by Ed Piskor
It's surprising that I hadn't read any of Ed Piskor's incredible series before now, considering that I'm almost as much a hip hop head as I am a comics head. The Gift Box Set contains volumes one and two of Piskor's oversized Hip Hop Family Tree series, as well as a 90s-style ashcan comic about Rob Liefeld. Despite a pair of excellent FCBD issues that I enjoyed, I waited until now, which with the release of The Get Down on Netflix, is the perfect time to read this comic.
Piskor's set out to tell the entire story of hip hop music and culture in these books, sharing it in short one or two page strips that combine to tell the much larger story. The first volume begins in 1975 with the earliest forms of hip hop, and this box takes it through to 1983, and the emergence of Run-DMC as a new powerhouse.
Piskor's research and attention to detail is incredible, as is his ability to keep things interesting and coherent, even though the story jumps all over the place without chapter breaks, blending it all together. This becomes even more complicated when hip hop breaks out of New York and starts to appear in other parts of the country, such as the early LA scene. I can see how, as the book moves into the late 80s and 90s, this is going to become more and more complex, since each major city developed its own regional variations.
Anyway, this is a great read, and an example of true virtuosic work on Piskor's part. The design of the book is incredible, and every aspect of it has been clearly thought out and planned meticulously. I like the way that the pages look like yellowed pages from that era, but when Piskor shows a scene from later, the colouring and design reflects that era (bright and clear for the late 80s, for example).
I also like the fact that, as I read this book, the Internet makes it possible to pull up artifacts from that time, like Blondie's horrendous 'Rapture' video, and to watch Charlie Ahearn's classic film Wild Style on Netflix, since I was really young during the period that Piskor is portraying. It feels like early hip hop has become popular again (see The Get Down to see what I mean), and I wonder if Piskor has had something to do with that.
Reading all of this, I am left with one burning question though, and that's my desire to know just what it is that Piskor has against Russell Simmons. He's really not kind to the man...