feature: “picture books are the new hip hop!” – children’s book artist and author, charles george esperanza

January 19, 2015

“Picture Books are the new hip hop!” This is a realization I had come to a while ago as I began to write the manuscript for what would become my upcoming debut picture book “Red, Yellow, Blue and a dash of white too!” My name is Charles George Esperanza. I am originally from the South Bronx, NY. Based on my work, many would label me as a children’s book artist and author. But I consider myself to be the original “Visual Emcee”. You might feel referring to picture books as a new form of hip hop is a bold and perhaps incredulous statement. But as Rakim would say, “Follow me into a solo, get in the flow and you can picture it like a photo”.

By Charles George Esperanza, AFROPUNK Contributor 

It is well known how intertwined Hip Hop and Street art culture had been in their Genesis. It is well documented in movies like “Wild style”. It was as if hip hop and street art were the two clenched fists of the collective disadvantaged youth, swinging at any oppressive figure it could. As both mediums exploded in popularity, they naturally went their separate ways in order to conquer the world individually. Hip Hop dominated the radio stations and had soon become a mainstream conglomerate.

Street art tried its luck in the world of fine art, as graffiti writers such as Fab Five Freddy had begun to exhibit work he would have usually made for the street, in prominent gallery spaces. Though in this context, Street art was not as accessible to the youth as Hip Hop was and the elitist gallerist didn’t seem to be as amused with the voice of the disadvantaged youth. A perfect example of this would be P.S.1 MOMA turning a blind eye to the destruction of “Five Pointz” (the NYC graffiti mecca) despite their cry for help.

Recently though, it seems as if Hip Hop and it’s visual brethren have been reunited as we see Jay-Z introducing a new generation to Basquiat and Jeff Koons, while also producing performance pieces for numerous spaces like the MOMA, and Swizz Beatz attending gallery openings for artists like Doze Green in Chelsea. But how do we take this fusion between visual art and Hip Hop to the next level? The answer is Picture Books!

Splish Splash sploosh,
I painted an Elephant Blue
with a splash of Red, and Yellow
and a dash of white too.

Swirl splatter splot
EleBooyah was the elephants name
with her Trunk she grabbed her brush
and joined my little game.

These are the lines that kick off my debut solo piece titled “Red, Yellow, Blue and a dash of White too!” The images serve as my beats. They develop the atmosphere in which my rhythmic stanzas dictate a story, the same way any instrumental would.

The story follows a young girl who sports an afro as stunning as Quvenzhane’s, and her rambunctious blue elephant “EleBooyah” as they throw colors like red and yellow together to create an orange basketball for a slam dunk, or red and blue to make a giant purple octopus king, Throughout the story the reader can enjoy my rhythmic rhyme style, as the story takes an unexpected “Turnt up” turn towards the end (which I won’t spoil for you here). I not only pay tribute to hip hop with my Biz Markie style of lyricism, but I also pay homage to the street art scene, as well as my illustrative influences with my images.

I’m hoping my debut effort will be the first step towards initiating the “Visual Emcee scene” and revolutionizing the world of picture books, so that they may be enjoyed in a new way by adults and children alike! Kind of like the way the graphic novel revolutionized comics.

You can pre-order my brand new book “Red, Yellow, Blue and a dash of White too!” today through my website . The book hits shelves March 3rd!