hip hop fans, pop-culture addicts, and anyone who wants to know how it went down back in the day.
"Being in an Ed Piskor comic is cool enough to freeze hot water." – Fab Five Freddy
"This is the comic of all time." – Biz Markie
"If ever a chapter of modern American history were ripe for the Classics Illustrated comic book treatment, it is hip-hop's first decade. Ed Piskor, a talented writer and artist who has long savored the connections between comic books and hip-hop, has now written that chapter in the seductive and entertaining form of Hip Hop Family Tree. He weaves dozens and dozens of individual stories into an unprecedented book-length narrative encapsulating the out-sized drive, creativity, humor and violence that defined hip-hop culture from its gestation in New York's outer boroughs in the early Seventies to its thrilling first steps onto the world stage via records and tv in the early Eighties. Piskor not only gives due props to well-known giants like Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash and Russell Simmons in their earliest days, he shines a light as well on important but under-celebrated figures like Jimmy Spicer, Sequence, and Michael Holman -- not to mention such crucial behind-the-scenes figures as Bobby Robinson, John Stainze, and Charlie Ahearn. We can now see this whole crazed and inspired cast of characters through Piskor's eyes. They weren’t exactly super-heroes, but they sure enough seem to have performed super-human feats of strength on behalf of the powerless and against the longest odds. It's a great great story and Piskor tells it immaculately well." – Bill Adler, co-author, Def Jam: The First 25 Years of the Last Great Record Label
“What’s especially interesting to me is that the comic isn’t about technology. It’s about hip hop and comics and the New York City scene years ago.” – Rick Marshall, IFC.com
"These comics [are] almost too good to be true... If you’re a lover of hip hop and / or graphic novels, these are a must!" – Burlesque Design
"They say the story of Jesus is the greatest ever told, but JC didn’t steal a DJ mixer during the New York Blackout of '77 or bomb a subway car with Fab 5 Freddy. With his 'Hip Hop Family Tree,' comics artist Ed Piskor delves into the history of hip-hop and gets straight-up biblical, penning a 'who-begat-whom' with a b-boy twist." – Jonathan Zwickel, MTV.com
"Piskor's strip is funny and warm, tossing in a few keen nods to two cultures that have shaped him..." – Jason P. Woodbury, Phoenix New Times