cover image What Is Hip-Hop?

What Is Hip-Hop?

Eric Morse, with Nelson George, illus. by Anny Yi. Black Sheep, $15.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-61775-584-2

With an editorial assist from author/cultural critic George, Morse and Yi (the team behind What Is Punk?) highlight hip-hop’s cultural hegemony via an impressively encyclopedic parade of rhyming biographies. Yi’s meticulously styled clay figures are as magical as in the previous book, combining profound expressiveness with the playfulness of action figures. Her compositions are equally evocative, ranging from video snippets (the Beastie Boys strike a pose from “Intergalactic”) to formal portraits (Kanye West, Missy Elliott, Kendrick Lamar) and metaphorical ones (Jay Z stands amid New York City skyscrapers). Fans may wish for a bigger spotlight on the critical and empowering perspective that female artists have brought to hip-hop, and there’s some wince-worthy rhyming (of Tupac, “The poster boy for ‘thug life,’ he seemed to cultivate drama./ But he showed a sensitive side on his song ‘Dear Mama’ ”). Still, Morse gets credit for addressing, albeit with G-rated obliqueness, the genre’s often-searing subject matter. As he writes of NWA, “There was violence in their songs,/ and other bad things too./ Call it right or call it wrong,/ they sang of the world they knew.” Ages 3–7. [em](Sept.) [/em]