Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

Catalog » Browse by Title: W » What Is Hip-Hop?

What Is Hip-Hop?

By: and

A beautifully illustrated children’s history of hip-hop, from a progressive/idealistic perspective.

$15.95 $11.96

What people are saying…

“This short history of hip-hop shares the universal innovations of its Black inventors, including Missy Elliott, Kendrick Lamar, the Wu-Tang Clan, Biggie, Tupac, and more. Wonderfully illustrated with clay sculptures that will capture kids’ attention where English is a struggle and may inspire them to make biographical dioramas themselves.”
School Library Journal, 12 Great Books to Shed Light on a More Inclusive U.S. History

One of Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of 2017

A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books of 2017 for Young Readers!

Included in Publishers Weekly‘s Big Indie Books of Fall 2017

“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).”
Publishers Weekly

“In rhythmic, rhyming verse, Morse offers a genealogy of hip-hop royalty that begins with the Boogie Down Bronx’s DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash and walks readers into today with Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar. In between the origins and now, readers find a rare gender-inclusive narrative of hip-hop history that uplifts B-girls like Queen Latifah and Missy Elliott along with legendary male groups such as NWA and Wu-Tang . . . The magnificent 3-D clay illustrations . . . include an intricately produced remake of Tribe Called Quest’s legendary ‘Midnight Marauders’ cover. Tying these images back to their original sources makes for quite the history lesson. Make sure to keep a device nearby. A must-read reference for any hip-hop family.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Verdict: these books are pretty damn cute.”
The Current (Minnesota Public Radio), Selected for the Rock and Roll Book Club

“It’s the art, clay-model dioramas, that really takes the narrative to an intriguing and original place; more than merely effective sculpted portraits, the illustrations position and light the artists in involving and evocative scenes.”
Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books

“An ideal picture book for children ages 3 to 7, What Is Hip-Hop? is as entertaining as it is informative and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections.”
Midwest Book Review

“A joyous and sublimely illustrated hip-hop history lesson.”
The Village Green

“A must-read.”
Blackout Hip Hop

“Nothing short of genius . . . The breadth of the book is wide, and the humor in the rhyming story never disappoints . . . It is unlikely there will ever be a more accessible or entertaining entrée into this world, and that is why the book is worth not just reading but purchasing, studying, and sharing with friends.”
San Francisco Book Review

“Eric Morse is back with a follow-up that shines a similar PG spotlight on the hip-hop arena and its players, from Run-DMC and Queen Latifah to Salt-N-Pepa and Tupac. Artist Anny Yi returns, too, with delightful clay figurines to accompany Morse’s beat-astic rhyming verse.”
Tory Burch Daily Blog

“They’re all here! Every hip hop star from DJ Kool Herc to Nikki Minaj, Drake and Kendrick Lamar. Told in rhyming poetry, Eric Morse reminds everyone of the history of this remarkable art form, and all of the offshoots, including break-dancing, graffiti, clothing, and DJs . . . The artwork is spectacular. Done in clay by Anny Yi, each hip hop star is so cleverly created that they are immediately recognizable.”
The Cyberlibrarian

“This book is incredible for so many reasons. It celebrates hip-hop in a way that shows respect for the art and culture. It not only pays tribute to some of the pioneers of the art form, but it does so in a way that is quite entertaining to both young and old.”
Chase March Blog

Praise for What Is Punk?

“A punk primer for the youngest set. Yi’s incredibly detailed clay figures are a kinetic and inspired art choice. As [Morse] points out, the best way to learn about punk is just to listen. If invested adults love the topic, a shared reading experience can’t be beat.”
Kirkus Reviews

What Is Punk? is a fun, sophisticated, and beautifully illustrated introduction to the music genre for kids—or adults.”
New York Daily News


Interest level: 4–up | Grade level: 5 | Lexile Level: 840 | Guided Reading Level/F&P: U

Produced by Nelson George.

“In the beginning, there was a beat . . .” So begins What Is Hip-Hop?—a playful guided tour of one of the most revolutionary pop culture movements of the twentieth century. Beginning with block parties in the Bronx, What Is Hip-Hop? brings the reader up to the present day, with rhyming verses and engaging 3-D clay illustrations. It’s a fun, accessible, and informative read for B-boys and B-girls of all ages.

In the follow-up to their acclaimed and beloved hit What Is Punk? author Eric Morse and artist Anny Yi reunite to celebrate the music that changed their lives and the voices that achieved iconic status along the way. See Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, Salt-N-Pepa, Biggie and Tupac, Eminem, even Nicki Minaj and Kendrick Lamar, as you’ve never seen them!

Listen to an interview with Eric Morse on the Talk Music Talk podcast.

Listen to Micah & Gopal on Radio Kingston (Kingston, NY) read from and talk about What Is Hip-Hop? with Eric Morse: Part 1, Part 2.

Included in The Charlotte Observer’s Pop Culture Gift Guide.

Included in Publishers Weekly’s Notable African American Titles, 2017-2018 and African-American Interest Young Reader’s Titles, 2017-2018.

Book Details

  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Published: 9/5/17
  • IBSN: 9781617755842
  • e-IBSN: 9781617756108


ANNY YI is an artist from Los Angeles, California. She makes clay-art dioramas and stop-motion films inspired by fashion and music. Anny Yi is the illustrator of What Is Punk? and What Is Hip-Hop?

More info »

ERIC MORSE is a writer and father of four living outside of New York City. He was the founder and editor of Trampoline House online magazine, and a music industry marketing executive. When he’s not listening to old hip-hop records, he’s listening to new hip-hop MP3s. Eric is also the author of What Is Punk? and What Is Hip-Hop?

More info »