Pharoahe Monch: "I Thought Comic Books Would Be My Career…" – Rock The Bells

Victoria Johnson

On Thursday night, (Dec. 15) just a few miles south of Hip-Hop’s birthplace, “Hip-Hip and Comics: Cultures Combining” founder Patrick A. Reed brought together experts to discuss the bridge between Hip-Hop and comic book culture in a Louis Vuitton event space below the fashion house’s “200 Trunks, 200 Visionaries” exhibition in midtown Manhattan. 

Rap notables Pharoahe Monch and Large Professor joined the panel discussion alongside comic book artists and writers Eric Orr (creator of the first hip-hop comic book Max the Robot), Raphael Tanghal (who illustrated the album cover for Sean Price’s Mic Tyson),  Ronald Wimberly (creator of Prince of Cats), Danny Lore (writer for “The Memory Librarian,” a collection of stories set in Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer universe; and Mr. Rager based on Kid Cudi character’s comic book in Netflix’s Entergalactic), AJ Ampadu aka P.SO the EarthTone King (rapper and creator of the Kimi Kosmic), Zoi Ellis (Pharoahe Monch’s executive coordinator or “official executive coordinator of everything” according to Monche), and D-Stroy (host of SiriusXM’s “Showoff Your Gems.”)
As Hip-Hop acts like El Da Sensei and Kwikstep sat in the audience among dozens of attendees, Reed shared early references of Hip-Hop culture in comic books, such as kids doing footwork in Everything’s Archie #112 (1984) and Orr’s work in Max the Robot and with legendary late artist Keith Haring. The bridge between the two didn’t end in the 1980s, though. Hip-Hop culture continued to be represented in comic books (and vice versa) as rappers took on comic book personas (like Ghostface Killah’s Tony Starks) and Marvel Comics’ cover mash-up with iconic hip-hop albums and its characters (like Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel being etched on a school desk in reference to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.) 

“The records when you see them, they’re like characters, a lot of them,” said Large Professor on the panel in reference to album covers.
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Hip-Hop fans like Lore, also draw on the genre when influencing their work. For “Mr. Rager,” Lore said they approached the writing process by trying to combine hip-hop and Freakazoid!

Chuck D, D.M.C., MURS, and most recently, Pharoahe Monche, have also released their own comic books. The “Simon Says” rapper released his first comic book “Kill, Kill, Kill” last year in tandem with an animated short and a rap-rock album, “A Magnificent Day for an Exorcism.”

“All of it is a great evolution of what I thought was my trajectory in the beginning,” said Monche. “I thought comic books would be my career trajectory, but I fell in love with Hip-Hop in high school and got with Prince Po and formed Organized Konfusion. So full circle, getting this book done was just a dream come true for me because I always wanted to do it.”

As hip-hop’s 50th birthday is set to take place next year, Reed revealed that there will be much more to come from “Hip Hop and Comics: Cultures Combining” in 2023. Check them out here.
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