Morrison’s illustrations set the stage for Weatherford’s rhythmic history in verse, breaking from hip-hop’s early influences to today’s global hip-hop takeover.
This celebration begins, appropriately, with the ancestors. An homage to Afro-descendent “folktales, street rhymes, and spirituals,” along with images of Langston Hughes and Paul Laurence Dunbar, is juxtaposed with a backpack-toting black male with a crisp fade and T-shirt emblazoned with the signature words of Notorious B.I.G.: “It was all a dream.” This slogan recalling the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. highlights how the art form has served a dual purpose for hip-hop heads to get down at the party as well as to unify on the streets. Weatherford demonstrates how James Brown’s funk matched with Jamaica’s dub was present in DJ Kool Herc’s Bronx block parties, at which hip-hop’s birth is formally credited. But Weatherford and Morrison don’t stop at the music. Graffiti artists on the subway lines of NYC, B-boys and B-girls on the cardboard dance floors, and the unforgettable hip-hop fashion are featured prominently, albeit with a heavy regionalist emphasis on its East Coast–reppin’ legends. Bronx-born superproducer Swizz Beatz provides the foreword, honoring the role models that paved the way to his flourishing artistic career. (There are relatively few artists from outside New York and New Jersey featured, though some come through in thumbnail biographies of both male and female artists in the backmatter.) A glossary of classic hip-hop terminology is included along with an author’s note and an illustrator’s note.
No way around it, this book is supa-dupa fly, with lush illustrations anchored in signature hip-hop iconography for the future of the global hip-hop nation. (Picture book. 4-14)