- Craig Graziano
Hip Hop Family Tree Volume 2 picks up right where Ed Piskor's first phenomenal graphic novel left off. By 1981, the record industry has started to capitalize on the raw talent of urban youth. The sounds are slicker and the rhymes are tighter, but Piskor manages to find and highlight the raw edges of the musical movement.
What started in a few neighborhoods in The Bronx and Queens has extended to the West Coast, with Los Angeles holding its own thanks to hustler turned rhymesmith Ice-T and a young DJ named Dr. Dre, who in his youth actually dressed like a surgeon, complete with stethescope.
Back in New York City though, Run-DMC and The Beastie Boys are two legendary groups beginning to emerge. The former is fronted by the little brother of impresario Russell Simmons, who is simply hoping to get his kid brother off his back. The latter is a group of punk rock delinquents. Both will be at the forefront of bringing hip-hop to white suburban ears. In Piskor's art and storytelling, you can see his aims not only to educate but mythologize these artists as well.
One brilliant aspect of living in the digital age is the fact that we can immediately listen to any record or cut mentioned, turning the reading experience into a multimedia lesson on par with any college course.
Nowhere in the book is this more prevalent than when Piskor explains the 20-year mutation of the song Apache, originally written by Jerry Lordan in 1960. The surf instrumental version by The Shadows became a British hit, but fell on deaf ears in the states. When The Bongo Band chose to repurpose it with keyboards, horns, and a funky drum beat underneath, it gained attention in hip-hop clubs. Finally, The Sugarhill Gang injected their version, built on The Bongo Band's sound, with some fresh rhymes and even more energetic production.
Piskor's passion for his subject is exhilarating and contagious as he highlights two of the least respected artistic mediums, comics and hip-hop, showing how both of them are great. With both volumes of Hip-Hop Family Tree out and new strips being created weekly, Ed Piskor has quite a magnum opus on his hands.