Friday, September 15, 2017

What is Hip Hop?

by Eric Morse
Art by Anny Yi
Akashic Books     2017
32 pages     Picture Book   
They're all here! Every hip hop star from DJ Kool Herc to Nikki Minaj, Drake and Kendrick Lamar. Told in rhyming poetry, Eric Morse reminds everyone of the history of this remarkable art form, and all of the offshoots, including break-dancing, graffiti, clothing, and DJs. The book ends thus:

By now the culture's spread
to every corner of the globe.
Inside every head
is a hip-hop frontal lobe.
Break-dancing lives on,
they teach graffiti in schools.
MCs have fashion lines, DJs epitomize cool.
Bu hip-hop remains, deep down at its heart,
a unique expression, an urban form of art.

The artwork is spectacular. Done in clay by Anny Li, each hip hop star is so cleverly created that they are immediately recognizable. Here is a look at one of the pages.
 The poetry is a bit awkward at times; but then, hip hop poetry is sometimes awkward. Morse also acknowledges that hip hop often takes on topics that aren't particularly for children's ears, or it discusses violence and "other bad things too."
Hip-hop has become an important form of art—so important that Lin-Manuel Miranda used the form for the hit musical, Hamilton. I was struck when I saw the musical by how cleverly all the various forms of hip hop were intertwined in the music.

I also liked that the many women of hip hop had presence in the book. I was surprised to find that Queen Latifah got her start as a hip hop artist. 

I would quibble a bit about the guidance that the book is for children ages 3-7. I really see this book fitting well into elementary school curriculums and elementary school libraries. Children will love it, and I think that it could be used in music classrooms, and/or in language arts and history classrooms in later grades. 


What is Hip Hop? is a companion book to What is Punk? which was previously published.

Loved this book!

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