The book cover for our sixth post as part of 7-Day Book Covers Challenge is “Yes Yes Y’all: An Oral History of Hip Hop’s First Decade” by Jim Fricke and Charlie Ahearn
The cover design and photo of “Yes Yes Y’all” captures the DIY ingenuity and vibe of early turntablist DJing at a 1970s rec-center dance party in the the South Bronx where hip-hop — yet another distinct American art form — was born. Here Grandmaster Flash with his turntables and mixer lit by a single lightbulb cross-faded between the music tracks. Above the photo sits a strip of “Wild-Style”-era graffiti, an essential companion to the music and part of the emerging hip-hop culture.
It was Kool Herc who started it all. He was the originator and innovator inspired by the dancehall traditions of the competing sound-system parties, or sound clashes, in his native Jamaica. There toasters or MCs layered their rhyming patter, jokes, insults and witticisms over the musical breaks to hype the crowds in a verbal craft that eventually would develop into what we would recognize as rap.
Jim Fricke and Charlie Ahearn’s deep, carefully crafted oral history reveals hip-hop’s origins and this early evolution in conversations with the people who were there, the creators, DJs, rappers, musicians, promoters, dancers, artists and fans. Their book, published as part of the larger Experience Music Project, is a highly visual and well-designed volume full of images documenting the genre’s seminal artists, locales, party flyers, graffiti art and style. It’s a thoroughly engrossing book.
I bought this hardcover first-edition copy in the early 2000s shortly after its publication at the famous St. Mark’s Bookshop in the East Village of New York. My apartment at the time was around the corner, and I recall going straight home and sitting down and winding my way through this book for hours.