‘Hip-Hop Family Tree Vol. 3’ – A Hip-Hop Comic Book

By - Sunday, August 16th, 2015

August promised to be a huge month for fans of Ed Piskor’s Hip-Hop Family Tree anthology. Not only did publisher Fantagraphics commit to begin releasing monthly installments of the series in comic book form, but hip-hop heads positively salivated at the thought of the third mondo book releasing,

While San Diego Comic-Con attendees got an early preview of the book last month, Volume 3 hit store shelves and online retailers this week with the comic book starting later this month.   

Eisner Award-winning artist Piskor set an extremely ambitious pace for himself with Hip-Hop Family Tree, a weekly web-serialized comic strip on BoingBoing.net that’s come to find a huge fanbase in print form. Taking the images from the computer screen to oversized-book form really makes the story of the origins of hip-hop come to life.

With the previous two volumes covering the 1970s through 1983, Hip-Hop Family Tree Vol. 3 kicks it back to 1983-84. It was an age when the Beastie Boys went from the trippy, experimental hip-hop of the Cookie Puss 12-inch to being on the verge of releasing Licensed to Ill, while Run-DMC and The Fat Boys gave the world their self-titled debuts.

Piskor’s painstaking attention to even the smallest details in the annals of hip-hop history is astonishing. The size and the scope of the books puts the reader right in the action wishing they’d have been around for the birth of DJ Kool Herc’s park jams. Even the pages of the book are printed on gritty paper stock giving the whole experience a nostalgic feel.

Vol. 1 featured appearances by the legendary writers Lee Quinones, Fab Five Freddy, Jean-Michel Basquiat; Wild Style director Charlie Ahearn; and photographers Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper.  

According to Piskor, there’s a reason his books are writ large and bold.

“I think the hyperbole of hip-hop corresponds just perfectly with things like Marvel Comics,” he told Nerdist.com. “Like Grandmaster Flash and his constant need to one-up the next man in hip-hop. Just the titles of Marvel Comics – The Incredible Hulk, Amazing Spider Man, Fantastic Four – those positive adjectives are hyperbolic in the same way as Jay Z rapping about his Gucci watch and shit like that.

“I think that’s a part of why the physical scale of my books is kind of huge, because it’s hip-hop – it should be bigger and more grandiose than everything else that comes out that week at the comics shop. There’s also the physicality of each object, because the books that I make, I have hip-hop in mind as being this monolith or something.”

Volume 3 continues its history lesson introducing the reader to lovingly drawn cartoons of Whodini, Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh, while detailing the formation of Def Jam in Rick Rubin’s NYU dorm.  

As with any time capsule of the early days of hip-hop, graffiti and breakdancing get their due. Fans of the series already have come to appreciate Piskor’s eye for graffiti and his acknowledgement of its importance as part of hip-hop culture.

Vol. 1 featured appearances by the legendary writers Lee Quinones, Fab Five Freddy, Jean-Michel Basquiat; Wild Style director Charlie Ahearn; and photographers Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper.  

In the latest Hip-Hop Family Free volume influential early-80s street art continues to get depicted by Piskor’s talented pen. Michael Holman’s famous TV pilot Graffiti Rock is included as is the seminal Style Wars, along with early West Coast hip-hop documentary Breakin’ and Enterin’.

Still haven’t had enough hip-hop history? Have no fear; Piskor tweeted this yesterday: 32 pages left to draw for Hip Hop Family Tree vol. 4.”

Head down to your local comic book shop to pick up Vol. 3, or purchase it on Amazon. 

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