Depending on who you ask, the words "hip-hop" were invented by Lovebug Starski or Keith "Cowboy" Wiggins or maybe even the Sugarhill Gang (but probably not). "In the first Hip Hop Family Tree book there are no less than three people who claim to be the originator," says cartoonist Ed Piskor. "I made no judgments of who the winner is, because who knows?"
If Piskor hasn't gotten to the bottom of it, probably no one ever will. For the past two years, the Pittsburgh-based comic book artist and writer has made it his mission to chronicle the history rap from the parking lots of the South Bronx to glitzy Manhattan nightclubs. Hop Hop Family Tree may be a comic book, but it's also an exhaustive, lovingly-rendered portrayal of the movement's explosive early moments. "It’s about community building and world building," says Piksor. "The whole idea that all of these forefathers came from the same place, so they all had a certain relationship to each other."
I caught up with Piskor to talk his life-long love of hip-hop, how he translates history to the page, and the '70s comics he and Marc Eckō both love.