5 x Comics & Hip-Hop Collaborated
STOP! Collaborate and listen…
The elements of comic book culture are deeply woven into the fabric of hip-hop. The two art forms, hip-hop and comics, share true, intimate moments in both respected cultures– and influence and connect an entire generation with accessible entertainment.
We’re shining a spotlight on worthy, notable moments where the two arts crossed paths. While there’s much to cover, we’re here to recount the juicy bits.
Editor’s note: If you like what we’re bringing to the table let us know! You can also listen to our Hip-Hop x Comic Books playlist on Spotify as a supplement to this list.
1. MF Doom
The man behind the mask and hip-hop’s self-proclaimed “supervillain” was revered by his peers to be one of the best lyricists in hip-hop history! Gone but never forgotten, we must remember MF Doom in spirit, since his passing in October of 2020.
Originally born in London, Daniel Dumile (AKA MF Doom) moved to New York City with his family at a young age. In September of 1999, the aptly titled Operation: Doomsday was released, marking the beginning of a busy 20 plus years career in hip-hop.
The music, the lyrics, the cover art, and the persona itself were all heavily steeped in comic book lore. Combined, the elements had Marvel comics' greatest villain, Dr. Doom, at its nucleus. Tracks like “Deep Fried Frenz,” “One Beer,” and more, sampled heavily from the 1967 Fantastic Four cartoon series.
2. Jean Grae
A true Renaissance woman, Tsidi Ibrahim was born into a family of Jazz artists. As a child, Tsidi was inspired by the arts- a trained dancer and opera singer. Growing up, she lived above a comic shop in New York City, which she frequented with her older brother.
In the mid-90s, Tsidi began her career in hip-hop under the pseudonym What? What? as a part of the group Natural Resources. In 1998, the group disbanded and Tsidi changed her stage name to Jean Grae, after the iconic X-Men character. She eventually signed with Talib Kweli's label Blacksmith Records and toured with the Roots as part of the OkayPlayer Tour.
As her persona grew, Jean Grae eventually even made it into a Marvel comic, in which she punches Deadpool in the face. In 2018, Jean Grae collaborated directly with Marvel to release the Merry X-Men Holiday Special #1. Our fingers are crossed that Jean Grae will someday be canonized in the MCU as a Phoenix variant.
3. Black Panther Album
As one of the highest-grossing and arguably greatest Marvel movies of all time, Black Panther was a masterpiece of a movie with a soundtrack to match the vibe.
The album made #1 on the Billboard 200, while a whopping 8 tracks landed on the Billboard Hot 100. Though only a few tracks are actually featured in the movie, the soundtrack perfectly parallels Ryan Coogler's award-winning production.
The album was magnificently produced and curated by Kendrick Lamar who is also heavily featured as an artist throughout. Lamar's team of talent included; SZA, 2 Chains, Jay Rock, Anderson .Paak and The Weeknd.
To truly highlight the afro-centric theme of Black Panther, Lamar pulled from a 2014 visit to South Africa. To this point, features from these artists created the skeleton system of this album; Babes Wodumo, Sjava, Yugen Blakrok and Saudi.
Arguably one of the greatest rappers of all time also has one of the greatest comic book collections of all time! Included in Eminem’s collection is the ultra-rare Amazing Fantasy #15, the very first appearance of everyone's favorite web crawler- Spider-Man. In mint condition, this comic is valued at over $3 million dollars.
His collection also includes comic staples like Batman, Superman, and the Hulk. Eminem is also another artist on this list who made it into the pages of a Marvel comic. In 2009, the rap god himself appeared alongside The Punisher, Frank Castle.
Eminem made another brief cameo in X-Men's ongoing series, during the Hellfire Gala. Eminem's lyrics are riddled with comic book allusions. Most recently, he was featured on the Venom movie soundtrack.
5. Marvel: The Hip-Hop Covers
Since the beginning of hip-hop, album covers have mirrored the likeness of comic books. Cover art like Outkast's sophomore album ATLiens or Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force's vinyl cover for their track “Renegade of Funk” is clearly inspired by comic book art.
Tapping into this rich cross-pollination of genres, Marvel released two collections of hip-hop album covers reimagined as Marvel variant covers. In these two volumes, iconic Marvel characters replace their rapper counterparts e.g. Dr. Strange replacing Dr. Dre on his classic album the Chronic or Ant-Man replacing a baby Christopher Wallace, from Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready to Die album.
If you can't find a copy of these at your local comic book shop, they are available for purchase on Amazon.