Atlanta Jazz Festival's Kids Zone promotes reading with giveaway of 'What is Hip-Hop'?
Hip-hop has been many things in its half century of existence, and "suitable for children" probably isn't what immediately comes to mind.
That's the first compelling thing about the children's book What is Hip-Hop? by Eric Morse, a self-described "white kid who grew up in suburbs of St. Louis," who is now a father of four. "And I wanted a way to introduce my first true musical love — and even cultural love — to kids."
The book, produced in 2017 with author, filmmaker and often-called-upon cultural critic, Nelson George, features rhyming verses and images of 3-D clay characters illustrated by Anny Yi.
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"Look, I grew up on ['50s clay character] Gumby, right," George said. "So to have the Gumby version of the real-life people I know and people I've met [in the book] is amazing. The actual imagery and the likenesses is remarkable...I mean who couldn't imagine a clay Biggie [Notorious B.I.G.]?"
Those elements convinced the Atlanta Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs to purchase hundreds of copies of the book for a reading and giveaway at the Kids Zone at this weekend's Atlanta Jazz Festival in Piedmont Park. This gesture comes in advance of the City of Atlanta's plans to honor the anniversary of the musical genre with 'Hip Hop 50' events later this year.
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"I'm ridiculously honored," beamed author Morse, who is trying to rework his family's vacation plans to be in Atlanta for the three days of readings/giveaways. "How amazing that something with the impetus, that began with my wanting to share something that I love with the very individual audience of my kids and kids in general—you know, to get them into the rhythm and sound of it—is going to share the same space of all of these artists and a much larger audience. It's just so exciting!"
The only thing left now—Morse and George agree—is What Is Hip-Hop? the cartoon...and/or the action figure line.
"The artists talk about themselves like they're super heroes," noted George, who has already taken part in two major projects (PBS's "Fight The Power: How Hip Hop Changed The World" and FX Networks' "Dear Mama") marking hip-hop's 50-year milestone. "The choice of clothing some of them have made of the years certainly qualifies. A lot of the names are made up; like the names of the animated characters. I think [legendary hip-hop imprint] Def Jam had a video game. And [hip-hop great] Chuck D has a book of animation that just came out."
"So why not, 'What Is Hip-Hop?' action heroes?" he said. "I want a set!"