O is for old school – review

A Hip Hop Alphabet for B.I.G. Kids Who Used to be Dope

Written by James Tyler Illustrated by Ella Cohen

Published by Wide Eyed Editions ISBN: 978-1-78603-137-2

Reviewed by Karl Andy Foster


The subtitle for this book says it best “This is a hip-hop alphabet for B.I.G. people who used to be dope.” We have here an A-Z book that is playful and inter-generational in its outlook, containing stunning illustrations and a lexicon derived from one of the world’s most vibrant popular cultures.

This square format hard cover book with its goldie looking chain attached to a baby pacifier alerts us to the tone and graphic juxtapositions that we will find inside its pages. The lifestyles depicted are cool and fashionable with designer flair. Over 26 spreads the visual and written humour is highly enjoyable.

Ella Cohen’s striking images are clean, clear and bold. She works with negative space in a similar way to designer George Hardie and this brings to each picture an energetic dynamism. The images for M, P and Q are the best examples of this. Her colour palette shares certain qualities with the seminal work of J. Otto Seibold, limited in its range but no less vivid for that.

Tapping into the transformation of when ‘we’ becomes ‘us.’ How do you stay hip when you have baby sick on your shoulder? That is one question along with many others that face us as we accept the realities of parenthood. However, who said it can’t bring a wry smile to one’s lips.

At the back you will find a Hip-hop glossary with the true meanings of the words cited in the alphabet. Word to the Mutha, don’t be no Sucka. A life without books is Wack, so read this to your Lil’ ones, it’s All Good!

22nd November 2018

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