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Hip Hop Family Tree, Book 1: 1970s-1981

Hip Hop Family Tree, Book 1: 1970s-1981

by Ed Piskor

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This encyclopedic comics history of the formative years of hip hop captures the vivid personalities and magnetic performances of old-school pioneers and early stars like DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, plus the charismatic players behind the scenes like Russell Simmons; Debbie Harry, Keith Haring and other luminaries make cameos.
The lore


This encyclopedic comics history of the formative years of hip hop captures the vivid personalities and magnetic performances of old-school pioneers and early stars like DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, plus the charismatic players behind the scenes like Russell Simmons; Debbie Harry, Keith Haring and other luminaries make cameos.
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, The 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. 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, The 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.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Douglas Wolk
Piskor has an aficionado's eye for details and connections…and a caricaturist's knack for cramming in visual information while ribbing nearly everyone he draws.
Publishers Weekly
★ 12/02/2013
Originating as a webcomic serialized at Boing Boing, this oversize volume is an epic, exhaustive chronicle of the most culturally impactful popular music movement of the past four decades. With its roots embedded in the streets of 1970s New York City, hip-hop and rap slowly germinated as a DIY urban party phenomenon, weaving a powerful funky spell among the Big Apple’s people of color. Local deejays and rappers were catapulted into the scene’s spotlight overnight, and the battles for performance supremacy honed the skills of the form’s progenitors at parties and clubs, which soon led the sounds they created to be recorded and distributed on bootleg vinyl. As the movement grew, so too did its visibility, and the rest is international pop-culture history. The strip’s visual tone bears a borderline underground aesthetic that perfectly suits the material—brown-edged paper and antique flat color—with a semi-cartoony feel, reminiscent of the graffiti that helped define the graphic aspect of the movement. It’s a massive undertaking, but Piskor succeeds mightily in chronicling hip-hop’s formative years with riveting detail. (Nov.)
Darryl “DMC” McDaniels
“He’s not just doin’ a comic book, he’s doin' a piece of history.”
“Captures the personalities, imagery and milestones with a hilarity and efficiency that no other medium could.”
Chicago Tribune
“In Piskor's comics, the ... lyrics breakdance off the page... the print version is beautiful, with faux-yellowed pages, a muted color palette and an oversized 'treasury' format recalling its subject's era. Piskor's art falls somewhere between R. Crumb's blues portraits and Joe Sacco's journalism comics.”
The Washington Post
“A young Pittsburgh bard travels back to the New York birth of rap with DJ Kool Herc and rattles off encyclopedic knowledge through dynamic, interwoven narratives of the '70s and early '80s. The feat is backed by era-appropriate art on pages yellowed with nostalgia. Dope, yo.”
Seattle Times
“Action-packed, fun and funny.”
De La Soul
“Ed Piskor is the sh#t!!”
The New York Times Book Review
“Piskor has an aficionado's eye for details and connections.”
Biz Markie
“This is the comic of all time.”
Phoenix New Times
“Piskor's strip is funny and warm, tossing in a few keen nods to two cultures that have shaped him.”
The Source
“These stories are carefully researched and detailed along with great comic book style art...”
The Huffington Post
“The amount of research and history Piskor packs into this book is mind boggling.”
The A.V. Club
“An avid lover of hip-hop music and superhero comic books from a young age, Ed Piskor has combined his two passions to create a remarkable reading experience ... Hip Hop Family Tree imagines real-world events through the filter of 1980s Marvel Comics, bringing hip-hop visionaries to the page in a style that exaggerates their energy and style to capture the intensity of the music without having the beats.”
Kim Deitch
“...[A]mazing... if I was going to itemize everything that was good and successful about it, I wouldn't even know where to begin. It's fantastic in so many different ways. I was predisposed to like it and it has exceeded my expectations. ...I'm starting to have this growing conviction that Ed Piskor just may be the greatest thing to hit comics since Robert Crumb.”
“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.”
Fab Five Freddy
“Being in an Ed Piskor comic is cool enough to freeze hot water.”
“In Ed Piskor's Hip Hop Family Tree, readers get to experience the origins of rap music in a way like never before; they get to live it. They get to walk the streets of New York City, where in rented performance rooms with cobbled-together gear pioneers like DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash birthed a new art form.”
Sean Edgar - Paste
