What Is Hip-Hop?

What Is Hip-Hop? illus. by Anny Yi. 36p. Akashic/Black Sheep. Sept. 2017. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781617755842.
Gr 2–5—Morse, along with journalist and music critic George, constructs a rhythmic tale about the evolution of hip-hop and the people behind the scenes. ("The Boogie Down Bronx is where our story begins. That's where DJ Kool Herc made the records spin.") Yi's 3-D clay illustrations make smart use of bold primary colors and deftly capture the energy and look of the times, as readers move from the streets of New York City to the skies of Los Angeles and more. Some spreads are designed to resemble album covers, such as A Tribe Called Quest's Midnight Marauders and De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising. Morse doesn't specify time periods, but generally follows a chronological history as he progresses through a litany of names and groups. Morse also peppers the text with song titles or lyrics to tell the story, though he tweaks them slightly for the audience; for instance, "The Wu-Tang Clan ain't nothing to mess with." Yi's characters, though obviously stylized, often bear a remarkable resemblance to the artists themselves—readers can have fun trying to guess who's who.
VERDICT Nostalgia for parents and a fresh experience for children. A fun addition to music history collections, especially where the duo's previous collaboration, What Is Punk?, is popular.

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