“When cartoonist Ed Piskor decided to unspool the labyrinth history of one of America’s greatest artistic accomplishments, he spared no effort to immerse his readers in the era of jump suits and scarred vinyl. Everything in Hip Hop Family Tree screams nostalgia: the Ben-Day dots, the sepia discoloration…even the print feels course and pulpy, like a priceless cultural artifact unearthed in a garage sale or your dad’s basement. Flipping through the oversized pages, you can almost hear the slap bass, horn swells, and ricocheting rhymes of hip-hop’s inaugural years.”
“Piskor is obviously a huge rap fan ... He presents the facts in a nostalgic, faded-ink and rubbery realism of '70s Marvel Comics style, turning rap's early innovators into larger-than-life heroes of history.”
Alex di Campi - 12th Dimension
“A superhero-riffing, world-building, toe-tapping, beat-hitting story of a whole lot of people, some brilliant, some lucky, some crazy, and some all of the above.”
Gregg Reese - Our Weekly
“Even if you are not a fan of hip hop or rap per se, one cannot deny its pervasive influence on the world at large. If nothing else, this first volume, covering the years 1975 through 1981, demonstrates the nonstop merging of style and culture that is part and particle of the American experience.”
Los Angeles Times - Hero Complex
“Imagining the early days of the hip-hop movement with writing and art that intentionally evoke the bombast and energy of an early '80s Marvel comic, Piskor has introduced scores of music fans to comics by serializing the series for free on Boing Boing, but these stories look even better in Fantagraphics' printed collections.”
Harry Allen - (Public Enemy Media Assassin)
“This is the comic I've been waiting 40 years to read.”
Bill Adler - (co-author
“It's a great story and Piskor tells it immaculately well.”
Burlesque Design
“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!”
Christopher R. Weingarten - Rolling Stone
“...Piskor... lovingly draws the origin stories of hip-hop's legendary superheroes. Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and the Russell Simmons/Rick Rubin crossover team-up are rendered like something between Watchmen and Wild Style.”
Daniel Genis - The Daily Beast
“One of the defining histories of hip hop… Ed created a portal into the beginning of hip hop, and just saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is a poor way of explaining why its impact is greater than that of a detailed book.”
Z. - GeekDad
“…[W]hen I discovered Ed Piskor's Hip Hop Family Tree… I was in heaven. These bite-sized biographies of hip hop’s biggest names and slice-of-life reflections on its defining moments are routinely featured at Boing Boing, but to really experience these beautifully stylized vignettes in all their throwback glory you really need to check out the collected editions.”
Lary Wallace - Vice
“An astonishing feat of cultural archaeology, in both ambition and execution. The project somehow doesn’t seem quite real: a comic-book history of hip-hop going back to the very beginning — the late 70s —
where lore is thick and documentation scarce. To tell this story in any language would be a challenge; to tell it in the language of comics feels like a magical summoning.”
Gene Ambaum - Unshelved
“[A] rapid-fire telling of the early days of rap and hip hop culture… There’s a lot to learn even if you think you’ve heard it all.”
Nathan Reese - Complex
“Hip Hop Family Tree… [is] …an exhaustive, lovingly-rendered portrayal of the movement's explosive early moments.”
Jatin Varma - The Economic Times
“Extraordinary effort. Even if you are not a hip-hop fan, you need to read this.”
Darcy MacDonald - CultMTL
“These are dookie-gold-chain d-o-p-e.”
Library Journal
★ 11/15/2013
Piskor's obsession with the cultural history of hip-hop combined with his mastery of facial detail honors the dozens of artists and supporting players who populated New York's streets, clubs, and recording studios in the early 1970s and 80s. Hip-hop neophytes may find the relationships among the huge cast confusing, yet Piskor's portrayal of a "history-through-connections" comes through clearly. To please beat-happy crowds, platter-jockeys playing pop music for parties began mix/mastering the instrumental "breaks." Then emcees superimposed verbal showmanship and rhyming over the instrumentals. These innovations were slow to find backing in the recording industry—even some of the artists experimenting with this work thought its appeal came from live performances only. They were wrong. Here Piskor (Wizzywig) tells the tale in primary-color art reminiscent of 1970s comic books. VERDICT Piskor shows how the vitality of words and art have trumped violence and poverty, even if only sometimes. His gritty chronicle will spark debate among fans and help orient newcomers to hip-hop's history. Salty language and sex references put this into adult collections.—M.C.

Product Details

Fantagraphics Books
Publication date:
Hip Hop Family Tree Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 13.00(h) x 0.50(d)

Meet the Author

Ed Piskor (1982) is an alternative cartoonist living and drawing out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is a former student of the Kubert Schooland is best known for his artistic collaboration withunderground comicspioneersHarvey Pekar, his graphic novelWizzywig, and his blockbuster seriesHip Hop Family Tree.Piskor is revered for his combination of golden age drawing style and smart storytelling.The Washington Postonce said that "Piskor is able to render a world that resonates as truth." Currently, he is knee deep in drawing the next book in theHip Hop Family Treefive-volume series.

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